Finding Home and Learning to Listen on Kealaikahiki

In the dark early morning hours of Day 5 on our Kealaikahiki voyage, Lehua quietly walked around the waʻa, waking up our crew one by one. Our mizzen (back) sail had suddenly ripped near the top tricing line and needed to be changed, slowing our speed and taking our course downwind until we could get it replaced. Everyone moved swiftly around with red headlamps in the dark as Lehua confidently directed the sail change, maintaining calm though urgent pace. We carefully lowered the 40 foot spar holding the sail down to the deck; Lehua walked along the spar leading the crew in removing sail ties, and in a moment, we had removed the torn sail and were securing the replacement sail. 

As dawn began to color the sky and small squalls passed over us with light rains and gusts, we tied the sail tight to the spar and raised it again. We also took the opportunity of our slower speed to make a few adjustments on our main sail and head sail, always trying to increase efficiency. By the time the sun spilled over the clouds, Hōkūleʻa was running with full sails in her previous direction of Manu Malanai (southeast) at a pace of 7 knots. Looking to the back of the waʻa where Lehua was standing, a brilliant rainbow took shape, suggesting to all of us that we had done well.

Changing a ripped sail would have been more than enough to make this a notable day on waʻa, but Day 5 was far from over.  I had a cooking adventure in front of me – poi pancakes at 7 knots. 

Amongst our provisions is 6 pounds of poi from Hoʻokuaʻāina, a nonprofit in Kapalai, Kailua, O’ahu, which is a special organization to me. I have spent several years now volunteering at their lo’i, getting to know their staff and the Wilhelm family (the organization’s founders), and writing about the amazing impacts of their work on people and place. We had been eating poi on the waʻa along with some of our meals, but this morning I was making poi pancakes. I mixed our poi along with two bags of dry taro pancake mix that we had packed, which was not a small accomplishment while going 7 knots with wind rushing past. Pancake mix covered my arms and face as I tried to add the dry mix to the poi inside of our propane cooking box on deck. 

Double Rainbow for our kiʻi

I heated some oil and began to make the pancakes, one by one, carefully holding the cooking box slightly open to prevent the wind from blowing out the flame. I began to hand out the purple pancakes to the awaiting crew, and the critics were raving—“No even need syrup!” There are few feelings more satisfying than feeding the crew a good meal, and this was one of my first meals taking the lead (I am often the sous chef to Nālamakū). The feeling was enough to sustain me through several hours of cooking dozens and dozens of pancakes one by one to use up the big bowl of pancake mix that I had made (perhaps more than we needed, but all of the pancakes were definitely eaten).

After a nap, I was back on deck. The afternoon was sunny, and we were sailing well. Suddenly, Archie pointed: “Look, dolphins!” A pod of at least 30 small dolphins were surfing and jumping about 100 feet from our port side. We were close enough to see them beneath the water. I ran over and grabbed one of our pū kani on deck. I blew the conch a number of times as the dolphins swam past us, across our bow, and onto our starboard side towards the setting sun. A few people came up quickly to close our head sail, and I figured that we might be slowing down for the dolphins. It turned out that as I began to blow the pū for the dolphins, we hooked up two big ahi on our two fishing lines running from the back of the waʻa. From the back of the starboard hull, Timi and Kamu worked to pull in a beautiful 70 pound ahi. On the port side, Archie and Nālamakū were pulling in another ahi, perhaps twice as big, before the ahi wrestled itself off the hook. But one ahi was more than enough. We even sent half of the fish over to Hikianalia with a bucket and floating line so that they could share in the bounty. For dinner, we had chicken long rice soup and fresh ahi sashimi.

Still, the day was not over. As the sun set, Archie, Kana, and I set up for our 6-10pm evening watch, and the most beautiful starry sky that we had seen throughout our trip opened up above us. We radio-called Hikianalia and turned off our anchor light for a moment to appreciate the full brilliance of the stars. I stood in awe as I saw the brightest shooting star that I had ever seen streak across the sky. Lightning flashed on the horizon from a distant, passing storm (luckily far away from us). In every direction, there were stars guiding the way to Tahiti, affirming for Lehua and our crew that we were on the right path, the same path that was well-traveled by the ancestors of our islands. A heritage corridor. An ancestral pathway. A pathway to that which lies beyond the horizon. Kealaikahiki. Home.

Chris remarking at the rainbows

As Nainoa has pointed out in conversations with our group: Who drew circles around our Pacific islands and decided that these were our territories? Perhaps not the Native peoples of our own islands. Are our ancestral voyaging pathways not also our homelands, extensions and connections of our vast ocean nations? Nainoa tells us that when he asked a group of Tahitian leaders recently about why Hōkūleʻa matters to them, they said that the success of Hōkūleʻa in Hawai’i was felt as a success for Tahiti. Hōkūleʻa has reminded us that there may be many diverse islands throughout Moananuiākea, our vast global ocean, but at our core, we are one.  This is the truth that we keep returning to as we sail Kealaikahiki. Unity is our inevitable reality as well as our goal. Our crew must act as one to reach our destination. Our nations must act as one if we are to see the change that we need in our world. 

On Hōkūleʻa, we are able to better tune-in to the signs of our ancestors, from rainbows to dolphins to ahi to shooting stars, guiding us towards deeper truths, ancestral pathways of the future, well-traveled roads of abundance that lie in Kahiki, those places that hold our potential for becoming the ancestors that our descendants need. Our Kealaikahiki voyage is teaching me how to listen, and I am humbled to be learning with an amazing crew on Kealaikahiki, one of the best classrooms on Earth.

Vance Kaleohano Kahahawai Farrant

To follow the journey to Tahiti, please visit the voyaging dashboard at

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