Tuesday, July 20, 1999

Hokule'a logo

Journey required ingenuity

By Susan Kreifels


It may appear that the Hokule'a was lost when it sailed 200 miles past its destination of Nukuhiva.

But the traditional voyaging canoe's captain and navigator, Bruce Blankenfeld, calls that notion a "land-based idea." Because to the celestial navigators who base their decisions on the stars, waves, birds and winds -- not on navigational equipment and charts -- that's part of finding the destination, what Blankenfeld calls "wave-finding."

"What we're doing is very unconventional," said Blankenfeld, who returned from Nukuhiva in the Marquesas Islands on Sunday with eight other crew members. "There's a tremendous amount of information, all in your head, not in journals or charts. It's not so much memorizing as understanding.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Hokule'a navigator Bruce Blankenfeld, center, tells his friends
Renate Katsuyoshi and her husband, Tom,
about his voyage to Nukuhiva.

"You're constantly making decisions based on changes in the sky, ocean, winds."

Blankenfeld said his first thought when realizing they had sailed west of the Marquesas Islands was not that the canoe was lost, just that it would be hard work tacking back. "Grit the teeth a little more and head into the wind," he said.

The canoe arrived in Nukuhiva last week after passing west of it the first time, and then sailing against the wind to make up the 200 miles in five to six days. Blankenfeld called that a relatively short time due to new sails designed more for tacking.

Hokule'a to Rapa Nui
Jun. 7, 1999
Rapa Nui, the Loneliest Island
Jun. 14, 1999


The Hilo-to-Nukuhiva voyage, which started June 15 and took 27 days, was the first attempt of its kind. The Hokule'a sailed there in 1995 from Tahiti, about a third of the distance compared with the 2,500 nautical miles, or 2,875 land miles they sailed this time. The voyage also required more sailing against the wind.

That experience will hold well for Blankenfeld, who leaves for Mangareva in September to co-navigate the Hokule'a for the most difficult voyage of its history: 1,450 miles to Rapa Nui, the world's most isolated inhabited island. The trip will be against the wind, and navigators know they could miss the 50-square-mile place, also known as Easter Island.

Blankenfeld said four crew members remained in Nukuhiva; three will switch places with people who have been aboard the escort boat, and one -- Terrence Hee, who Blankenfeld called an "old salt" -- also will sail the second wave.

When the crew arrived at Nukuhiva, they spent three solid days cleaning the canoe.

The whole experience, he says, "harbors a little on madness." Then he rethinks that thought. "No, it's something kind-of-like awesome."

The public can track the progress of the Hokule'a by looking on the World Wide Web site
Photographs from the Hokule'a are slated to be available at

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin