Three generations of navigators aboard Hokulea for Atlantic journey


The voyaging canoe Hokulea is spending the holidays on the open ocean, halfway around the world. It left Africa on Christmas Eve, and is now on its way to South America, the canoe’s longest leg on its worldwide voyage yet.

Part of the beauty of this leg, is seeing something Hokulea’s first navigator Mau Piailug preached and practiced-a sharing of knowledge, mentor to mentee.

It’s something that will come in handy for the crew, especially after leaving Cape Town, South Africa, on Thursday. They are now on the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in the canoe’s existence.

“It’s all brand-new territory, up along the coast of Namibia, across a few islands and to brazil it’s a great journey,” said Hokulea captain Bruce Blankenfeld.

Blankenfeld is among 12 crewmembers, and represents one of three generations of navigators on board.

Mau graduated Bruce to PWO, a master navigator. But on this leg, like Mau before, Blankenfeld is the mentor, there for guidance if asked by mentee, navigator Kaleo Wong.

“Always nervous about going on a trip, the anticipation of leaving but pretty confident we’ll do good on this trip,” said Wong.

Kaleo was the apprentice navigator on Hikianalia from Hawaii to Tahiti when this voyage began in 2013. He shared navigating duties to New Zealand then navigated solo to Australia.

Over the summer, Kaleo sailed to Nihoa with 27-year old apprentice navigator Jason Patterson, who helped navigate Hokule’a from Hawaii to Tahiti in 2013, and Hikianalia back to Hawaii this year.

On this leg, Jason is a watch captain for the first time, and he’ll be assisting as navigator when Kaleo needs a rest on this possibly 35-day voyage to Brazil.

“It’s definitely gonna be a wonderful adventure but distance and duration at sea is really mitigated by the fact that we’re surrounded by such a great crew,” Patterson said.

“So at the end of the voyage in 2017, our expectation is that we’d have a core young leadership to start taking over,” Blankenfeld added.

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