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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 8, 2004

Hokule'a awaits favorable winds for voyage north

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

HANALEI BAY, Kaua'i — Hokule'a crew members preparing for a voyage to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were to go aboard today, but the double-hulled canoe is expected to remain at anchor awaiting favorable winds.

A low-pressure system has blocked the trade winds, leaving light winds of inconsistent direction — a problem for a sailing vessel.

National Weather Service forecaster Bob Farrell said the Hokule'a might see north winds of about 10 mph by midafternoon tomorrow, strengthening to northeast winds of about 15 mph Monday.

"It might be a little higher than that in the channels," Farrell said.

Hokule'a captain Nainoa Thompson said he hopes to be able to leave Hanalei tomorrow.

The crew will use this afternoon to stow gear for the voyage and scrub the bottom of the Hokule'a's twin hulls so that any alien marine growth picked up in the main Hawaiian Islands isn't carried into the fragile marine ecosystems off the leeward islands and atolls.

The canoe's mission combines voyaging and navigation with environmental protection and education. As part of that mission, the Hokule'a took water samples during its sail from O'ahu to Hanalei Bay on Kaua'i this week, and test results confirm what one might expect: Bacterial pollution increases closer to land.

Crew members on the canoe took the samples at the request of the Hanalei Watershed Hui, a citizens group that works to improve the aquatic environment of Hanalei River and Hanalei Bay. The canoe's samples, taken Monday, were compared with samples taken from land around Hanalei Bay the same day.

Watershed Hui chief scientist Carl Berg Jr., an ecologist, said the samples were tested for enterococcus bacteria, which are associated with fecal matter from warm-blooded animals such as humans, dogs and pigs, but "not turtles, not sharks, not other fish." Seals and whales could create such bacteria, but neither species has been seen much in the area.

The samples also were tested for salinity, so that researchers could distinguish samples where fresh water was affecting ocean water.

The tests showed that water collected offshore, with ocean salinity of 35 parts of salt per thousand, consistently had bacteria levels at or below the lowest amount the equipment could measure.

"We got 10 or fewer organisms or colonies per 100 milliliters. That's at the limits of detection of our machine," Berg said.

Once the canoe pulled into the middle of Hanalei Bay, the salinity dropped to 34 parts per thousand and the bacteria count rose to 31 per 100 milliliters.

"Once inside the bay we could detect the nonpoint source pollution," Berg said. The 31 count approaches the Environmental Protection Agency guideline of 35 per 100 milliliters for marine waters.

The Hanalei Watershed Hui's own measurements confirmed the origin of the pollution. Samplings from the various rivers that flow into the bay found 84 per 100 milliliters at Hanalei, 185 at Waioli, 323 at Waipa and 359 at Waikoko. A test of the bay water fronting the Hanalei Pavilion found a 63 count.

"So the bacterial pollution was coming from land sources," Berg said.

The hui's previous studies of water samples upstream from residential uses show there is a background level of enterococcus, probably associated with animals such as feral pigs and rats, but the numbers rise dramatically near homes.

The implication is that the higher counts are the result of human activities, most likely leaking from cesspools and septic systems, Berg said.

"That's why the Hanalei Watershed Hui has received an EPA grant to replace septic systems and cesspools in riparian (river and streamside) areas, and to plan for the creation of a central wastewater treatment plant for the Hanalei town area," he said.

Advertiser Science Writer Jan TenBruggencate will serve as a crew member aboard Hokule'a during the voyaging canoe's trip through the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. He will be sending back regular dispatches during the trip.