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Telling Tales: Sweating the details

EDITOR’S NOTE: Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter Marcel Honoré returned to Hawaii on Sept. 26 after spending four weeks as a crew member of the voyaging canoes Hokule‘a and Hikianalia during the Samoa leg of their worldwide voyage which began in May. This blog post was lost in transit during the voyage and was posted on Oct. 2.

The voyaging canoe Hokule'a arrived at Swain's Island Friday. (Maui Tauotaha / Polynesian Voyaging Society)
The voyaging canoe Hokule’a arrived at Swain’s Island Friday. (Maui Tauotaha / Polynesian Voyaging Society)

What day is it? No, seriously — between traversing back and forth across the dateline and the long days crewing Hokule‘a, I’m honestly not sure. You’re not going to believe this but working a traditional voyaging wa’a is challenging, round-the-clock work. It’s a seemingly endless cycle of closing and opening sails, manning the steering sweep, and keeping the deck, hulls and your small cubby in some form of working order. Because things always have the potential to get out of control really quickly. Gotta take care of island canoe.

I remain in awe of my crewmates. They’re some of the hardest-working yet upbeat and optimistic people I’ve ever met. Even as we go on Day Five since leaving Apia and the exhaustion starts to take some toll, they continue to walk the walk. It’s something I hope to take with me off the wa’a. So you people enjoy your “showers” and “bathrooms.” We’ve got buckets and the Pacific Ocean, thank you very much.

Anyways. Greetings from off the coast of far-flung Swains Island. I can’t see the Hokule‘a Google tracker map, but I’m guessing a lot of folks at home are looking at it and wondering about the route. There might be a point when we appeared to have stalled out somewhere near Swains. It’s kind of a long story (so I wrote a separate one) but basically we closed sails

(tack break)

OK, back from tacking. So anyway, we closed sails around sundown to ensure we wouldn’t miss Swains at night. Then, the crew found Swains the next day, using traditional way finding navigation. Then, after doing a sail-by, we continued on for Tokelau, but Nainoa Thompson noticed the winds weren’t changing. That wasn’t a problem with them at our backs on the way up, but it would make things miserable on the way back down to Swains.

While manning sweep, I watched as he consulted with local and Hawaii-based experts, and mulled over forecasts. Then he consulted with First Mate and fellow pwo (master) navigator Kalepa Baybayan, and opted not to continue to Tokelau. So we turned around and head back to Swains and have been maneuvering around the island for the last couple of days since we’re early, and that’s probably more or less what you see on the tracking map.

That also means the Phoenix Islands are most likely out — the weather just hasn’t cooperated from day one of this leg and we’re probably going to have a hell of a time getting back to Apia just from Swains. But I’m actually OK with it, personally. This has already been a mind-blowing trip. Just hoping we get to try some coconut crab on Swains. Soon …

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