Hokulea’s route based on wind, safety, education


The voyaging canoe Hokulea is less than three months away from departing Hawaii’s shores for three years on a worldwide voyage. KHON2 will be following the journey closely with a series of in-depth reports.

Choosing Hokulea’s route is a very calculated process. With an open-air structure, Hokulea and sister canoe, Hikianalia, cannot venture into cold climates.

“The first decision that was made was that it had to stay tropical,” said master navigator Nainoa Thompson. “It had to be close to the equator.”

Thompson says three questions then had to be answered. One has to do with the winds. “Hokulea needs winds at her side or back for best performance, so intense research into the world’s wind systems ensued,” he said. “It was determined that 75 percent of the winds have to be favorable be non-tacking winds… In the research, we got to 82.5 percent that the winds would be favorable if we went a certain way.”

Next question regards safety. Thompson says there were 16 risk issues posing extreme danger for the crew and canoes. The two biggest are hurricanes, which dictate schedule, and human violence or piracy, which dictates where crews would not go.

“We tried to do the research on the planet,” Thompson said. “‘Lucky you live Hawaii.’ It’s a very safe amazing place, (but that’s) not so true in the rest of the world.”

The third question addresses how the crew could empower the voyage through education, exploration and discovery. The Polynesian Voyaging Society made choices of where to go based on reconnecting with Polynesia, finding cultures of kindness, learning about the earth, revaluing the oceans as something vitally important and what protects Hawaii’s climate and biodiversity.

“We started to select places that had amazing educational stories and, fundamentally, that’s where the sail plan came from,” Thompson said.

Next week: Where exactly Hokulea and Hikianalia will be stopping and why.

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