Voyage Update | May 16, 2021

Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia Delayed in Maui Due to Rough Conditions in the Alenuihaha Channel

Voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia have been moored off of Lahaina, Maui, since Thursday, May 13, the morning after departing Honolulu for a training voyage to the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), the area of the Pacific Ocean known as “the doldrums.” The crew is awaiting conditions to improve so the canoes can safely cross the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel, between Maui and Hawaiʻi Island. Unlike the Kaiwi Channel which was quite windy and rough itself, the ʻAlenuihāhā is known to pose a larger challenge, and it has been under a small craft advisory with sustained winds of near 30 mph. The earliest the crews will depart Lahaina will be Tuesday, May 18 (weather permitting).

Hōkūleʻa Captain and Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson and Hōkūleʻa Safety Officer Archie Kalepa shared updates on why the Alenuihaha can be so treacherous and why the call was made to stand by.

Hōkūleʻa Safety Officer Archie Kālepa

According to Thompson, the ʻAlenuihāhā is known for large waves and very strong winds funneled between Haleakala and the North Kohala Mountains and Mauna Kea, and when the current opposes the wind it becomes extremely dangerous. “It’s not like the wave is coming at you when it hits the canoe. Many times it’s coming down on you. It’s so steep and so tall that it breaks down on the canoes.”

Master Navigator and Hōkūleʻa Captain Nainoa Thompson

“We are training for the storm, but also being smart about certain areas on the earth that you need to have high respect for, so that our job is to grow as students, grow and learn by observing nature, and so we are here waiting for nature to tell us when we can go,” added Thompson. “So we set all our schedules and our calendars, everybody has to do that. These crews are volunteers, they all got to get back. But the final decision about sailing, leaving a port is up to nature, to tell us when it’s time we’re going, and it’s not the time. So we are standing by, we are paying attention. We are being patient, that’s what we’re trained to do by the great navigator Mau Piailug.”

Thompson also acknowledged that in addition to observing nature, PVS leadership is also using science and technology to help them with making these key decisions. He has been consulting with Ray Tanabe, Director, Pacific Region, NOAA National Weather Service, to get his perspective using satellite observations from space and at different positions in the ocean and on land.

“Right now the conditions are pretty rough in the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel. We’re seeing winds at least 25 knots and that corresponds to close to 30 miles an hour with higher gusts,” said Tanabe. “Because the trades have been around for a while now, the seas are also very high so we’re seeing wind waves as high as eight to 10 feet in the channel,” he added.

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