Hōkūleʻa Update | December 19-24, 2016

Leg 26 has departed Miami, sailing across the Gulf of Mexico, headed for Panama. Below are updates from various crewmembers on their progress and life aboard Hōkūleʻa.

December 19

Blog by Brad Wong

Leg 26 crew continued to make our way towards Key West today, getting some good sail practice in while being towed by Julie’s Cat.  Captain Bruce had us drop the back rig to retie the sail to the boom.  The crew is in great spirits, the weather has been gorgeous, and we are all getting used to the watch rotations and getting into a rhythm.

We arrived in Key West around 5p and were greeted by several ʻiwa soaring above, always a good sign for us on Hōkūleʻa. The crew will stay in Key West for the next day to reunite with the Gershon crew and to make final preparations for the longer journey, which is expected to take another 10 days to Colon, Panama.

December 20
Hōkūleʻa and crew just departed Key West.  We are currently making our way out through the channel under tow of Gershon II, which will take over for Julie’s Cat as Hōkūleʻa’s escort in the open ocean.  Everyone is healthy, in good spirits, and ready to start our run down to Panama.
December 21
Yesterday, leaving Key West was an eventful day and the update was short. Here, are a few more details on the departure from US and coastal sailing.
Blog by Duane DeSoto

Our morning began with an excited and anxious crew buzzing around Hōkūleʻa prepping for Gershon II’s arrival. A quick tow out of the harbor and we could begin sailing the Gulf Stream for Panama. Key West was our last opportunity to contact family for the next 10 days or so. Christmas will pass and possibly New Years as well. Phone calls and text were quietly going out, wishing loved ones a Merry Christmas.

The winds were great for our departure, 10-15 knots North of East and the sky is scattered with a few clouds. What a blessed day for all of us. Miami and Key West were fun but today’s start is what most of us were looking forward to. Open Ocean.

A radio check came through from Gershon II announcing her approach. “Finally”, for some of us. Departure strategy for our final moment in the U.S. was laid out by captain Bruce Blankenfeld. Keep it simple. We hooked up a short tow to our newly refashioned front cleat, Honolua. An aloha ‘oe to the many moored sailing vessels festively decorated with Christmas lights.

It was about 10am as we passed these enormous cruise-liners full of holiday tourists. Soon after we entered the main channel leading to the Gulf of Mexico. Hõkūleʻa’s last rendezvous with Florida was warm, pleasant and memorable.  More importantly, Hõkūleʻa’s visit to the East Coast of the United States of America will impact the lives of future generations in Hawaiʻi.

Mālama Honua has and will be the reminder of how Hawaiian Culture has the key practices for a balanced future. Being pono with our food, ʻāina, resouces, and most importantly our people. As we grow closer to each other and our ʻāina, the need for balance and sustainability becomes more apparent. Are we listening?

Hõkūleʻa brought back long lost voyaging traditions in the 70ʻs with crewmembers who are now considered visionaries and foundation setters. 41 years later Hõkūleʻa represents native intelligence and science that will bring environmental and social issues into harmony. The constant evolution of each generation with the guidance of our kupuna’s ways has brought about the next generation of strong, confident, and educated keiki.

Love for land, knowledge, and a “say” in Hawaiʻi’s future is becoming common amongst our young leaders. Keiki are embracing their kuleana and Hõkūleʻa has been pivotal in this shift in our society. Her impact is constantly growing.

Hõkūleʻa’s stops along the World Wide Voyage are now directly connected to Hawaiʻi. Keiki now have connectivity to global iconic locations as a result of her fantastic journey. Polynesian celestial navigation has left the Pacific Ocean and ventured to the Tasman Sea, Indian and Atlantic Ocean.

Today Captain Bruce asked us to remove our watches and make sure we don’t have access to telling time. The beginning of celestial navigation has arrived. The winds, waves, sun, moon and stars are now our main source of time, speed and direction as Key West slowly disappeared behind us. Cuba sits to our South and Florida to our North, while we head west.

