Telling Tales: Planning for success

By Marcel Honoré on August 29, 2014

Super busy with last-minute preparations so I’ve got to make this quick. We’re still a go for departure for Apia and the UN conference tomorrow morning, leaving around 11 a.m. The whole sail is expected to take just under 24 hours. The seas are still gusty but we’re ready and probably getting a little too used to living out of two Sadie’s inns here in Pago Pago.

Here’s our sail plan, as outlined by Hokule’a Captain Nainoa Thompson on a dry-erase board Thursday. See if you can make sense of it and maybe even pick up a little traditional way finding:

The non-circular image on the top right is Tutuila, where we are, and the line at the bottom is our course out of Pago Pago. The circle at the bottom is a partial rendering of Thompson's star compass, and the circle at the top shows the wind we expect plotted against the canoes' course. (Marcel Honoré / Star-Advertiser)

The non-circular image on the top right is Tutuila, where we are, and the line at the bottom is our course out of Pago Pago. The circle at the bottom is a partial rendering of Thompson’s star compass, and the circle at the top shows the wind we expect plotted against the canoes’ course. (Marcel Honoré / Star-Advertiser)

Two friendly volunteer tugs are going to tow Hokule’a and Hikianalia out of the harbor and maybe several miles out to sea if we haven’t started sailing of our own power by then. We then head west around the the south of Tutuila. Once we clear the harbor’s eastern point we tack starboard (turn right). We’ll head something like north-north west.

Thompson expects the winds to be coming from the southeast — or approximately from the house of “Noio” on his star compass. We’ll keep the winds on our starboard beam — if they’re directly behind the canoes the sailing gets, um, erratic — and we can’t afford that in these conditions. Eventually we’ll tack to port (turn left) and head for the island of Upolu, where Apia lies, then keeping the winds mostly on our port beam.

At night, we’ll most likely rely on the lights from houses up on the cliff sides to stay some five miles out and avoid Upolu’s eastern edge — we’re not expecting good navigation lights on the island here.

Here’s the thing: the skies are overcast (few stars to rely on) and the swells are completely unfamiliar here. But Thompson isn’t navigating. Instead, he seas this as a teachable moment for his apprentices Jenna Ishii and Lehua Kamalu. As if those two aren’t already super busy.

But perhaps more interesting: Hilo native Celeste Ha’o, an apprentice navigator of Kalepa Baybayan’s, will also be pulling nav duties here. Ha’o’s family is from Upolu, so this is a big moment for her and an important homecoming. But a lot more on that later.

In the meantime, I think I’ll do the rest of the crew a solid and take a quick shower. Lots of labor + not a lot of spare clothes = …you do the math. Wish us luck if we do go tomorrow!