Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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Weather delays departure of voyaging canoes

By Marcel Honoré


The winds off Hawaii island still haven't shifted in their favor to sail, so Hoku­le‘a and Hiki­ana­lia will wait at least one more day before launching into the open sea.

The two voyaging canoes will leave Hilo for Tahiti no earlier than midweek as their crews continue to wait for the winds they need to launch the first international leg of the Polynesian Voyaging Society's "Malama Honua" (Care for Our Earth) worldwide journey.

Captains leading the sail had been preparing to leave Tuesday. Now they're planning to depart sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

"The day that looks best by the forecast is Thursday. We need to get east on this trip, so you need winds northeast. And we don't have that," Hoku­le‘a skipper Nai­noa Thompson said Monday, reviewing the latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wind reports on his computer at Hilo's Nani­loa Volcanoes Resort.

The hotel has housed the canoes' crews and support staff for nearly a week. It's about a half-mile from the Pale­kai inlet off Hilo Bay, where Hoku­le‘a and Hiki­ana­lia are anchored in calm waters, undergoing last-minute fixes and awaiting departure. The canoes' crews had originally planned to leave Hilo on Saturday.

"This is a really unusual weather pattern. You know, we designed the sail plan to be in a summer feature with a high pressure established that brings very stable, very predictable winds," Thompson said. Instead "we have a winter feature that is highly unusual for now."

The delay is also affording the vessels' combined 26 crew members the chance to get added rest and avoid sickness after a frenetic pace in the past several weeks. In addition to public goodbyes on Oahu and Hawaii island, which involved myriad community events, crew members have been involved in intense canoe work — all while endeavoring to prepare mentally and emotionally for the weeks ahead at sea.

Three crew members have reported having scratchy throats in recent days — but nothing serious enough to delay departure or quarantine those members, PVS spokes­woman Kim Ku‘u­lei Birnie said Monday.

The Naniloa, where the crew is staying, is several paces from the puu­ho­nua on Moku­ola island — traditionally a Hawaiian place of refuge and rebirth. On Saturday, before crews knew that they would be staying even longer in Hilo, Thompson mused on their wait for the right winds.

"Some would say the winds are bad. The winds are never bad. The winds are what they are," he said. "Departure is never a human decision. Departure is the wind will tell you when to go."

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