Home >> Polynesian Voyaging Society Archives >> Primary Source Documents, 1984 - 1987 >> Onboard interview

Hawai'i to Tahiti July 10 to August 11, 1985.
Transcription from audio tapes. [P1, P2 are anonymous speakers. N is Nainoa Thompson. I is the interviewer. ]

P1: Saturday, July 13, sometime after sunset. Nainoa Thompson (unclear) the past three days of sailing. The weather has been good, the sea is green. This will be Tape 1, Session 1.
P2: When you get to November it is not tied up. You see right now the rotation is, the rotation is (unclear). It has be be faster than the normal (unclear). It takes roughly 24 hours (unclear). It goes around the south (unclear). That is so they all stay in relatively the same position with each other. (unclear).
N. Yeah, it is actually (unclear) the earth spinning.
P1: Yeah, right, right.
P2: OTherwise they all move the same speed and that will be different.
N: Yeah. Yeah.
P1: This star coming now is about (unclear), I have never seen it for about five years.
P2: Sixteen is real high, yeah. Sixteen is way high, yeah. How about the other side? Way up, yeah.
P1: Which one is Atri?
P2: There's another one. Yeah, sixteen. Kakio the eye. You see stars now? Laughter.
P1: The buggah high, real high.
N: You see, (unclear) the sixteen star along the other one. When there is a straight line, that is due south. Now they both sitting this way, sort of like the Southern Cross, the Southern Cross points (unclear). When she goes down like that into the water, that is south (unclear, multiple people talking).
P1: (unclear). one big Waimea, all rolling hills, grassy farmland.
P2: You know, when I was working for a ranch I was doing some land management grass symposiums and we held them up in Waimea. A lot of the guys were from New Zealand.
P1: Oh yeah.
P2: So we all been waiting, just waiting. I don't know, I think a lot of them are going to make it, but you know. I hope I can. You get a place to stay, all that kind.
P1: Only thing about that I don't like, the weather is cold and rainy.
P2: So much runoff, it is like continental dirt. The streams (unclear).
P1: Sort of like South Point, its woven.
P2: Yeah. The stuff is like, there is so much runoff from the streams. The streams are real wide they are like a half mile wide. (unclear) The water is all dirty.
P1: (unclear) There is quite a bit here I can't make out They are talking about water and runoff. There are quite a few different voices all talking together.
P2: I wonder if you see a lot of New Zealand mullet? (unclear) I can't make out any of this. I think they are talking about the fish they will be able to catch.
P1: When you press it down, and the buggah is upside down (unclear). Where you know? January yeah.
N: I went December 31, so it would be upside down, but it is already coming up.
P1: (unclear)
N: It is all messed up, it is so different, You know like (I don't know what I saw) you know like (unclear) I can't make any of this out, there is too much wave noise.
P1: So you have to kind of hang there and look upside down.
P2: Whoa that is the Mians.
P1: Yeah, Yeah.
P2: Actually what we are going to do is sail to, you know like in Hawaii the top star and the bottom star is the same distance. Like this is the same distance from there to the ocean is Maui. The top star and the bottom star, whatever that distance is, you go down to the ocean and that is like Maui. But, in New Zealand it is the same but upside down. It is from the stars upside down to the horizon. (unclear) There is quite a time here where I hear nothing but voices in the background and the sound of the waves and wind.
P1: This is Wednesday and we left Miloli'i.
P2: Are you ready?
P1: Yeah, we're rolling.
N: We left Miloli'i, I'm not real sure what time. I took my watch off. Sometime in the early afternoon and then motored to Na Pu'u O Pele we picked up the wind line and we set sail. And we just rounded as the winds swung around South Point about east southeast we started off south and we swung around to northeast nohia. By about midnight we were in the regular dominant trade direction.
What were some of your personal feelings at that time? Like after waiting so long?
N: I don't know. I was pretty upset when I saw the stars because certain stars I had really counted on right now, like Cochamps, you see right on top of (unclear) And that is the star I would use, that is like my main star that I was going to use for latitude south of the equator. Now it is right on the north star now and we still have twilight. Two weeks from now it is way past the equator. If we had left two weeks earlier it still would have been available, also the Southern Cross, It hurts navigation ally.
I: What stars are you going to have instead of those two?
N: The one next to it, the 18 degree star, but that star is no good when you have a moon.
I: Yeah.
N: It is too dim.
I: There is not that many stars.
N: True and the (unclear) gets worse, yeah? Anyway, it is too late already so. I don't know the seas are real weird for the first three days. The swells are big from the east (unclear) Not until today that the swells kind of mellow out. This is the ending of our third day.
I: What color is the swells pattern like that? Is it (unclear) or something different?
N: Remember that day we went into that evening, not last night but the night before, we went underneath that cloud cover.
I: Yeah.

