Sept 27, p.m. HST / Report from Nainoa
My original sail plan for the voyage called for us to leave Mangareva early enough to find Temoe (22 miles away) during daylight. My decision to leave in the afternoon (around 4 p.m.) was based on instinct. It meant we took the risk of trying to find Temoe at night, but I was pretty confident because we would have bright moon light. As it was, we passed the Temoe close abeam (at about 8:30 p.m.) and we could clearly see the surf breaking on the reef and the trees, almost as clear as day.
I was concerned about the Pitcairn leg. I hadn't been at sea for a long time, and I felt pretty rusty. I wondered how long it would take to get into the navigation mentally and spiritually. Finding Pitcairn restored my confidence; it also allowed us to begin our navigation anew from a known point in the ocean, but now 300 miles closer to Rapa Nui.
When everything is going right, I get into a zone, a special place in which all of my relations with the canoe, the natural world and the crew are integrated. I felt pretty disjointed at first, but when we got to Pitcairn I began to relax and feel like I was getting into the zone again.
Originally, we thought we might pass close by Henderson Island as another known point farther along toward Rapa Nui, but because the wind would not let us sail high enough to the north to make Henderson easily and because finding Henderson would give us a known point only100 miles closer to Rapa Nui, we decided to continue straight on, instead of going toward Henderson. Right now we are in an incredibly good position with a low presssure system behind us and tracking with us. This low pressure system is drawing our winds down toward us from the north. I think the low pressure system is following us, but we are also beginning to see big waves from the E and ENE, so I think the easterly trade winds are close by, ahead of us.
Last night at sunset I thought the low pressure trough was close behind us, but now it seems to be traveling away from us from us, or it may be just dissipating. A sign that this is happening is that the humidity is going down. I don't feel as sticky as I did before. The air is getting colder and drier. A low pressure area is associated with high humidity, and a high pressure area with dry air, so we may be leaving the low behind and approaching an area of high pressure [the ridge of high pressure that will bring easterly winds].
Yesterday the sky to the Southwest was dark brown on the horizon. We saw thick low clouds, mixed with mid-level stratocumulus clouds--a sign of an approaching cold front associated with the low pressure system. But today the clouds seem to have lifted, and the winds shifted a little more to the east. The day before they were more to the north. A typical wind pattern when a low passes through this area is for the winds to clock around the compass, turning E to N to W to S then back to E. But this doesn't seem to be happening because the winds, instead of going from north to west, seem to be shifting from north to the east.
Earlier, I was concerned that the cold front might catch up to us, bringing 100 percent cloud cover, and we would have no stars to steer by and the seas would get confused. And even worse, if the low were moving slowly east, along with us, as it seemed to be doing, it would track along with us, and we would be in it for a long time. But it doesn't look like that is going to happen.
This voyage is a learning process for me and for all of us. The weather we expected based on average conditons in this area is not what we are getting. To learn we have to be flexible, to adjust to new conditions, and that is what we are trying to do now. This area is new to me, so any prediction I make are just a guess based on past experience in other areas of the Pacific. As we move along, we are gaining more experience with this part of the world, so our guesses will get better and better.
The trough of low pressure behind us has been a gift. It has allowed us to get a good jump to the east, which is what we hoped for. But at best we thought we might get a jump to Pitcairn. We never dreamed we would be able to sail almost one-half of our voyage on a single port tack. If you look at the map that shows what we thought we had to do, you will see that it shows we expected to be tacking.. .tacking constantly against the wind [going sideways to the wind, first southeasterly, then northeasterly, zigzagging to try to get east]. But here we are sailing to Rapa Nui in a straight line. If you ask a meteorologist why this is happening, he will tell you that a low pressure area to the west is cutting off a high pressure system and bending the normally easterly flow of winds down to us from the north.
But others might see it as mana, or a blessing from the gods. Before we left Hawaii, Mahina Rapu from Rapa Nui told me, "Don't worry. Your ancestors will take care of you." And when we held a press conference before departure, I told a group of school children from Kamehameha Schools about my anxieties over the voyage, and they told me that the gods would be with us. It's interesting that there are such different explanations for the wind which has so far been so favorable to us.
Now we have passed any islands we might have used as stepping stones toward Rapa Nui (on the night of Sept. 26, Hokule'a passed Ducie Atoll, which lay to the north along 125 degrees W), and we are on the open ocean portion of our voyage. Our first task was to get to east, and we have done well so far, but we still have to remember that we have 500 miles to go before the next segment of our voyage--the search pattern for Rapa Nui when we are within 275 miles of it. That is our next big challenge.
This morning I feel completely in the zone. You have to
be in that special place to navigate well. When you are in the zone, you
feel ahead of the game. You find yourself naturally thinking about what
will happen next and you are reacting to things in future, not things in
the past. You have the star patterns in mind and you seem to know where
you are even when the sky is cloudy and you can't see the stars. You begin
to anticipate the weather. It is like being inside the navigation, participating
from the inside.
For back reports on the leg to Rapa Nui, go to Rapa Nui Back Reports
For more information on the leg to Rapa Nui, go to The Mangareva-to-Rapa Nui Page
For more information on the quest for Rapa Nui, go to the PVS Homepage