Voyaging canoes hit smooth sailing
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Jan TenBruggencate
Favorable trades returned yesterday after five days of contrary winds for the voyaging canoes Hokule'a and Alingano Maisu, which are 10 days into the first leg of a voyage to Micronesia.
Mike Taylor, captain of the escort boat Kama Hele, said that the northeast wind was strong at nearly 25 mph. The canoes were less than 250 miles east of Johnston Atoll at 4:40 p.m., according to automated position beacons.
"Now we're cooking," Taylor was quoted as saying in a Polynesian Voyaging Society news release.
The canoes have been plagued by the same weather system that has caused damaging winds and rains over the main Hawaiian Islands in recent days, although they are far enough south to have been spared the worst of the gusts.
The canoes are headed for Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Islands on the first leg of their voyage into Micronesia, but hope to sight Johnston — about one-third of the way from the Big Island to Majuro — to confirm their location.
The Hokule'a crew has been eating fresh fish regularly in its first week at sea but, unusually, none of it is tuna.
"We've been catching nothing but mahimahi. I think we've caught seven of them," said skipper and navigator Bruce Blankenfeld. Fish has been shared between the canoes and the crew has been working at finding different ways to prepare the fish. A favorite was Tim Gilliom's poisson cru, crew member Ka'iulani Murphy said in an e-mail earlier in the week.
In a Polynesian Voyaging Society blog, Pomai Bertelmann of Na Kalai Wa'a Moku o Hawai'i, which built Alingano Maisu, said she talked by shortwave radio to the Maisu on Tuesday. She said the crew members were getting accustomed to life at sea and were doing well.
Aboard Hokule'a, Blankenfeld Thursday said his crew is also settling in well.
Clear weather Thursday gave Hokule'a's crew time to do some canoe maintenance.
"The pumps leave 8 or 10 gallons of water sloshing around in the bottom of each hold. We opened up the hatches, sponged out all the water from the holds and aired them out," Blankenfeld said.
The canoe is getting lighter as crew members drink the heavy containers of fresh water, eat food and dry out the holds. The crews are focusing on removing weight from the forward and aft parts of the vessel.
"Now that the weight is starting to come off of her, it makes the canoe livelier," Blankenfeld said.
Polynesian Voyaging Society president Nainoa Thompson, who is not sailing on this leg of the canoes' voyage to Micronesia, said he is thrilled that the canoes are able to manage their sailing speeds and remain close to each other.
Reach Jan TenBruggencate at firstname.lastname@example.org.