N: We had those winds that were switching around, we got into a squall. That area was disturbing the ocean, it was like a whole band of, its kind of like a conversion zone. This is unusual weather to misrecognize. The farther we get from it that more shorter (unclear) We sailed the first night uneventful, fairly strong winds out next to the ocean. I'm not going to give navigational directions at all in the log. The next day right after we sailed, that day the ocean was, we were heading real high, the wind was real north. I think that (unclear) the wind to that evening, was blocking the regular trades, the trades were getting smaller around the clock on the northern side, coming down more northerly. We were at some point in time exactly due east. I'd love to have the wind to the east, the (unclear) is strange there. The seas are pretty wacko. (unclear) the fighting winds, how you can't sail when the winds are (unclear) The winds are the ruler of the clouds (unclear) Like how the squalls block the wind, it is either a squall (unclear) make it more strong. (unclear) the squall goes away one it is clear.
I: (unclear)
N: Not last night, but the night before when it had 100 percent clouds?
I: Yeah.
N: The one squall came and the wind shifted back. I didn't know where we were. I didn't have a ghost of an idea. I knew we were east of (unclear) but I wasn't sure if it was east or southeast. I asked him, I said, "Mau what direction now?" He told me south and I asked, how? "By the feel of the swell." And that (unclear) So I asked him how many people know (unclear) He says in Satawal, only four. So that was really interesting. I don't know, just his ability to persevere when you need to. No jacket, no nothing, keeping his eyes focused in the rain. He is a real navigator.
I: He seems relaxed, too.
N: Yea. (unclear) That's Pops bible, you can't go running to Kansas when you got to (unclear) His ability to concentrate, and his ability to focus is (unclear) Nobody perceives the things that he does, I don't know of anybody who does. The ability to look at clouds and tell what the winds are going to do way ahead of time, really fascinating.
I; (unclear)
N: Anyway, when that cleared up the next day, we had fairly (unclear) winds, easterly and falling off a little bit. We were losing some heading, but it was still okay. You know, not real bad and it sure wasn't going to (unclear) My (unclear) is so conservative. I don't want to go westerly (unclear) I decided not to tack because we would have to go back into that lousy system again. The winds continued and now the (unclear) We are going same as last night, southeast, a little bit south or southeast. Close to the manu, but. Keep heading towards Nalani. Steady winds, easy navigating because all you got to do is remember the distance you traveled (unclear) times the speed. The skies have been, except for that one rainy night, really very clear. Look at it, it is really nice.
I: It looks nice.
N: I hate to say it, but these sails are definitely better than 1980. They are fuller, there is more area.
I: Do you happen to know how much more area?
N: I got it at home, but not here.
I: Okay. No problem.
N: Maybe about a third more.
I: A third more? That is quite a bit.
N: (unclear) is what, northeast right? So northeast is perpendicular to our course, right. (unclear)
I: So what you are saying to me is that it is not going to be as difficult as 1980.
N: We will have to wait to know.
I: Yeah.
N: If the segment in Hilo and the doldrums and Hawai'i and South Point (unclear) no need worry. Absolutely no worry. Right now we have broken booms, we already tack, stuck in a gale. In 1980 we were totally in screwed up weather. It was wet, it never dried up one day. Right now it is really mellow. Mellows out fast. You know like, to get to where we are right now (unclear)
I: That is fast.
N: (unclear) would make it a lot of easting. When you go east, you don't go south.
I: (unclear) easting and distance?
N: I think it looks as if (unclear) close to where we (unclear) in 1980.
I: So (unclear)
N: I feel pretty run down today. Thinking is not clear and I feel kind of sick.
I: Miloli'i sickness?
N: No, heavy headed. I guess that is about all for now.
I: Yeah, okay. Thanks.


