GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hokule'a navigator Nainoa Thompson looked at cloud formations yesterday as crew member Billy Richards steered the double-hulled sailing canoe toward Chuuk. The voyagers expect to deliver the Alingano Maisu to Mau Piailug by next week. CLICK FOR LARGE
Voyagers get help as they near Chuuk
Weather stifles winds, but not spirits
ABOARD THE HOKULE'A » Hokule'a navigator Nainoa Thompson shook his head and pointed to the horizon, where dense clouds were building to the east and northeast.
"You see the bar of gray clouds forming across there and there. That's blocking the winds from blowing from the east and north," he said.
FOLLOW ALONG» Follow the voyage of Hokule'a at the Polynesian Voyaging Society web site at: www.pvs.hawaii.org
» Star-Bulletin reporter Gary Kubota is sailing with Hokule'a and will respond to selected reader questions from the canoe via satellite hookup, when possible. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
As the double-hulled sailing canoes Hokule'a and Alingano Maisu head west toward Chuuk in the western Pacific, they are also being towed by the motor-powered vessel Kama Hele, because the winds have been virtually blocked by foul weather.
The sailing canoes are catching some wrap-around winds from the south, but not enough to maintain the 7 to 9 mph needed to make a timely voyage through Micronesia and Japan.
They expect to arrive in Chuuk tomorrow (today in Hawaii) and spend about a day and a half there before heading off on an estimated two-day journey to Satawal.
Time has become the major challenge for the voyagers because they want to be in Okinawa by the end of March, before typhoon season.
Thompson has said the major navigational feat of this voyage has been accomplished, with the completion of the 2,200-mile Hawaii-Majuro voyage using Pacific way-finding methods without Western instruments.
The goal in Micronesia is to deliver the Alingano Maisu to renowned navigator Mau Piailug on his home island of Satawal. The gift is to express gratitude to Mau for teaching Pacific way-finding to native Hawaiians and inspiring a renaissance in sailing voyaging canoes in Hawaii.
Although under tow, the sails have been out occasionally to improve the speed of the canoe.
In the past couple of days at sea, the crew has been busy adjusting the traditional Hawaiian crab-claw sails to catch the wind better, without putting stress on the top of the main mast.
To add to the wind speed, the crew has also added a jib sail to the front of the vessel.
Occasionally, when the Hokule'a approaches what might be a squall, crew members have lowered the sails to avoid breaking canvas or other equipment.
The crew celebrated last night the 32nd anniversary of the launch of the Hokule'a, which in 1976 made a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti using Pacific way-finding methods. The voyage added credence to the argument that native Hawaiians were capable of sailing long ocean voyages centuries before Europeans.
The crew of the Hokule'a will increase to about 21 from 13 from Chuuk to Satawal, and more than 70 people are expected to make the trip to the island with a resident population of 400.
Thompson has expressed worry about causing a depletion of resources, such as food and water, while visiting Satawal for four days.
The canoes plan to bring enough food and water to accommodate the crews and visitors.
While men are expected to wear the traditional malo while on Satawal, the women aboard the visiting canoes will not be going topless, Thompson said.
Other traditional protocols will be observed, including a chant of greeting from the Satawalese and Hawaiians, and the traditional chant called the "Ai Ha'a" from crew members of the Hokule'a and Maisu.
The crew has seen schools of aku off the port and starboard bows but has been unable to employ the usual four lines for fishing because of fear they might get caught in the tow lines.
In the past two days, the Hokule'a has had a nibble but caught no fish.
Various members of the crew work in four-hour shifts, and each crew member takes his or her turn at steering while the sails are out.
The sails turn the canoe toward the wind, and the main steering paddle resting on a pivot is put into the water to compensate and turn the canoe downwind.
A screen tarp has been rigged at the rear of the canoe to provide shade.
But in this zone where typhoons are born, conditions can change quickly, and a squall with heavy rain and wind can require all crew members on deck to make sure everything is secure.