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Weather could threaten Hokule’a United Nations sail

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  • Samoa on Aug. 21. The next set of crewmembers join the voyage on Aug. 25 while current crew conduct educational and community outreach in Pago Pago.

On Monday (Sunday in Hawaii, on the other side of the International Date Line), senior United Nations officials and foreign dignitaries are slated to sail aboard Hokule’a during a UN conference devoted to small island nations.

There’s an obstacle though: 78 miles of gusty weather and choppy seas currently separate Hokule’a from Apia, where that sail is slated to take place. The weather isn’t forecast to calm until Saturday, but that would leave little time for the special sail, because Hokule’a loses a day crossing over.

"It’s problematic," Hokule’a navigator Nainoa Thompson said during a meeting with the canoe leg’s leaders and navigators, huddled in a room at the Sadie’s — an inn facing the steep, green peaks that soar above Pago Pago Harbor. "It’s pretty rough out there."

For Thompson and Polynesian Voyaging Society leadership, the event with world leaders is a huge reason for going to Apia — they aim to ink a 1-page document with the UN stating that the agency is committed to the process of creating more marine protected areas around the globe, which they can then follow up on in 2016 when they canoes are slated to arrive in New York.

Items like these are why they’re sailing around the world in the first place — it’s the whole point of Malama Honua.

At this point, we plan to leave Pago Pago Harbor on Thursday, a day after the bad weather is expected to peak.

That’ll mean the canoe would have to go hard into the wind, smashing into waves. She can do it, Thompson said, but she and the crew will have to be ready. We’ll be running drills and preparing Wednesday, after a hectic day so far of loading supplies (which I’m qualified to do) and testing electrical systems and equipment (which I’m so not qualified to do).

It will also mean Hokule’a will likely need a tug into port once she reaches Apia. Thompson would need someone he knows and trusts up at the controls with whomever pilots that tug, to make sure the canoe lands safely. In the Sadie’s meeting, he looks to Hoku crew member Tim Gilliom.

"Say when," is all Gilliom has to say.

Tuesday was busy – a kind of shock to the system as we get into the swing and pace of things.

Wednesday is expected to be busier.

Honolululu Star-Advertiser reporter Marcel Honore joins the traditional voyaging canoe Hokule’a to chronicle the third international leg of its Malama Honua ("Care for the Earth") worldwide voyage. Hokule’a and escort canoe Hikianalia plan to visit several island ports, sailing from Samoa to the Phoenix Islands, part of Kiribati, and back — an approximately 1,800-mile journey that’s expected to take more than a month.

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