Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

Thought on Finding Rapanui /10/08/99 a.m.

the Navigators interviewed by Sam Low; Sam's Final Report for the Rapanui Voyage

At about ten AM local time, a few hours after having first seen Rapa Nui ahead off our port bow, Nainoa called us all aft to share some thoughts about the voyage.

Nainoa: The voyage is pau and this gives me almost an empty feeling. But everyone should be proud of this accomplishment. We have traveled to the last corner of the Polynesian triangle and that achievement is not just ours - it belongs to everyone who has donated a portion of the millions of man hours spent taking care of the canoe over the almost 25 years since her creation.

We worked hard to prepare for this voyage but it was not just academic preparation and physical training that got us here. It was my plan to continue sailing southeast and tack back northeast at sunset - but the wind shifted northeast and if we tacked we would have been going back the way we had come. So instead I decided to follow the wind around and in the morning the island was off our port bow. The wind brought the canoe here. It's about mana. Hokule'a has latent, quiet, sleeping mana when she is tied up at the pier in Honolulu. But when the canoe is sailed by people with deep values and serious intent the mana comes alive - she takes us to our destination.

The mana is inside all of us. It's tied to our ancestry and our heritage. Sometime, in the press of daily life, we neglect it. But when we come aboard this canoe and commit our spirits and souls and lives to a voyage like this one, I think we all feel it. I know I do. This is a very privileged moment for all of us - we have stepped inside that realization of mana on this voyage.

When we go back to our special island home, we need to remember this moment. Mana comes from caring and commitment and values. We malama our canoe and she takes care of us. When we return to Hawaii we need to remember to malama our islands just as we do this canoe. We need to commit ourselves to the values that give life meaning. This canoe is so special - and our island home is also very special - if we learn to care for our land and our ocean they will also take care of us.

Bruce: A lot of things have happened on this voyage that gave me chicken skin. The port hull of the canoe is the wahine hull and the starboard hull is the Kane hull. The symbolism is that the male and the female forces give us life. The symbolism is that they also balance each other - they help each other survive in the ocean.

The mana in this canoe comes from all the people in the past who have sailed aboard Hokule'a and cared for her. I think of the literally thousands of people who have come down and given to the canoe when she was in dry dock. I think of Bruno Schmidt in Mangareva who showed up with his truck every morning to take us wherever we needed to go. I think of the people in Tautira and Aotearoa and the Marquesas who did the same. The list is endless. All of this malama - this caring - adds to the mana of the canoe. It is intangible but it is alive and well. We can all feel it. I just want to acknowledge it.

In this crew we have shown a nice respectful balance. We have shown that we all know how to work hard and how to treat each other well and that was one of the most memorable parts of the voyage for me. The work ethic among this crew was fabulous. There was not one negative word. This kind of caring for each other is part of the on-going rediscovery of what voyaging is all about.

Chad: What made this voyage so special for me was that I felt so comfortable because I knew I was among people who had earned their spot on the crew. You guys are my heroes because you all showed such a dedicated professionalism. I am proud to have sailed with you. Now we have another special journey ahead of us - to return the canoe home to our own special part of the Polynesian triangle and by doing that we honor not only our ancestors but all those people at home who have supported us at home.

Friday - October 8 - Last day at Sea / Sam Low

When it became obvious that we did not have enough time to tack against the wind to reach the anchorage at Hanga Roa before nightfall, I think that we were all relieved - happy to have one more evening at sea. And what an evening! The wind was warm and gentle. The sky, once having cleared by mid-day, remained clear into the night. The lights of Hanga Roa glistened on the eastern horizon. We sailed along the coast of Rapa Nui, some distance off, until the watch change at ten PM when we tacked toward the island - a dark smudge on the horizon against a glittering curtain of stars.

The 6-10 watch lingered on deck, enjoying the last few moments of comradeship with each other and with our canoe. We watched Jupiter and Saturn rise over the island to starboard and to port the Pleades and their guardian, Taurus. We did not speak - yet our presence together on Hokule'a's heaving deck expressed more deeply then words the bond that has been made in the last seventeen days at sea.

Our view of Rapa Nui between Hokule'a's twin manus must have been the same - except for the lights of the town - that the crew of a similar canoe beheld many centuries earlier. Their exact Homeland is lost in time but legends tell of a great king - Hotu Matua - who settled this island. He must have heard what we hear - the soft lap of waves on twin hulls, the rush of wind over sails, the murmur of sailors as they sit shoulder to shoulder waiting for the first scent of land to reach them. Hotu Matua may have looked forward to landfall with more anticipation than we do, however. Our feelings are mixed. We are proud of our accomplishment and eager to explore the island and then to return home to our families. Yet there is also an edge of sadness. This voyage is ending - the adventure is almost over. For a short time we have been privileged to share a tiny world with each other Surrounded by an immense sea and forced to turn inward, we have discovered a harmony within ourselves and with the natural world that the rush of daily life on land isolates us from. It has been rare gift.

In the morning, when the 6-10 watch takes the deck, wisps of cloud surge from Rano Kau, the volcanic caldera that rises to the south of Hanga Roa. Motu Kau Kau is a knife thrusting from the sea - a slash of sunlight behind it. Mist spills off dark cliffs. The ocean is the color of gunmetal. A towering mountain of torn cumulus stalls over Motu Nui. In the saddle between Rano Kau and Maunga Tere Vaka, the island's tallest mountain, we see Hanga Roa. Ivory breakers rim the seam between ocean and cold black cliffs.

Shantell Ching collects passports as the rest of us methodically strip Hokule'a's decks of bagged sails, boxes of food, cooking utensils and personal gear - stowing them below - making the canoe ready for port. Kama Hele swarms with sailors garbed in red slickers doing the same tasks.

Landfall is imminent. Much too soon the sea borne routine of work and caring for each other will be broken. It is a sad thought - one that we gratefully put aside - concentrating instead on the details of readying our canoe for port.

For back reports on the leg to Rapa Nui, go to Rapanui Homepage

For more information on the leg to Rapa Nui, go to The Mangareva-to-Rapanui Homepage

For more information on the quest for Rapa Nui, go to the PVS Homepage