Hikianalia Crew Blog: Work With The Hoe

Crew Blog by Dr. Darragh Cormac O’Carroll

Under the cover of moon we swept through the rocking ocean. The lights of San Diego had disappeared, just the lakes of moonlight fishing across the horizon. It was day 1 on my first 10pm-2am watch and the conditions were biting. A fresh northerly wind at 20-25 knots had us with a small jib and reefed down main and mizzen sails. Everybody had their warmest layers and foul weather gear on. The hoe took several people to handle as the Noio Ho’olua swell plus our speed created a bull to steer, especially if you weren’t familiar with her.

“Work with hoe” said Kaniela. “If you don’t relax with her, she will beat you down”

The conditions picked up from the start. Everybody was feeling a bit nauseous because right when we rounded point Loma heading out of San Diego and passed the Coronado Islands, we were sailing. It was less than two hours from our departure, when we were escorted by two crews from the Kanaka Outrigger Club, and from when we said our last goodbyes to family and friends at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. There was barely an introduction to life at sea, but I’d rather have it that way.

While all were feeling nauseous, the majority of the crew did well through the conditions, and just two needed a few extra motion sickness medications. Only one crew was down for half a day with severe vestibular symptoms (motion sickness).

Most motion sickness is hard to reverse once it starts, as it becomes somewhat of a runaway train. Once the brain has received enough desperate information from the balance centers of the inner ear saying “abundant motion happening,” which conflicts with the information from your eyes that motion is not. Many times it just has to run its course.

However, we quickly realized the need for additional meds in the stricken crew-member, and dampened the signals from the balance center. I used a medication that is difficult to obtain in the US, but is the medication of choice of the british navy and their sailors. Thank you to Carlos and Emmanuel Smith from San Diego Yacht Club for obtaining this for us!

I write to you from day 4 when the winds and swells have eased off, our full sails are up, and the sounds of the ukulele again float through the air, helping us digest dinner. Today we caught our first fish, everybody was on deck for it. A good sized mahi-mahi, roughly 25lbs, was made into sashimi and breaded. Leilani added her famous, now infamous, meat loaf, and Kumu Bruce couldn’t stop commenting “Le Cordon Bleu”. If this is how we eat for the rest of the trip, being at sea won’t be too tough.

A few thoughts keep circling my mind, and most of them rest on family. I wonder how many times my mother has checked our GPS tracker, I’d bet at least one hundred. As a first time deep sea sailor, she was more nervous for me than I was. In the darkness a wet rope brushed up against my hand–it felt like so much like the cold nose of my black lab “Tadhg” I even looked down to see if he was there. I thought about him for the entire hour following. I can assure you mom, and all the moms, we are doing well. Spirits are high, we are on course, and we are sailing our wa’a.

After four days, I am now beginning to understand “how” we sail. What I am still figuring out is the “why”. Once weather conditions began to settle, you could see the quiet contemplation just behind each crew members eyes. No words, no expression, just presence. We are in tune with all of our surroundings; the wind, the swells, the sun, the moon, and the stars. Every day we become more present, less wrapped up in the the past or the future. We are quickly evolving beyond crewmates, and becoming friends.

Im realizing that many lessons I’m learning on Hikianalia can be applied to life. I’ll keep working on relaxing with the hoe, because just like the hoe, when life starts going sidewise, the best way to right her is to relax. Feel your way to the solution, because forcing anything will leave you with bruising up and down your leg (I have the pain to prove it).

From the crew of Hikianalia, a hui ho.

Darragh Cormac O’Carroll MD

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