I: So what happened last night?
N: Around 4 p.m. on the horizon the swell line with powering, real high powering (unclear) Not like (unclear) but like heavy rain clouds. And when we got in there the wind was from the north, northeast so we steered southeast. First time we steered in the whole trip. The winds just got lighter and lighter and just died out, exactly like the doldrums. Rain and full on vertical and all we steered by was the feel of the wind from the north northeast and the swell from northeast, how it rocked the boat. We were trying to hold the course southeast until the wind stopped and then I went to sleep for a little while. When I got up, the wind started again and it took a little while to move out (unclear other voices in background) a long way for, it would be about (unclear) and then we tacked, roughly steered a course. I'm not sure, but probably close to between southeast, like due south and eventually it swung up to southeast aina. I thought it would be more southeast manu, but we went southeast aina. Then it cleared and the wind stayed strictly south, southwest. Really strange for this geographical area. El nino condition wouldn't be good. The more stranger the situation, is it looks exactly like straight winds. Like regular, when we have clear skies, nice weather, but the wind has come a long way. I have no idea why, I'm not sure about this whole trip at all.
I: (laughter)
N: So much fore the strategy. That's all. No problem for easting. If we wanted to go to the Marquesas, we'd be in top shape.
I: (laughter)
N: That's all.


N: The strange things about the condition is that its not like it is a squall condition, not like if you are having your own localized intensified storm where the winds are switching around. It's like it's the dominant wind of the area. Clean skies, clean wind not (unclear) straight wind but its from the south southwest. I just don't have any idea why its doing that.
I: You don't have any idea or clue or anything?
N: It 's hard to tell. Even though the swell has developed from that wind you know, from the southeast from the south, from the west. It's bigger than the regular trade swells so, I don't know.
I: So we are pursuing the wrong direction almost?
N: Yeah, unless the sun still comes up.
I: (laughter)
N: The sun is now rising in the south. I don't know, we go straight (unclear)


P1: Last night we called order, we spent a short period of time being orientated until Jupiter presented itself. While we were (unclear) swells changed direction. Wind changed direction from northeast to winds coming out of the southwest. We sailed until close to 10 o'clock towards the southeast and then switching over tracking around and coming up on a due south course. Swells are now apparently coming from the southeast. Nainoa feels that there is a (unclear) known blocking the normal trades and causing them to retract around. The day has been very pleasant, the sun is now setting. (End of tape for July 16)


I: Nainoa is taking a polaris reading
N: So we taped last night right and the morning. Okay.
I: The rain and everything.
N: Early morning the winds were coming form the west, from the southwest. It moved to south southwest so we sent on a starboard tack. And on that starboard tack, we, first we were going like southeast aina then, in the early morning. Then we went to southeast la and then by the middle of the day we were going hikina. Then later on around 2 o'clock we were going northeast la. The winds are backing to from southeast back to south and then to east. So we tacked at about 2 p.m. and we were heading southwest noio. The day just gradually backed, the wind is back to east now and we are going northeast maleo. So, I think what we have is a rain system, squall system, some kind of conversion zone to the east of us that is blocking the trades. It makes a lot of sense because as we were approaching that conversion zone last night the winds dramatically switched to north northeast. What they were doing was they were coming off the top of that storm system and wrapping around the backside of it. And then when we came out of it this morning, we came from the southwest cause the winds were coming around the bottom of the storm system. So it was just like at the lee of the Big Island, just like you hit a system and then you hit an object that the true wind had to be bent around. Just like the lee, like going to South Point, you get the winds from the southeast. That is what I think will happen today. Now that we are getting south of the system, the farther south we get the more we put the storm to the north, the more easterly the winds are coming. I think the winds should get straight and they should get strong because the swells are big today. That is basically what I think, what is important is that during the day we had a south swell and a southwest swell which is really highly developed. But by now it is already dissipated, at least the southwest swell. The south swell is generated from far away but the east swell, southeast swell and northeast swell are big, good thing the wind is close. So all the indications show that the wind is going to come back to the east by looking at how the swells go. The southeast swell has gone down. The northerly swell that we had yesterday that was developed by that north north wind is, I can't even see it anymore. So a couple of points to make is that the swells get developed quickly and they dissipate quickly. Just the major steering swells remain so they are always really there but they are not all that detectable. It takes a lot of experience to read the. I think every thing is okay cause we are still pretty high. Today is the only day that we really lost. We're in a direction that is really losing easting, but we are going so slow that it doesn't even matter. I think our strategy to get through the doldrums in seven and a half days may be accomplished so that we therefore won't have to ad on any more current deviations. Today had just, maybe 25 animal head thunderstorms all to the east, to the south and to the east. That puts the storm on a western side, it was all clearish. All the horizons were clear of any animal heads. Now the sun is set and there is no heat in the atmosphere any more. All the thunder heads are gone, there isn't any of them. I think we have fair weather with strengthening winds and winds veering more to the east northeast. I think when the winds eventually get back to east northeast we'll have the true wind speed that we're going to get at least to the doldrums We may encounter 10 north and 9 north.
I: Concludes July 16 session.

