Hōkūleʻa Update | December 28-29, 2017

On Leg 26, Hōkūleʻa voyages south from Florida to Panama. In this update, Bob Perkins describes Hōkūleʻa’s course and winds around Cuba.

December 28

Blog by Bob Perkins

Aloha from the deck of Hōkūleʻa, and greetings from the Caribbean.  Today is Hōkūleʻa’s eighth day since dropping the mooring line in Key West.  If you look at the route we have established on the tracker, it seems we are crossing in a rather haphazard way. There is a method to the madness. florida_to_panamaHōkūleʻa’s course is dictated by the winds.  Because of the prevailing winds in this region, the leg was divided into 3 distinct sections.  The first section was from Key West to the west tip of Cuba.  We sailed this section for the first three days, as the winds were in our favor.  Once we rounded the western tip of Cuba, the wind direction was unfavorable, as we wanted to parallel the Cuban coast in order to get to the 80th Meridian before turning southerly for Panama.  Because of this, we picked up a tow from our escort vessel, Gershon II.  For the past five days or so, we have been towing, making sure to get as far east as possible before turning south.  Today, Captain Bruce, along with apprentice navigator Brad Wong, determined it was time to point our bows southerly for Panama.

So for the first time in 5 days we dropped tow and hoisted our sails! And boy did it feel great.  About an hour into sailing, we hooked up with our first fish of this voyage! A nice 7-pound aku, which Bruce reeled in.  Our science crewmember, Anuschka then measured and weighed the fish for our data collection, and then proceeded to dissect the stomach to see what it contained.  We were surprised to find so many undigested fish of all sorts of varieties.  And then, deeper into the stomach Anuschka discovered a plastic candy wrapper that seems to have been blocking the fish’s digestive system, because all the contents in the stomach after the wrapper were all fully digested.  It was a good reminder of the conditions of our oceans and the prevalence of human influence.  Also a reminder of the importance to mālama honua.

The whole crew waited in anxious anticipation as Kaniela’s watch, including Nakua and Doctor Colleen, prepared the aku for dinner.  Since the start of the voyage the watches have been rotating cooking kuleana every three days, and this was the 10-2 watch’s final night in the rotation.  They’ve become affectionately known as the Dugong Diner.  The trio proceeded to slice some of the aku up as sashimi, with wasabi shoyu sauce, while Nakua fried some of the aku meat and bones.  When all was said and done, it was a delicious meal every crewmember savored.

It feels great to be sailing again, and to add our first fish of the trip to it made it that much better.  Southward to Panama we continue.

December 29

Blog by Bob Perkins

The last 24 hours on Hōkūleʻa, in my mind, has been the type of voyaging dreams are made of.

This period of time started with us dropping tow for the first time in several days and letting the waʻa feel the wind in her sails and creating a movement with the swells much more natural and fluid than when having to be towed.  We were then able to turn our manu toward our ultimate, having reached favorable wind angles for Hōkūleʻa to deliver us to our final port in the Caribbean.  As the sun set, we were blessed with seas of rarely seen calm, mixed with winds of sufficient strength to propel us forward at estimated speeds of 5-6 knots, sometimes perhaps reaching 7.  As the final light of day disappeared, the absolute cloudless and moonless heavens provided those of us on watch with a spectacular display of nature’s pins of light cascading down and reflecting onto the almost mirror flat sea, creating a feeling of flying through a void of space with no up, no down; only a feeling of oneness with the waʻa and nothing else.  I have experienced this phenomenon very rarely in my sailing life.

As the day’s first light changed the night sky, and our fishing lures were put out, the morning routine of preparing breakfast was interrupted by the sound of “Hanapaʻa!” Fish on the line.  We were blessed with a 90-pound Marlin, which provided us with lunch and dinner for today and enough to share with our stalwart escort vessel crew on board Gershon II.

This type of day is one that makes me feel so blessed and so thankful to be a part of this special experience.  Tonight we sail through a series of small islands, then on to Panama.

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