Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
Day 4 on the Kahana
E ala, e ala, e ala, e ala
E Hīkāpōkuakini, e ala, e ala
E Hikāpōkuamano, e ala, e ala
E ke akua, e ke alo, e ala, e ala
E ikauwilanuimākēhāi kalani
E ala, e ala!
[Nathaniel B. Emerson 12]
Awake, rise and come to consciousness
To you, Tittering-in-Profound-Awareness, awake
To you, Spreading-of-Ancestral-Influence, rise forth
To you, the goddess of timelessness, return to the present,
A call to the Electricity-swooshing-in-the-Heavens,
Jolt her back to life!
[Taupōuri Tangarō’s translation]
The night before, at 12:49am, spring begins. With the equinox, the sun reaches its path along the equator. And at lunch today, our clock will be set back an hour as we pass into the Midway pacific time zone. It is a day of timelessness, as we play with time, changing it at will and floating in the balance between night and day. The days on sea are beginning to blend, my thoughts start to wander incongruently. I sit at the front of the wheel house to match this equinox of the sun with the symmetry of the boat, with my body. The island is my canoe. The canoe my island. The canoe my body. My body the island.
The swells are coming straight at us. I’m feeling restless. I focus on the movement of the ocean as my body lifts and falls with the vessel. I sit in that position for what feels hours, staring out at the blue. Desire begins to seep into my consciousness from deep within. It always starts with the desire for love; to love, to be loved, then broadens and expands into the desire to know place, to know myself greater. I pick up my small pocket journal sitting idle by my side and write: We know ourselves by knowing place.
We know our place by knowing our ancestors.
It’s another day of whales. A day of passing by Maro reef, Kamokuokomohoali’i, named after Pele’s brother, the shark deity. This submerged land mass is known for its high presence of sharks. It’s an overcast afternoon, silent, with clouds stretching across the entire hemisphere. The whales fade away with the morning, but the graceful Moli are still in flight, swooping so close to the the ocean’s surface. One by one Virginie, Tiana, and Steph make their way up to my sitting spot, and we share the space with the silence of the ocean.
My heart expands again with desire, as I sit and watch and feel the ocean below me. I want to know the ocean. I want to know the wind. The clouds. The sky. I want to know it all like the Albatross, who uses the wind to dance with the ocean, who uses the clouds to return to her children. Who uses the sky to roam in freedom. All day and into the night I’ve been watching this grand ocean, trying to see. Trying to build a relationship with the ocean as it is moved by the wind, by the moon, by the sun. I am moved by the ocean, and the ocean stirs desire within me.
I can sense it before it arrives, like a slight tremor in the deep, growing and growing with intensity. I can feel it filling me and consuming me, and I can resist it like a dam on a river, holding the river, holding her waters, but stagnant they become. I can flee with an open heart, dashing through the forest, wet leaves clutching the soles of me feet. I can gaze upon it like water as far as the horizon, with a depth unseen, but my dreams will always remain, filling me with it, rising from the deep. A tremor, before the eruption. The ocean speaks of desire in all its ways, in its harshness, in its calm. It breeds awakening found only in the tremor of desire, in the solace center of a hurricane born upon the great ocean.
But today our waters remain calm. As night reveals the longing of darkness, as our world faces the dark vastness of the heavens. We keep heading forth, and I sit here clutching my heart’s desires, awaiting the shores of Hōlanikū. I rub my Kupe’e shell and let out a sigh, coming up for a breath of air. Like the whales, like the dolphins, like the Kupe’e on the night of a waning moon setting in the dark.
My daily routine in the ship is now established. I get up before the sun, coming down into the galley where I usually find Kekoa, who is the only crew member from my last trip with the Kahana (besides Mario), and Joe, sitting waiting for breakfast. I grab a cup of coffee and head back out to watch the sunrise. Today I sing E ala e to the sun, adding my own melody, encouraging our humble star to rise and awake and bring light to our day. Just as Hi’iaka awakens her older sister. The coffee wakes me up, but leaves my stomach feeling unsettled, as coffee does on open ocean.
The voyage up the chain has been a delight, and by now, our fourth day at sea, we are all feeling rested. However, there is small tension in our future as we try to convince the resource manager on Midway to allow us to switch some plans around. The conversation includes Mario, Matt and Naomi, Cynthia back on the Main Hawaiian islands, NOAA, and Bob the DOFAW Resource Manager. Everyone has a stake in the Kahana’s operations on Midway and Kure. Graham, who we call our Grandma, is our unofficial meteorologist. A retired successful engineer who took up as a hobby studying weather patterns. Somehow he became connected with the Kure Conservancy and elected to be our eyes and ears on the outside world. Every week he sends us the weather forecast, with an update in the middle of week. It is extremely useful for us, because much of our work is contingent on the weather. And it is especially useful for our day of offloading on Kure, a not-so-simple task. Today, he sent the Kahana the latest forecast for Kure, and it isn’t looking good.
High pressure from the Aleutians is expected to mix with a low pressure around Kure, causing 35mph winds and NE swells up to 20ft on the day we are supposed to depart from Midway to Kure, lasting through the weekend.
These conditions are too rough for us to actually do anything out there so we’d be stuck jogging back and forth for 24-48hrs waiting for the conditions to calm down, a waste of our time and an unpleasant one at that within such topsy turvy swells. Instead, Matt and Naomi are proposing we spend those days at Midway and get some other things done that involves picking up and loading marine debris onto the Kahana, paid for by NOAA. It makes sense, just switching the work around. The real issue has to do with labor costs that pile up whenever there is a delay. The part Matt and Naomi are trying to communicate to Bob on Midway is that he won’t be effected by costs because Kure will be paying for the additional days docked at Midway, and NOAA is paying for the Marine debris work. It’s just a matter of flexibility and clear communication, which may not occur until we land at Midway. So with two more full days on the Kahana, we prepare for our original plan still, begrudgingly.