Class in Session: Dispatches from Archie Kalepa

IMG_2924Archie Kalepa, who is one of Hawaiʻi’s most accomplished watermen, serves as Konohiki (caretaker) for the OluKai marketing team, and is a crew member on the  Polynesian Voyaging Society's Hōkūleʻa as a part of its Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage. The Hōkūleʻa is now in Durban, South Africa, waiting to finish the third leg of the Voyage, which stretches from New Zealand to Namibia. Archie Kalepa will be sending us regular blog posts while on the Hōkūleʻa. Here is his most recent post, describing the trip from Mauritius to South Africa. Class is in session; our crew left Mauritius on October 4th with calm seas and a nice steady wind coming out of the Southeast at about 4:30pm that afternoon. Things have been pretty good for our crew as far as sailing is concerned up until about the 8th of October.  The skies were red, almost as if a giant dust storm was happening on the ocean.  Nainoa tells us land is near, Madagascar.  In my mind I began to wonder what is that because I have never seen that before:  it wasn’t a red sunset that we know back home in Hawai’i, it was low to the horizon and the sun wasn’t quite low enough to create that kind of red sky.  It looked like a red dust storm on the ocean, what came next was what I felt inside of me or should I say my instinct: “we were in class.”  Weather got rough, winds blowing about 30 knots and sometimes gusting up to just under 40 knots from the Northeast. Was this a lesson to get the crew gelling and working together like a well-oiled machine?  It was totally that to say the least. IMG_2862 We decided it wasn’t safe for Hōkūleʻa to pull into the harbor of Madagascar “Port Taolagnaro,” so we sailed through the night around to the leeward side.  Madagascar is the 4th biggest island in the world and a big part of our Polynesian roots.  The next morning we gave our respects to the Island of Madagascar with a Hawaiian Oli, lead by PWO Kālepa Baybayan and Billy Richards.  Billy also had a Koʻi  (Hawaiian Adze) that touched the water; we’re talking a couple of thousand years of voyaging history. Literally right after dipping the Koʻi into the ocean, a young Koholā (whale) leaps as far as it can reach out of the ocean, about 100m directly in front of us. The Koholā is Hōkūleʻa’s ʻAumakua (Guardian). IMG_2787 We are now out of the Indian Ocean and into the Mozambique Channel. This is where I began to feel alive as I look to the Southwest: “something is brewing.”  Big Open Ocean swells - this I know; this I understand.  I have spent most of my life as a Lifeguard and a Big Wave surfer knowing and understanding this cycle of weather.  This canoe, Hōkūleʻa, truly is a classroom.  Everyday this crew is constantly learning, teaching, and sharing whether it is from each other or what Mother Nature is showing us.  The more we allow our minds to take in, to understand how it is all connected - the more caring we become of this place we all call home, planet Earth.