Maui News

PVS Launches Training Sail in Preparation for 2022 Circumnavigation of Pacific

May 12, 2021, 8:04 AM HST
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Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa. File photo 2017 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara.)

In preparation for next year’s Moananuiākea Voyage, the Polynesian Voyaging Society is conducting a deep-sea training sail to the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the area of the Pacific Ocean known as “the doldrums,” located approximately five degrees north of the equator. 

Weather permitting, voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia will depart from the Marine Education Training Center at Sand Island at 9 a.m. today (Wednesday, May 12), for a three-week sail that will focus on navigation and leadership training, illuminating the cultural and ecological significance of the doldrums, and highlighting the urgent need for the Pacific to unite behind the protection of our oceans. As with all voyages, the sail is also intended to bring back knowledge to heal the earth.

“The doldrums is a place where two oceans come together, where sea and sky merge. The place where our planet breathes out the weather, the heart and center of Planet Ocean.  It is a place of great calm and even greater storms,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of Polynesian Voyaging Society.  “Having the crew sail into the doldrums is a metaphor for entering and facing a storm, a challenge, whether it be a climate crisis or pandemic.  How they navigate out of it will be a key part of their training.”

Although the circumnavigation of the Pacific does not launch until May 2022, the educational mission of the voyage will begin with the Doldrums 

Sail as the crew will be sharing lessons about navigation, leadership, earth’s systems, and the cultural and scientific significance of this traditional sea road known as Kealaikahiki, which is a heritage corridor that connects Hawai‘i with its ancestral homeland Kahiki (a general reference to the sweep of French Polynesian archipelagos influenced by Tahiti).  “Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia will make their way into this sacred space quietly and with humility,” according to the PVS.

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The doldrums is a place where the two great systems of the Pacific – northeast and southeast Tradewinds – converge and create a space that is dynamic and with an upwelling of life, an area that holds great lessons about this planet and humanity’s place on it.  This convergence zone creates highly unstable conditions ranging from dead calm (doldrums) to volatile thunderstorms to thick cloud cover obscuring the stars. 

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Voyagers believe that this is a place to concentrate and to be fully aware that the benefits they seek are attainable, but at great risk.  These valuable insights, along with practical training experiences, are the gifts the voyagers aim to bring back as they ready themselves for the series of epic voyages that await them.

As a sea trial for the two canoes, the Doldrums Sail will be an opportunity to test the vessels in the strong winds and rough waters of the Kaiwi and  Alenuihaha Channels, as well as South Point, the southernmost point of Hawaiʻi Island.  Both Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia underwent months of drydock to prepare the canoes for sailing around the Pacific over the next five years.  This Doldrums Sail and the training voyages in the upcoming months will allow the crew to test the safety and performance of the two newly-refurbished canoes while still in Hawaiian waters.

The Doldrums Training Sail will also be the pilot test for new satellite technology and PVS’s new voyage portal at hokulea.com, which will allow audiences in Hawaiʻi and around the world to join the voyage virtually through imagery, curriculum and updates from the crew.  PVS also hopes to bring in local and global experts who will share their insights about the characteristics of the doldrums and what it reveals about climate change and the state of the earth.

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Video and photographs will be captured and shared from Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia during this and additional training sails planned throughout the year.  As media assets are collected, they will be used to produce additional educational content for the virtual “Third Canoe” in time for the launch of the Moananuiākea Voyage next year.  

The crew on Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia will be a mix of senior voyagers and  new crew members.  The captain on Hōkūleʻa will be pwo navigator Nainoa Thompson.  Hikianalia will be captained by pwo navigator Bruce Blankenfeld.

The Moananuiākea Voyage, scheduled to launch in May 2022, will be a 41,000-mile, 42-month circumnavigation of the Pacific that will cover 46 countries and archipelagoes, nearly 100 indigenous territories and 345 ports.  In the coming months, crews will also train on sails to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and French Polynesia.  Focused on the vital importance of oceans, nature and indigenous knowledge, the goal of the Moananuiākea Voyage is to develop 10 million new crew members, navigators and leaders for the planet.

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