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Hokule‘a and Hikianalia make good time sailing to Tahiti

By Marcel Honoré

LAST UPDATED: 12:35 p.m. HST, Jun 11, 2014

Strong, steady trades and lighter, swifter hulls are so far helping Hokule‘a make its fastest time yet to Tahiti, crews sailing on the first international leg of the voyaging canoe's worldwide journey report.

"We're just humming along," Capt. Bruce Blankenfeld said via satellite phone Tuesday aboard Hikianalia, Hokule‘a's escort vessel. "Both canoes are sailing really well, and the wind has been excellent. It's allowed us to make much better speed. It's allowed us to make better mileage."

Twelve days after crew members left Hilo to launch the three-year Malama Honua ("Care for Our Earth") worldwide voyage, Blankenfeld estimated that the double-hulled canoes have already sailed about two-thirds of the way to Tahiti.

Crews aboard Hokule‘a are using way-finding — the noninstrumental navigation techniques of their Polynesian ancestors — to guide the two canoes to Tahiti, about 2,600 miles southeast of Hawaii.

A Google-based map showing the boats' GPS location shows that Hokule‘a and Hikianalia have logged nearly 1,700 miles since leaving Pale­kai, also known as Radio Bay, in Hilo.

The trip to Tahiti is Hokule‘a's first voyage outside Hawaii and into the open ocean since completing an 18-month dry dock in 2012, during which the canoe was basically rebuilt. Polynesian Voyaging Society members and volunteers replaced waterlogged wood and rot with a foam core and state-of-the-art materials — "just making it stronger," Blankenfeld said Tuesday as the seas around him started getting a bit rougher and messier.

Despite the material upgrades, the 39-year-old canoe retains its traditional design modeled after ancient Polynesian way-finding canoes, he added.

The repairs also made Hokule‘a a full ton lighter, Blankenfeld said, helping the wa‘a (canoe) to sail faster.

In addition, the canoes saw good fortune in recent days as they passed through what's known as the intertropical convergence zone around the equator, Blankenfeld said. That area, often called "the doldrums," is a stretch that is frequently marked by stagnant winds.

The zone often varies in size and location, and it has slowed Hokule‘a's prog­ress on previous voyages south. However, on this trip "we barely slowed down at all," Blankenfeld said.

The two boats' 29 crew members — many of them younger than 30 years old and experiencing their first open sea voyage — are thriving, and that's another key reason for the prog­ress, Blankenfeld said.

"The crew is doing especially well. The morale is great. They're learning daily, everything about life at sea," he said. "The diligence, the vigilance that's required."

After landing in Tahiti, Hokule‘a and Hikianalia will undergo Malama Honua's second leg, to Samoa.

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tiwtsfm wrote:
Keep the stories of this voyage coming. Hokule'a is the best thing to come out of Hawaii for a long time.
on June 11,2014 | 05:29AM
Hotel wrote:
The first voyage was completed without the use a a jib sail. The modern sail used at the front of boats. Is a jib (sail) being used on the canoe on this voyage? Modern sails are very efficient.
on June 11,2014 | 06:28AM
HanabataDays wrote:
Judging by the photos above (though they don't show her under sail) and my understanding of how she's rigged, I believe it's a pair of crab claw sails, essentially both the same. They work best on these long downwind runs.
on June 11,2014 | 08:10AM
Hotel wrote:
The canoes are sailing as close as possible into the wind. The addition of a modern jib sail is the best way to improve the sailing abilities of the ancient-style canoe. Marconi shaped sails help, too.
on June 11,2014 | 09:52AM
AJandKJ wrote:
I believe Hokulea is using crab claw sails on the leg to Tahiti, but they are also able to use a Marconi rig and jibs. Each rig has pros and cons. The crab claws are said to be faster downwind, but the Marconi rig has better upwind performance. Maybe the ancients were smart enough not to try beating upwind for weeks at a time - wait for kona weather to get a lift to the east, knowing you can always sail home downwind when the trades return?
on June 11,2014 | 12:40PM
Bdpapa wrote:
I love it!
on June 11,2014 | 06:32AM
postmanx wrote:
Bringing Aloha to the world! Love it!
on June 11,2014 | 07:38AM
HanabataDays wrote:
I recall the original Hokule`a and how she was built as true to the ancient materials and techniques as they could manage. So in a way it's sad to see her refit involves so much use of modern materials. But it really is the best and safest way to assure she completes her three-year global tour without serious incident. May fair winds and smooth seas accompany her, our ku`uipo!
on June 11,2014 | 08:18AM
Hotel wrote:
During construction of the Hokule'a, the Advertiser reported a couple of the "beach-boy builders" had applied small "keels" to the hulls when the shop was "closed". Modern materials? The guys from Palau knew about hull lashings, offered to supply. Somehow, the Coast Guard said the Palau sea grass, used for eons, was "unsafe". The Advertiser had total, total coverage of that first voyage. Not now.
on June 11,2014 | 09:58AM
AJandKJ wrote:
There are no keels on the bottom of Hokulea's hulls now, and I believe the well-intentioned effort to add them during her original construction was also nipped in the bud. Hokulea's hulls are not made of traditional materials. They use foam and fiberglass, epoxy and varnish, and cotton line instead of coconut sennit. But the hulls are the traditional shape and they're lashed to the iakos, not screwed or bolted, with several miles of 3/16" cotton line. If you know of a place that can supply that much sea grass or coconut sennit, I'm sure PVS would be interested to hear about it.
on June 11,2014 | 12:45PM
Ronin006 wrote:
And they also use computer weather models and weather forecasts from NOAA. That is not exactly way-finding used by their Polynesian ancestors
on June 11,2014 | 02:41PM
AJandKJ wrote:
You're right - those obviously aren't traditional. It seems like if a decision comes down to being traditional vs. being safe, they choose being safe. I don't think that's a bad decision. They have a man overboard pole and life ring attached to a roll of polypropylene - that's probably not traditional either. They have VHF radios and navigational lights as required by the Coast Guard - not traditional. But those things make voyaging safer. But if they can be traditional and safe, they do both. They use computer models to forecast the future - but they will also teach you how to read the sky at sunrise and sunset to predict the weather that day and the next. They will teach you how to read a NOAA chart and a GPS - but they will also teach you how to memorize the rising and setting points of stars to determine your latitude and direction. Nainoa learned about voyaging from Mau Piailug, and he also learned astronomy from Will Kyselka at the Bishop Museum Planetarium. For a canoe that sails in two worlds at the same time, it seems like they've done a great job balancing the modern and the ancient.
on June 11,2014 | 10:35PM
paulokada wrote:
Good going Captain. You have mastered navigating the wind to its fullest potential.
on June 11,2014 | 08:21AM
environmental_lady wrote:
Glad to hear that everyone is safe and happy in smooth sailing conditions. Keep up the good work and may good fortune keep smiling on you all.
on June 11,2014 | 09:57AM
WatsIt2u wrote:
HULO! HULO!...Maikaʻi No!
on June 11,2014 | 10:00AM
false wrote:
Who cares?
on June 11,2014 | 10:29AM
Hotel wrote:
The National Geographic Society cared about that first voyage and quickly "lost interest" in voyaging. Even faster than Mau.
on June 11,2014 | 12:29PM
AJandKJ wrote:
I don't think it's reasonable to imply Mau lost interest in voyaging. According to Ben Finney's book, Mau left after the first voyage because of the fighting onboard. He came back after Eddie Aikau's death to teach them how to navigate so no one else would be lost at sea, and because he wanted to stop navigation from dying out on his home island. Looks like he succeeded on both accounts!
on June 11,2014 | 12:50PM
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