October 15: Blog from Heidi Kai Guth aboard Hikianalia (October 14, 2012)

We are starting to get into our sailing rhythms, some of which are weather dependent (when to shower and do laundry — both with buckets of seawater) and some of which are watch dependent.

Our crew has been grouped into three watches of four people each who are assigned to be on deck and responsible during the morning and evening hours of 6-10, 10-2, and 2-6. You sleep when you can and work when you are up, whether it is your watch or not… helping with changing or reefing sails, prepping for meals, cleaning, etc.

Those of us who have voyaged before recognize the rhythms in life at sea, and also find differences between Hikianalia and Hōkūle‘a, as well as in the waters of the southern Pacific.

Some of the differences are superficial, such as the below-deck, flushable toilet in the starboard stern of Hikianalia (instead of the directly overboard method of Hōkūle‘a) and the below-deck galley in the port stern of Hikianalia (instead of the on-deck galley box of Hōkūle‘a).

Some differences are literally deeper, such as the bunks that are in the hulls, but also below deck on Hikianalia. You have to open a hatch cover, climb down stairs and then climb up to a bunk. When the hatch covers are all closed, the holds are pitch black and sound like an underwater cave. Sleeping to the sound of the ocean rushing past your bunk is the same, but Hikianalia’s bunks are also sealed up top, instead of covered by canvas, so one can hear the ocean trickling above one’s head as well. Many of us have reached up, expecting to find leaks pouring in, but all remains dry.

Another new sound from within the bunks is that of the dagger boards thrumming as they help us hold our course, instead of Hōkūle‘a’s side sweeps. The vibrations magnify the sound and feel of a surfboard’s skegs gripping a wave.

What’s outside the hulls is different for most of us as well (although we welcomed a familiar albacore for dinner last night).

An occasional albatross will dip its wings as it soars around and past us. Small groups of new-to-us seabirds sit in groups or alone, bobbing on the swells, sometimes dipping their beaks to snack from schools of little fish below them.

We’ve seen some floating seaweed patches, and a mysterious series of yellow foam. We started seeing the lines of foam a couple days out of Auckland. Sometimes they were in long wind lines and sometimes in big, solitary patches.  After a couple days, the foam became more constant, and we decided to investigate.

One person would act as a spotter from about mid-canoe, and another person would be in the stern with one of our trusty buckets with a long, knotted rope tied as a handle. When the spotter would call out and point, the bucket handler would toss out the bucket trying to scoop some of the foam. We finally captured some and found it not to be debris or current lines of foam, but floating rocks. They were bobbing lines of gray pumice that had been yellowed by algae. One nickel-sized rock carried a live barnacle and another batch (ranging from pea- to quarter-sized) included a half-inch-long, green shrimp.

We had read about the underwater volcano that had erupted in the Kermadecs a couple months ago, spewing pumice to the ocean’s surface, and apparently we had happened upon some of that volcanic debris that had floated approximately 200 miles south to our little canoe.

How wonderful to find this ocean still defined by nature instead of by human debris: floating rocks and soaring albatrosses.

As Maka says, the 14 of us are so fortunate to be the ones out of the entire planet’s population given this opportunity to partake in Hikianalia’s maiden voyage. Mahalo nui loa for this gift.

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