Hōkūleʻa Update | February 26, 2017

The Navigators

Naalehu AnthonyBlog by Nāʻālehu Anthony

It’s hard to believe that there are only a handful of legs left before our Mama canoe Hōkūleʻa returns home. After sailing for nearly three years on the international portion of the Worldwide Voyage, the Mālama Honua movement has become something that has touched farther shores that some of us even imagined possible when we set out of Hilo, Hawaiʻi in May of 2014. When thinking about the enormity of the impact or influence of this voyage, I would argue that some of the biggest growth and impact has actually occurred right here, on the deck of a sailing canoe, as she has traversed all these miles across the blue face of the planet.

Take this navigation team for Leg 28 – they are a living, breathing, growing, and still-evolving example of the impact and influence of the Voyage. All four of them were on the first leg to Tahiti in 2014 as apprentice navigators; and now, together, they are leading the sailing of this canoe in search of the most isolated island on the planet.

If you listen to the early interviews we did with these individuals before the Hilo departure, you wouldn’t even recognize them as the same people — they have grown up on this voyage. The versions of them we have on board today are poised, confident, and rising to the challenge of the complexity and difficulty of the call they have chosen to answer. And in the opinion of someone who has been watching this process intently for a few years now, they are finally ready to learn. Yes, I said learn.

To be sure, they have all had to learn a tremendous amount of “stuff” to be in the position they are on the deck of the canoe. But once here, they have to put all that stuff into practice, to internalize the process of wayfinding unto themselves, the way their teachers did for all the decades before them — and for all the hundreds and thousands of years that our ancestors did before us.

Over the course of the last 17 days and almost 2000 miles they were tested. The simple act of staying awake becomes a monumental test when faced with the responsibility of tracking direction, speed and distance in a manner that can only be done through first-hand observation. Beyond just that sheer physical demand to stay awake, the hardest challenge I witnessed and felt was probably the test of patience. With nerves of steel, our navigators searched the horizon for three days, looking first for that reef and then Rapa Nui, waiting for something to reveal itself.

And then it happened – the elusive, isolated Rapa Nui revealed itself yesterday at about 4 pm. Upon checking, we found we were 43 miles out when the team sighted the island. Some hugged, some sat in a state of almost-disbelief, and one other capped off 42-years of sailing this canoe by personally closing the Triangle. Everyone felt something in their naʻau, something that marked significance for themselves and for the Voyage.

That is the last lesson of this experience. I would argue that activating and listening to your naʻau is the ultimate teaching and learning. Without the birds and swell and clouds as clues we would have never found this place – but our navigators needed to trust their naʻau in order to interpret the signs and follow them. Trusting your naʻau is every bit as important as the math and science behind all of this.

This will be my last “regular” update for this voyage. There are a couple more blogs that I want to post while in Rapa Nui, but this is the last one from the deck of this canoe for a while. Before I go, I would like everyone who reads this to congratulate the crew who just stared impossible in the face and conquered it. And I would also like everyone to share a special acknowledgement to those who took up the task of the navigation; to Lehua Kamalu, Haunani Kane, Jason Patterson and Noe Kamalu – I can’t wait to see what you do next.

From the deck of the Mama canoe, Hōkūleʻa,

Me ka haʻahaʻa
Nāʻālehu for the leg 28 crew


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