For boats and crews that came over a thousand miles to get here, the overnight passage was a simple shot. Up to the northwest corner of Oahu, then westward. For me it was serene, yet shadowed always by thoughts about my own work and how it might fit in with this voyaging project: What next? How better?
For the others on board, it meant different things. For one thing, a chance to see the world. From small island nations and interior Hawaii, some of the crew have had limited exposure to the outside world. “What’s a blog?” asked one, after I explained why I took so many photos. Another asked if the people in Los Angeles are black-skinned or white, and whether New York is going to be the final stop. When I explained that New York is in the Atlantic, he said, “Oh.” (However, New York may be the final stop after all; this series of voyages will proceed from Hawaii to California, south to Ecuador, then west to Galapagos and back to the South-Sea islands. But a subsequent set of contemplated voyages may go west across the Indian Ocean and into the Atlantic, ultimately reaching the US East Coast, and possibly New York.)
The first legs of their journey to Hawaii the crews and boats endured some hellish weather: 40-knot winds building 30-foot seas for days. But last night one crew-member, a woman from Tonga in her 40s, told me that no matter how rough it gets, nothing ever scares her. “I saw the fright on the faces of some of the younger crew,” she said, “but me I am not afraid of anything that could happen.”
For a few hours, she and I snoozed on the deck. She’d brought up a sleeping bag and warned me I’d get chilly. A few hours later a fresh wind proved her right, and I went below for a few more hours of sleep. I had some strange dreams that the boats were on land, on snow-covered roads going uphill and narrowing, and that the whole enterprise would thus be halted—by snow! When I awoke it took me a little while to realize the motion indicated we were in fact at sea, in the middle of the night, in deep water miles from land.
At 3 a.m. I rolled from my bunk and climbed the ladder to the deck. I wanted to see my favorite time of every day: first light, breaking into dawn. The sky was partly overcast but the clear sections held dense washes of stars. And, the occasional meteor. The sky glow from Honolulu was still lightening the soles of clouds when the lesser glow from Kauai and its lighthouse rose into view.
The exceptionally slow-handed dawn took nearly two hours to go from first light to blue sky, morning enough to reveal the accompanying vakas, which for hours had remained visible by their running lights alone.
The sight of our fleet moving over open ocean in the morning was glorious indeed. More glorious were sights of flyingfish, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, gleaming white Red-tailed Tropicbirds, a lone Laysan Albatross, and too briefly, a pod of bow-riding Bottlenose dolphins.