Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

Crew and Navigational Training Programs


[Photo below: Training Sail Off Moloka'i's North Coast]

CREW TRAINING (1990-1995)

The following is an outline of the curriculum the Polynesian Voyaging Society developed to train a new generation of voyagers for the 1992 voyage to Rarotonga and the 1995 voyage to Nukuhiva:

Qualifications for Entrance to Master Sailor Training Program: medical examination; swimming test; age between 25-50; minimum of 100 days of sailing experience on voyaging canoes; sound values--respect and aloha for all people and all living things (abuse in any form not tolerated); ability to work on a team; positive attitude and good communication skills; ability to carry out designated tasks; honesty, patience, humility.

To complete the Master Sailor Training Program, the following requirements much be met:

Practical Experience--minimum of 200 days of sea-time, both coastal / interisland sailing and open-ocean sailing (100-day minimum)

Knowledge in the following areas:

-- Polynesian / Hawaiian voyaging history and lore (Oral Traditions)
-- Navigational heiau
-- Migration patterns of Polynesians and Hawaiians
-- Geography of the Pacific
-- Ocean and weather patterns of the Pacific
-- Hawaiian language nautical, canoe, and environmental terms
-- Design of the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoes
-- Canoe parts and functions
-- Canoe construction techniques and materials
-- Conservation practices to maintain natural resources
-- Wayfinding skills

Practical Skills for Sailing

-- Seamanship (rigging, lashing, tying specialized knots, loading a canoe, distribution of weight)
-- Canoe repair and maintenance
-- Sailing skills (basic sail theory; multi-hull sailing theory; raising, lowering, rigging, and trimming the sails; steering)

Other Practical Skills for Voyaging: carpentry, fishing, weaving and repair of lauhala sails, storage and preservation of food, transportation and care of plants

Emergency Procedures: flooding, fire, man overboard, damage control, accidental jibe, storm sailing

Health and Safety Procedures: physical training program, psychological and spiritual preparation, accident prevention, diet, protection from harsh ocean environment

Master sailors must receive certification in the following areas: first-aid, CPR, and life-saving; in additions, captains must have a coastal masters license and an ocean masters license.

A master sailor must also possess a basic knowledge of wayfinding, including:

-- understanding the star compass
-- understanding the canoe as a compass
-- identification of stars
-- knowledge of rising and setting points of the stars, sun, and moon
-- understanding of movement of celestial bodies, including the sun's relationship to the moon
-- determining latitude by using Hokupa'a north of the equator, and by using meridian pairs of stars and pairs of stars rising and setting together
-- understanding of and ability to read ocean swells
-- understanding and application of expanded landfall techniques
-- ability to maintain direction at all times while at sea
-- ability to hold steering course as directed by the wayfinder

Individuals invited to participate in the training program met the following qualifications:

-- Successful completion of a medical examination
-- Successful completion of a swimming test
-- Between 23-50 years of age
-- Sailing experience and sailing ability and skills
-- Experience in an ocean environment
-- Ability to work with others
-- Demonstration of skills for research, documentation, and education
-- Demonstration of other specialized knowledge such as medicine and health care

Preference is given to those of Hawaiian ancestry.


Training to Become a navigator includes the following requirements, in addition to the requirements of the Master Sailors program:


-- Successful completion of master sailors program
-- 500 days at seaÑ on Hokule'a & traditional
-- 200 days at seaÑnavigation in command
-- Licensed captain
-- Two 500-mile trips navigation in command
-- Two open ocean passages navigation in command


-- In-depth knowledge of ancient canoes and voyagesÑmythical, legendary, and historical)
-- Achievements of navigators in oral traditions; achievements of Satawalese navigator Mau Piailug
-- Hawaiian Language (navigation terms; Hawaiian star names; ocean terms)
-- Sail plan (based on tropical cyclones seasons; desired winds; cloud cover/rain; temperature; land stars; geography)
-- Course & course strategyÑplot all courses; calculate all course strategy; rhumb courses; easting data; tacking performance / strategy; memorize course information; memorize and practice the compass; memorize and practice navigation routines;.latitude; longitude in terms of miles; names of each island in each target group; distance and bearing of each island to others; description of each island (size, elevation, lagoons, reefs, etc.); chart general bearing of each target

Holding Direction

Night Time Navigation


-- stars
-- star compass
-- azimuth changes
-- meridian stars
-- parallel stars
-- rising changes in azimith of star path
-- 3 cardinal star paths
-- ecliptic
-- planets
-- zodiacal constellations
-- declination
-- moon
-- relation to sun
-- declination
-- moon phases
-- variance from the ecliptic
-- time at meridian (related to sun)
-- time of risingand setting (related to sun)


-- wind (apparent bearing of wind)
-- clouds (apparent direction of movement; direction of cloud streets)


-- identification of swells
-- direction of the movement of all swells
-- true direction of the seas

Day Time Navigation


-- sun
-- declination (rise and set)
-- azimith change as it rises
-- meridian passage
-- relation to moon
-- moon
-- phases of moon
-- relation to sun
-- declination
-- variance from ecliptic
-- time at meridian (related to sun)
-- time of rising and setting (related to sun)


-- wind (apparent bearing of wind)
-- clouds (apparent direction of movement; direction of cloud streets)


-- swells (identification, direction)
-- seas
-- true direction of seas
-- current
-- direction
-- speed

All directional keys are determined by reference to the heavens. All directional keys are in relation to the star compass.


-- height of stars at the meridian
-- height of pair stars at the meridian
-- equal distance pairs at the meridian
-- height of parallel stars at the meridian
-- height of north star as it circles the celestial pole
-- height of circumpolar stars on the low axis
-- synchronous rising of stars
-- synchronous setting of stars

Expanded landfall (for each target)

-- geography of islands
-- size and elevations (visual distance and visual appearance)
-- birdsÑhabits, populations, nesting cycles
-- clouds as they are affected by each island group
-- swells as they are affected by the islands/by lagoons
-- reflection, deflection, and absence of swells near shore
-- marine life


-- basic weather patterns of the Pacific Ocean
-- basic weather patterns of specific sailing routes
-- interpreting pre-voyage weather data from various weather reporting services
-- interpreting signs of nature (cloud types and movement, winds, colors of atmosphere, swell patterns) for general weather prediction

Storm sailing

-- reading the signs of nature to foresee storms and squalls
-- determining the proper sail rig for weather

Canoe performance (given various size sails)

-- windward performance
-- speeds
-- storm sailing
-- lee drift
-- weight distribution
-- steering methods
-- sail trim


-- loading of canoe for stability
-- trimming sails
-- lowering, raising, changing sails
-- steering
-- emergency commands