Hōkūleʻa Update | September 13, 2015

Aloha all,

Patience.  That’s the word of the day.

This morning at 2 am when we came up for watch Hōkūleʻa was still steering herself.  We knew we were south of our course line from the time we left Rodrigues a couple of days ago, as the weather has forced us to have to steer in less than favorable directions.  

Before dawn our whole watch started looking for signs of an island, mainly the glow of lights in the black of night. To the north, there seemed to be some light deep on the horizon but it was too faint to call.  We watched it, but could not make a determination as to whether it was an actual target or just something lighter in the weather in that portion of the horizon.   Bruce marked it as something of interest, but did not head towards it, mainly because the wind was now coming out of that general direction.


We sailed into sunrise, a time of the day that can show islands on the horizon.   Nothing.   We did not see any shadows or other sign of something disrupting the light pouring through the horizon.  We sailed on, albeit slowly.  The morning hours brought everyone on the deck, scanning, searching the horizon for anything that might point to a land target.  In the early morning we saw land birds coming from the north looking for food, a really Important clue in looking for land.  We also knew we were south of the target because of the way we had to steer and sail with the wind and weather.  We were within the range of potentially being able to sight something but we didn’t know how far south we might be. The biggest challenge is that we wanted to get more north but could not, as the wind was coming from that direction.  


The hours from after breakfast through late afternoon were a blur.   We tacked trying to climb north, which barely worked.  Lots of searching, lots of hot weather, very little wind.  At some point in the early afternoon, it became clear that even if we saw the island right at that moment, we would still not make it into port today.   Forecasts called for rain and thundershowers, so that was on our minds as well as we watched the clouds start to fill in in the south and west.


In the late afternoon, the wind all but died and we had a choice to make.  We could sit and wait, pushing the arrival out at least another day; or we could take a tow and set the direction we want to go. In this day and age, voyaging in this way, one of the largest challenges we face is one of logistics.  Decisions have to also be based on things like moving crew in and out of ports, the time available to complete the ton of work needed to make the canoe ready for the next long haul towards Capetown… and there are potentially bad storms coming our way.  


We took the tow from our escort boat Gershon II, asking her to take us farther north to see if that early morning light was something.  We towed north west for a couple of hours as the weather started to roll in.   Clouds built a pretty hard line of thick soup on the horizon. The sun was obscured, we couldn’t even see it setting.   The crew scanned the horizon, looking, getting impatient, maybe even worried.

How is it that 2000 miles of sailing gave up the landmass so easily just days ago, yet this 300 mile jog is being so difficult? Hōkūleʻa was sailing so beautiful last night and yet not even the mana of Hōkū can sail with no wind.   The weather is the weather.


I was on the steering sweep as darkness started to creep in, scanning the socked in horizon like many others, still no way for the sun to tell us she had set.  I was looking at this dark cloud, thinking it was just another one of a series of clouds in this area at my 2:30.  But the more I looked, the more this mass seemed to have a sharp set of edges. I called out for everyone to look in that direction on the horizon to see what that mass was.   Tomo scanned, I pointed.  Was it a ship? Was it the island? Whatever it was, it now showed a stack of hard edges.  

But darkness came quick, too quick to make a positive ID.  In the darkness, rain squalls now encompass our universe, the window of great weather now closed.

We still aren’t sure if it is the island, potentially somewhere to our northeast.  The rest of you probably know just by taking one look at our tracking map.  But the 11 of us in this bubble of limited technology, we’re here in the rain and the dark, waiting for the visual confirmation that may not come til morning light.   

Either way it’s a lesson in patience.   

Until then mahalo to you all for following along with our crew on board Hōkūleʻa, almost to the island of Mauritius.   

More soon,
SB 71

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