Imagine life aboard a traditional voyaging canoe

On board Hokulea

The deck of Hokulea is about 42 feet by 10 feet and must be shared for 30 days with 12 other people. Rain or shine, there isn’t much protection on board.

Pomai Bertelmann talks to the escort boat while sitting in her bunk. It’s about the only escape from Mother Nature or each other. Her bunk consists of a mat on a plywood board on a cooler that contains her belongings and a hatch under which food and water are stored.

“I still sleep in my foul weather gear, because even if you’re nice and cozy, if someone calls you up to the deck, you have to be ready and you can’t say, ‘Just a second, let me put on my clothes,’ so you’re always ready and you’re always kind of wet,” said Hokulea crewmember Jenna Ishii.

Crewmembers can “shower” with privacy in the back, using water scooped from the ocean. Using the bathroom is slightly more complicated: Crewmembers wear a harness, climb around to the outside of the canoe, hook onto the side, then hang off to do their business.

“Everyone becomes really close, like a family,” Ishii said. “You might be using the bathroom, and there’s like a navigator above you, but everyone really respects each other’s privacy.”

Meals are cooked on a two-burner propane stove protected in a box on deck. It’s an important time of bonding, talking sail plans and concerns.

Kealoha Hoe comes from a catering family. He’s a sought after chef and watch captain on voyages.

“It’s not only looking at food to feed the physical, but to feed the spiritual part of the voyager,” he said. “For me, it’s eating our traditional foods, the taro, ulu, sweet potato, making that cultural connection.”

Hoe says catching a fish raises the crew’s morale. They make fish soup, fried fish, sashimi, poke and dried fish.

There’s no refrigeration on board, so fresh foods don’t last long. Instead, “we do things like chicken long rice, spaghetti and some curries and stuff like that, so it’s a very well-rounded meal actually,” Hoe said.

Crewmembers are divided into three groups and each group covers a daily 8-hour watch. They steer with direction from the navigator, adjust sails with direction from the captain, clean the canoe, and, in their down time, read, write, learn, share, sing and sleep.

And deal with seasickness. “I can still do my job, I just have to be like, ‘Excuse me,’ and turn around,” Ishii said.

Ishii says she just got hypnotized for seasickness so hopefully that’ll help.

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