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RAPA NUI, Chile (October 13, 1999 – The Honolulu Advertiser)---The day Hokule‘a’s crew found Rapa Nui, navigator Nainoa Thompson said he wasn’t confident of his navigation because wind shifts had forced him out of his strategy.

"I was losing confidence," he said. "My strategy was to steer north but a north wind came up and took us around. I was simply reacting to the weather and I am not comfortable with that. Once you lose confidence, you get out of sync."

The north wind forced the canoe southeast, straight for Easter Island.

"Two nights before we were in a rain squall for six hours," said Thompson. "We were steering by the southeast swell and by instinct. There were times I was so tired I was hallucinating."

Hokule‘a’s crew sighted Rapa Nui on Friday and landed Saturday.

He said the navigators make about 1,000 observations a day of the sky and the waves to keep themselves oriented. The observations result in perhaps 300 mental decisions about where they are. The decisions result in about 30 commands to change course.

"People ask me how I stay awake," he said. "The problem with so much on your mind is getting to sleep."

Navigators Chad Baybayan and Bruce Blankenfeld, both voyaging veterans, were invaluable to the success of the trip, said Thompson.

"Ninety-eight percent of a successful voyage is due to preparation," he added.

"Hokule‘a was dry-docked twice at a cost of $100,000, demonstrating the commitment of the community."

He said 200 names of potential crewmembers were chosen from 2,000 people who have sailed in Hokule‘a. The 12 who made the trip, selected from so many highly qualified voyagers, made the trip because of maturity, selflessness and professionalism.

Thompson made three trips to Rapa Nui to study the stars, the weather cycles and to "connect with the island. I need to be with the island, to sit with it to get the image of the island in my mind. The relationship is deeply internal."

He also studied weather maps for 2 1/2 years and developed new strategies of navigation for the voyage. In the end, he said, he concluded that the probability of failure was high. In the case of failure it would be a learning experience.

Thompson said he believes another factor is the mana – spiritual power – of the canoe, "but I have absolutely no control over it. We don’t take the canoe. The canoe takes us, but it needs us to work the sails. I think there is a mana in the modern world, but it’s sleeping, like it sleeps when the canoe is at the dock.

"When we found the island it was sort of dreamlike. I was afraid I would wake up. I was prepared for the worst and we got only the best. I couldn’t accept that."

For additional reports from The Honolulu Advertiser, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Honolulu Advertiser.

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