Friday; 10/1; Aboard Hokule`a

by Sam Low (Sam was transferred from the escort boat to the canoe two days ago.)

Every day at sunrise and sunset, Nainoa, Chad and Bruce gather at Hokule`a's navigator's station to assess their progress in the previous 12 hours. On Friday morning at dawn, Oct. 1, the three of them look out over and ocean stirred only by gentle undulating swells and ruffled by tiny wind ripples. Cumulus clouds gather on the horizon all around the canoe and, for a time, the sun warms her deck while the crew go about their daily routines of cooking, coiling rope, and writing in their logs.

All the meetings follow a quiet routine. This morning, the navigators analyze the canoe's progress in three watches of twelve hours between sunset and sunrise--the 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. , the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and the 2 a.m. to 6 a.m..

"What an awesome night that was last night," says Nainoa, "I saw Jupiter rise on the horizon, so the atmosphere was really clear. I was able to get a good view of Atria in the South and Ruchbah in the North. The latitude I got from Atria was 25 degrees S, and from Ruchbah I got 26 degrees S." Nainoa also observed Caph and Schedir--which gave him an estimated latitude of 25 degrees S and Navi which produced an estimate of 26 degrees S.

"I think we ought to average the observations," he tells the others, "so let's say we are at 25 degrees S."

[Hokule'a was at 25° 02' S, 116° 15'W at 8:00 p.m., Sept. 30, becalmed. Jupiter rose in the early evening on September 30 in the direction of La Ko'olau (E by N). The navigators measure the altitude of stars crossing the meridian to determine their latitude, using their outstretched hands, which have been pre-calibrated for distances in the sky. At 25 degrees South near the longitude of Hokule'a (116 W), on the evening of Sept. 30, Caph (in the constellation of Cassiopeia) transited the northern meridian at 05° 51' above the horizon at 9:15 p.m.; Shedir (in Cassiopeia) at 08° 28' at 9:46 p.m.; Ruchbah at 04° 46' at 10:31 p.m. On Oct. 1, 1999, 1:45 a.m., Atria (in the Southern Triangle) transited the meridian below the South Celestial Pole at 04° 09' above the horizon. Click here for naked eye astronomy data for the voyage to Rapa Nui. Click here for a detailed explanation of non-instrument navigation.]

Next, the three navigators average their course and speed during the night. On the 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. watch, Hokule`a was beset with light fickle winds caused, they all think, by the fact that the canoe passed through a convergence zone between two highs. The sails slapped as the crew tried to find a way to make progress in the light air. Finally, Nainoa decided to close them to prevent chafing.

"I don't think we made any progress in that watch," Nainoa says, "but last night was a special time. It gave us all a moment to pause and enjoy this beautiful and special place--the calm seas, the power of the rising moon right at the edge of our earth. Although we weren't going anywhere physically, I think we were all traveling spiritually. Ben Tamura and Mel Paoa stayed up all night, so I know they felt it too. Last night we all enjoyed our special planet and the privilege we have to live on it."

The canoe was not only stalled during the 6 to 10 watch but also during the others as well. When the three men add up their estimates of miles traveled during the night--factoring the effects of steering various courses as the fickle winds permitted, and the offset effect of wind and currents, they arrive at an estimate of only 6 miles of easting. But this progress was off set, they guess, by a westerly current so the net distance traveled E was only 3 miles. According to their calculations, the distance they must travel E to arrive at Rapa Nui is now 461 miles.

"So if this keeps up we will be in Rapa Nui in 80 days," says Shantell Ching, joking.

"Yeah, but factor in the currents, and you get 160 days," says Nainoa. For a moment, the group is silent. The exchange is meant as a joke but there is an edge of seriousness to it. "O.K. the next critical job is to get down S to the point we will begin our search," Nainoa says. "I estimate that we are about 260 miles W of our search point and 97 miles to the N of it. Soon we have got to transition from longitude changes to making latitude changes."

The men consider the problem, assessing the wind and their ability to steer to the S to move from their present latitude of 25 degrees 30 minutes S to 27 degrees 9 minutes S, the latitude of Rapa Nui.

"Bruce, let's try and turn down now," Nainoa says. "But check the speed please. We don't want to sacrifice speed for direction."

As Hokule`a turns from her easterly course to one-two houses to the S, heading now toward `Aina Malanai (ESE); Bruce watches the ocean flow past the canoe's hulls. 2 knots, he estimates.

"O.K., let's keep that heading," says Nainoa.

At about 7:00 a.m. local time Tava Taupu takes the tiller and begins steering a steady course to the right of the silver path made by the rising sun. Hokule`a moves deliberately toward her rendezvous with an invisible point in the ocean ­ the place where she will begin the most difficult part of her journey--the search for a tiny speck of land in a vast sea.

Looking out over an ocean now speckled with sun glint, Nainoa says, "Last night was a turning point for me navigationally. Before, I was so focused on getting E that I did not have a clear picture of Rapa Nui. But now I can see the island in my mind. I'm not saying we'll find it--but that's the first step--to see it."

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