After the Kava Bowl Summit closed, I was given a tremendous privilege: to sail with the fleet of seven magnificent traditional voyaging catamarans—called vakas—overnight from Oahu to Kauai. Wow.
A large crowd of several hundred gathered as we spent several hours prepping for departure from Honolulu. The crews had crossed the Pacific to converge on last week’s Kava Bowl Ocean Summit, convened by Okeanos Foundation, brainchild of German entrepreneur Dieter Paulmann, who also conceived of the boat-building and their upcoming several-years’ voyagings (PacificVoyagers.org). By sailing and by having rechargable batteries to run radios as well as the retractable electric propellers for maneuvering in harbors, the vessels work with rather than against the power of nature. The simple idea: awaken us to what is needed for our species to live successfully in the world.
A sense of powerful accomplishment ran deep in the crews that had crossed thousands of miles of ocean to get here using wind, sun, and the skills of traditional navigators, who use the stars and have no compass, and the ancients did. Anticipation ran high as we gathered on the shore for farewell speeches and traditional Pacific prayers of send-off.
Then, to the sharp blasts of seashell horns sounding remarkably like ships’ foghorns, one by one the seven great sailing seabirds were shoved from the docks. The solar-powered electric propellers offered an initial assist as we put the wind against our hulls to turn us out into the channel. And within moments, crews broke into their traditional island chants, whoops, and shouts. The shore crowds shouted back and waved with high-energy. And the great sailing vakas spread their wing-like sails to catch the ocean wind.
Outside the harbor, into the open ocean, their quiet progress seemed wondrous as we sailed into the shining late-day sun.
What a magnificent sight, this ancient-looking fleet. And what an incredible, intense privilege to be aboard.