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By Curtis Lum

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (September 28, 1999 – The Honolulu Advertiser)---Although favorable winds were dying, the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a continued to make good time yesterday, and was expected to reach the halfway point from Mangareva to Rapa Nui last night.

As of 7:00 a.m. yesterday, Hokule’a was 743 miles out of Mangareva, with 868 miles yet to go before reaching Rapa Nui. The canoe left Mangareva September 21 on the final leg of a voyage expected to take 30 to 40 days.

"We’re pleased with the distance they have covered," said Polynesian Voyaging Society spokeswoman Elisa Yadao, though she would not go so far as to predict the canoe would reach Rapa Nui ahead of schedule.

"The winds are expected to die down as they get closer (to Rapa Nui), Yadao said. "They’ve had really extraordinarily good weather conditions. But they still have to find the island once they cover all this ground, and it is a very tiny speck of land."

A cold front southwest of the canoe caused winds to decline from nearly 30 mph Sunday to 17-23 mph yesterday. Yadao said Hokule‘a was sailing at 7 to 8 mph yesterday.

Once it comes within 275 miles of Rapa Nui, the canoe will begin a tracking, or zigzag pattern. Hokule‘a navigators said the strategy is designed to prevent sailing past the island.

The island’s highest point, Terevaka, at 1,674 feet, can be seen from 30 to 45 miles on a clear day. Navigators rely on ocean swells, the moon, stars, and sea birds to guide them.

Yadao said the 12-member crew is in good health and spirits.



Navigator Chad Baybayan is sharing excerpts from his voyage journal as Hokule‘a sails toward Rapa Nui.

PACIFIC OCEAN (September 27, 1999 – The Honolulu Advertiser)---Our layover Friday on Pitcairn Island was brief. Arriving in the afternoon, we departed before midnight. It was nice to see the smiles of people who had become very dear to me.

I visited with my friends – Jay Warren and his wife Tarol Christian Warren. Jay is the magistrate of the island and the descendant of a whaler shipwrecked on Ducie Atoll, some 295 miles east-northeast of Pitcairn.

Today, the Warren family represents the largest clan on Pitcairn Island. Tarol argues they should use the more recognized Christian name (descended from Bounty sailor Fletcher Christian). Jay ignores her.

That evening, the Pitcairn community quickly organized a dinner in the town square for the crews of Hokule‘a and Kamahele, our escort vessel. At the end of the dinner, I thanked the islanders for their hospitality, presenting the 10 school-age children of the community with a copy of Tommy Holmes’ canoe book, "Hawaii Canoes," and gave them 15 buckets of crackers, one for each family that resides there.

It was a sad departure that night, a hard goodbye to such unselfish people.

As we dashed through the surf on the aluminum launch that returned us to the canoe, I looked back on this unique island silhouetted by moonlight and framed by the starlit South Pacific night sky.

I will probably never return there again.

An hour after departing Pitcairn, the wind and seas picked up. It was a timely departure; the anchorage at Pitcairn was poor that day.

Now several days have passed since our departure and the canoe sails at a fast 7 knots. A weather anomaly is providing Hokule‘a with winds from a favorable direction and we are making easterly progress much more rapidly than we have planned. However, we are still challenged with the daunting task of locating Rapa Nui, an island 14 miles long by 7 miles wide.

We have enough food for 42 days. I quietly pray that the voyage will end well before that.

Bruce Blankenfeld’s wife, Lita, and her lifelong friend Larry Fern have been responsible for putting together the menu for the voyage, purchasing the food, and packing and shipping the supplies to the distant staging points. It is a nightmarish task and we all appreciate their huge volunteer effort.

The crew is finally getting into the rhythm of a long voyage. When the seas are steep, the most basic tasks on Hokule‘a become very difficult. Sleeping on the canoe redefines the meaning of waterbed. Water squirts in through the canvas covers the crew sleep under. Crewmember Max Yarawamai claims he needs a mask and snorkel to sleep in his bunk. Being the last to show up, he ended up with the forward-most compartment on the wet side of the canoe.

Going to the bathroom is also a very wet experience. You don a safety harness before positioning yourself on a wooden plank outside the canoe. Whatever I perceive the difficulty to be for me, it is infinitely more difficult for the female crewmembers that sailed Hokule‘a. At least I get to stand up.

The sea grabs at your ankles, or inundates your tush. And as you look down at the boiling ocean, your muscles tighten. If you don’t learn how to relax, you can be left standing on that wooden plank for an awfully long time.

In due time nature takes its course and you return to the inner safety of Hokule‘a’s decks relieved, wet, exhilarated or exhausted.

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