As we welcome the night, the moon is already slightly raised. Fishing lines are brought in empty for the evening and the stars shine bright with a few clouds. Each watch crew works in sync with our captain and navigator. Smooth quick sailing as the 10-15 knot East-North-East wind carries us quietly through the night. All are in anticipation of the first glimpse of Cuba.

December 22
Blog by Duane DeSoto

Today we sail west with a 10-15 knot wind coming out of the ENE. Swells are minimal making ideal sailings conditions. We follow along the north coast of Cuba all day and see very little sign of people on land. Aside from 2 small fires on the coast, no sign of people can be found. This is especially apparent at night, not a single light on shore.

Cuba’s silhouette of small mountains accompany us as we average 6 knots with an opposing 1 knot current.  We maintain a 20 mile distance between the shore and Hōkūleʻa during our 100-120 mile duration today.

Each watch has adjusted well to their time shifts working smoothly together. Jokes and stories are told while nicknames are being created. On board we have the pleasure of sailing with the rare, never before seen Hana Bear. Doc needed to remind Hana Bear he was already repeating 2/3 of his jokes. LOL

For most of the day we had 2 white birds on board. They were friendly enough to allow the more niele crewmembers a chance to pet them.  By their own accord they wanted to connect with certain crew anyway – One landing on Brad’s head and another landing on uncle Bruce’s hand. Friendly little stowaways.

Awesome day with 2 crab claws in the air, clear sunny skies during the day and bright shining stars at night.

December 23
Blog by Duane DeSoto
Uncle Bruce broke our voyage up into several different stages or phases, the first phase being the sail from Miami down to Key West.  Phase 2 of our voyage, from Key West to the western most tip of Cuba, ended early this morning as we reached that far end of Cuba. Unlike earlier, Cubaʻs defined silhouette is no longer visible at this distance but we know low lands and shallow waters are just south of us. Preparation for our jibe south begins with shifting of sheet lines and a different jib.

Phase 3 is upon us as we head straight south and take the ENE wind on our port stern now.  The wind is our only constant today. This morning started out beautiful and sunny but was soon interrupted by a big rain cloud that swooped down upon us. This change of weather caused the winds to vary a little and we got a much-needed fresh water rinse.

Soon enough the rain disappeared and we were back to our perfect sailing conditions with our 10-15 knot ENE wind. The sea grew a little sending 6-8 foot swells our way. This made for a nice little sway in Hōkūleʻa’s hips.

The evening came quick as did the end to part 3 of our journey. We sailed far enough south and now need to head east to get back under the belly of Cuba. It’s going to be a beautiful night.

December 24
Blog by Wallace Wong
It’s a blustery morning on the Caribbean as we head into a dark cloud on the horizon.  The moon watches and smiles above us as that cloud disappears and Orion slowly settles into Komohana.  Our spirits are high as we get closer to our destination.

Today is Christmas Eve aboard the Hōkūleʻa and the morning chatter for first watch is what’s on the menu for tonight.  Bruce is hanging the fishing hooks out with care in hopes that our menu will soon be filled with gifts from the sea.  The Eve was a surprise for many as we slowly lose track of the days aboard the waʻa.  Sunrise, sunsets and a universe of stars are what our days consist of.  Across this vast ocean we watch seabirds, huge ships and the distant silhouette of Cuba.  Our focus is on Hōkūleʻa and our youth.  Our newer and younger crewmembers are doing such an amazing job on this leg and they are learning and sharing their expertise with everyone.

At home our ʻohana are always on our minds when we sail, especially during this time of the year with the traditional family gatherings during Christmas and New Years that we will be missing.  We will forever keep them in our hearts as we gather with our ʻohana wa’a on board Hōkūleʻa on this beautiful evening at sea.  We will be sharing stories, songs and laughter as we celebrate the birth of Jesus with peace, love and goodwill.

From our ʻohana wa’a to yours,
we wish you a Mele Kalikimaka.

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