Wayfinding: Intellect and Instinct
The difference between the second voyage [in 1980] and the first one [in 1976] was that on the second voyage, the canoe was guided by, captained by, and crewed by people from Hawai'i. For our culture to really be alive, we recognized that we had to practice it ourselves.
Before we left I was panicking. I had the safety of the entire crew in my hands. There was intense media pressure. I had to appear confident, but inside I was very much afraid. The part of the trip I dreaded the most was the doldrums. I had no confidence that I could get through it. I thought that I could only accurately navigate if I had visual celestial clues and that when I got into the doldrums there would be a hundred percent cloud cover, and I would be blind. And that's what happened.
When we arrived in the doldrums, the sky was black. It was solid rain. The wind was switching around. The wind was blowing at about twenty-five knots, and we were moving fast. That's the worst thing that can happen – you are going fast and you don't know where you're going. The guys steering the canoe were looking for direction and that increased the pressure, especially because it was my first voyage as navigator. I couldn't tell the steersmen where to steer. I was very, very tense. To prevent fatigue, you cannot allow yourself to get physically tense, but I couldn't stop feeling tense.
I was so exhausted that I backed up against the rail to rest. Then something happened that allowed me to understand where the moon was, without seeing it. When I gave up fighting to find the moon with my eyes, I settled down. I suddenly felt this warmth come over me and I knew where the moon was. The sky was so black, I couldn't see the moon, but I could feel where it was.
From the feeling of warmth and the image of the moon came a strong sense of confidence. I knew where to go. I directed the canoe on a new course and then, just for a moment, there was a hole in the clouds and the light of the moon shone through – just where I expected it to be. I can't explain it, but that was one of the most precious moments in all my sailing experience. I realized there was some deep connection I was making, something very deep inside my abilities and my senses that goes beyond the analytical, beyond seeing with my eyes. I cannot explain what this is from a scientific point of view. But it happened. And now I seek out these experiences. I don't always have them. I have to be in the right frame of mind and beyond that, internally, I have to be able to enter into a kind of spiritual realm. I don't want to analyze these experiences too much. I just want to make them happen more often. I don't think there's an explanation for them. There are certain levels of navigation that are realms of the spirit.
Before that happened, I tended to rely on math and science because it was so much easier to explain things that way. I didn't know how to trust my instincts. They were not trained enough to be trusted. Hawaiians call it na'au – your instincts, your feelings, rather than your mind, your intellect.