Hōkūleʻa Update | January 1-2, 2017

On Leg 26, Hōkūleʻa voyages south from Florida to Panama. In this update, Dr. Colleen Finnegan describes a green flash, Hōkūleʻa’s approach to Panama and the crew’s thoughts on re-entering the Pacific.

January 1

Blog by Dr. Colleen Finnegan

HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone sharing this Worldwide Voyage with us! The crew received a package (hidden under Darienne’s bunk) of 2017 goodies – including 2017 sunglasses, treats, blow horns, and bottles of sparkling cider. At midnight, as determined by the position of the stars, pū (conch shells) were sounded and a short celebration ensued. We considered sending up a flare, but thought better of it given the possibility of misinterpretation.

Honestly, though, our first day of 2017 was a lot like the last 10 days of 2016. I awoke each day to see large, rolling waves with Hōkūleʻa easily riding over them, no land in sight.  I also enjoyed seeing malolo (flying fish) skimming from crest to crest. At any given time, if you look, you will see them – like looking up to the branches of a monkey pod tree, you would expect to see a bird.

Speaking of looking upwards, another delightful part of this passage has been moonless nights accentuating a bright canopy of stars, and in particular, shooting stars, some a pinpoint of light, others with a thin silver tail and not infrequently an orange ball of fire with a long trail of orange behind. If you look, you will see them. 😉

January 2

Blog by Dr. Colleen Finnegan

This afternoon we are sailing due South towards Panama, with less than 100 miles to Colon.  I asked my fellow crewmembers what this leg of the voyage meant to them, specifically, the planned transit through the Panama Canal. “A historic home coming”, “An ancestral home coming” “On my bucket list; a big one,” “A privilege, a kuleana to be on Hōkūleʻa during this epic moment in her life after 2 years, connecting into the Pacific” “Amazing,” “Beginning of the completion of the full cycle,” “Hōkūleʻa is the destination. Hōkūleʻa is home.” “Awesome, in the most reverent use of the word,” “A way to experience a place with an appreciation of a different form of transportation.” ʻThe minute the last lock is opened and a drop of the Pacific Ocean touches her hull—means a lot to me. She has not touched the Pacific in nearly 3 years.” “This is a way to experience a new part of the world. I thought the Caribbean would be calm, but it has been rough.”

You will undoubtedly hear more about this powerful and meaningful event in the next few days.

I am fortunate enough to serve as the Medical Officer for this leg of the Worldwide Voyage, and we are all fortunate that my job has largely consisted of applying Band-Aids, and preventing sea-sickness and constipation. The Hōkūleʻa is however, quite prepared to handle medical emergencies of all types, outfitted through the experience of many medical officers before me. This is an experienced crew, fit beyond all requirements, and they make safety a priority.

I just want to relate one last incident, especially for any non-believers out there. A few days ago we had a cloudless sunset, and watched intently for “the green flash.” As the sun dipped under the horizon, the Hōkūleʻa rose on top of a wave, giving us a second glimpse of the last, bright sliver of the sun. Duane then said, “awe, the wave ruined it!” at which time a plume of green rose from where the sun disappeared. The crew let out a collective “ahhh.”

At about 530pm this afternoon, we began to see the faint outline of Panama on the horizon.  Itʻs kind of incredible to realize that after 13 days at sea, our destination was now in sight.  Once our apprentice navigator, Brad Wong, spotted the island, we radioed to our escort vessel, the Gershon II, to come and pick up our towline.  As night came upon us, the lights from hundreds of large ships anchored offshore became visible.

We continue to make our way into our anchorage point where we will remain overnight.  At first light, the plan is to make our way to the marina where we will dock and clear customs, at which time the crew will set foot on land for the first time since leaving Key West, Florida two weeks ago.

Mahalo to all for your continued support, and continue to follow along as we bring Hōkūleʻa through the Panama canal and back into the Pacific.

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