The Voyage to Rapa Nui / 1999-2000
Chad Baybayan's Journal / Leg 3: Mangareva to Rapa Nui
September 22 - Rainy skies once again greeted us this morning. Nainoa Thompson, Bruce Blankenfeld and myself (Hokule'a's three navigators) met with the local meteorologist stationed on Mangareva, and he forecast a 48-hour window of favorable winds. However, accompanying those winds will be clouds that would obscure the celestial bodies that Hokule'a navigators rely upon to guide her. It is just one more piece of information that Nainoa must analyze in interpreting the very complex weather patterns that Hokule'a will experience over the next 30-40 days.
The choices are to sit in Mangareva and wait for clear skies and favorable winds which our forecaster predicts may not be for sometime; or to take our chances and sail with the wind we have in the hope of breaking out of the cloud cover that surrounds us. If we choose to go, we must do so now. However, there's one more complication. Our last crew member Max Yarawamai, is scheduled to arrive late this afternoon. Do we wait or depart? I hurry back to town and locate a Bonito fisherman who agrees to bring Max to Hokule'a, which should be somewhere between Mangareva and the atoll of Temoe, some 20 miles away. I relay the new option to Nainoa. He decides we should depart. The room is filled with excitement. Nainoa, Bruce and I shake hands. I will stay behind to assist the fisherman in retrieving Max from the airport and rendezvousing with Hokule'a on the open ocean sometime in the late afternoon. Our host, Bruno Schmidt, is standing by and we inform him of our decision to leave. He immediately mobilizes the Mangareva community into organizing our departure ceremony. Hokule'a should depart within 3 hours. Two hundred school children gather at the canoe around noon. Many of our friends have come to say goodbye. The children sing and dance and offer us gifts of fresh fruit to take along with us. Our friends place shell leis around our necks, exchange well wishes and tears. We pray one last time, hands joined with a community we are now a part of. Before the canoe departs, I leave with the fishing boat to go and get Max. It takes an hour to travel to the island where the airport is located. Before we arrive at the airport I see the shapes of Hokule'a and the escort boat, Kamahele, departing Mangareva.
The plane arrives and at last Max is here. We hurry off to Rikitea Harbor where we stamp Max's passport for clearance out of French Polynesia. A short tour of the town for Max and we're off once again on the fishing boat chasing after Hokule'a. As we race out of the harbor and away from the island the underside of the moisture-ridden clouds above the island suck up the deep green colors of this pristine lagoon. One last farewell for this enchanting island. Within two hours we arrive alongside the canoe. We say goodbye to our friend Louis Labbeiy aboard the fishing boat and, with gear in hand, Max and I plunge into the deep blue Pacific ocean and swim to Hokule'a. Within a few minutes we're both aboard, being welcomed once again by our friends. Nainoa gives the orders to reopen the sails and the voyage to Rapa Nui officially begins.
To Other Entries in Chad's Journal: September 20, 1999--Thoughts on Departure; September 22, 1999--Decision to Depart; September 24, 1999--Pitcairn; September 27, 1999--Getting into a Rhythm; September 29, 1999--Life at Sea; October 01, 1999--The Crew; October 04, 1999--Cherishing the Spirit; October 06, 1999--Gray Skies; October 08, 1999--Landfall!