N : The way I see the north star now, it is a little bit higher than 12 degrees. But because right now it is at its lowest point in its arc, so I would say it is 45 minutes lower than our destination. So therefore, what I'm getting now is that we're 13 north. As of 7:45 p.m. whatever today is, the 15th, the north star is showing thirteen. Thirteen is a hard degree to measure.
I: That concludes July 15, erase 16. Today is Monday the 15, 7:45 p.m.
I: Today is Wednesday, July 17. It is about 9 a.m. Caught two ono, three ono and two mahi, total about 30 pounds apiece. getting ready to send about a third of it over to the Dorcas along with fishing lures. There is a bucket to drag behind and Dorcas will come from behind to pick up bucket. Hopefully, (unclear)
N: So that was Monday night that we had the real starry night and last night we had a few thunder heads, yeah. I guess to recap the trip if anything from (unclear) twenty convergence zones, the wind shift always to the west and (unclear) around the east, but it was predictable in terms of its movement and that's what should happen right/ From west to back southwest, south ten southeast and we passed it about (unclear) When's the full moon?
I: (unclear)
N: Swung up to east northeast then it swung back to northeast when we came into a convergent zone which would have been placing us last night, I'm thinking about ten degrees north, about let's say early evening last night. Conceivable that conversion zone is probably something to do with an inter-tropical conversion zone between southeast trades and northeast trades. You see, I mean it is possible, it's not out of the ball park even though it is somewhat north. We had good trades yesterday (unclear) out of the northeast and we steered the whole day (unclear) we've been going so much east that we haven't been making much south so (unclear) In a minute we will recap the events
P1: This gets transcribed by who?
P2: I don't know, somebody in Dixon's office.
N: Yesterday we had winds from the northeast, we sailed southeast (unclear) and then we started beginning to get it to some moderately developed, poorly developed squall lines this morning and came more moderate in the afternoon. By evening (unclear) Good winds (unclear) winds (unclear) confused the winds are still changing around. Then last night we were into some pretty heavy storms (unclear) The wind the next day (unclear) to northeast and we steered all night (unclear) squalls to the south or tightening up on the sails and trying to go (unclear) Then the skies were intermittent and the squall line to the stars (unclear) steady course, steering real good (unclear) The waves are like, in the early morning we had to (unclear) a giant squall
I: (unclear)
N (unclear)quite a bit of wind and it was real big. Actually we went into that squall and didn't come out until after sunrise. So, we were in there for a number of hours, a couple of hours and when we came out we had much more clearning skies with the winds out of north northeast. Right now its all pretty much nohia, we're in much fairer weather. But (unclear) switch to the southeast and we're traveling southwest naleo then (unclear) southwest nalani (unclear) We have no choice, there is another direction I wanted to go in but (unclear) swell. So I'm thinking 10 degrees north as of this morning (unclear) we're sailing west and south right now and probably stay (unclear) wind shield (unclear) My strategy is 6000 east but if we (unclear) in this direction for (unclear) that will take us one, two, three, four, five hours west of our (unclear) which is We would lose two and a half hours of (unclear) if this wind stays (unclear) we need to make up eight because (unclear) At this point we have no choice (unclear) Starting at nine degrees north I would (unclear) Then if we continue on this course we will be losing four hours a day, we'd be losing 3-1/2 a day actually which we really don't want to do
I: Per (unclear)
N: (unclear) per 120 miles. So conceivably in two days we'd loose all that we made, staying on this course. But we don't have a choice. I guess the point is this trip has not been how the seas are how they should be, they're much different. The best thing to do, the only thing you can do is just to play each (unclear) sunrise and sunset as you see it. And then, it seems to me that every sunrise and sunset dramatically changes the weather. We've yet to have one 24-hour period of the same kind of weather, where the wind didn't change. Because wind shift happens everyday and every night. Dramatic wind field change (unclear). The first day out we were sailing southeast naleo, the second day (unclear).
I: Strange.
N: Yeah, I know because (unclear) I know we are in a conversion zone (unclear) I think the crucial time is between now and (unclear) That should be what, 300 miles. (unclear)
I: Which direction are we (unclear)
N: We're going back (unclear) It should be good to make easting, but I know if the wind goes (unclear) but I don't want to go back north now because of the waves (unclear)
I: If the wind course holds (unclear)
N: You mean like this?
I: Yeah.
N: It would take about four days. At least four days to get (unclear)
I: Any comment on the fishing?
N: It really has been good (unclear) We were going to slow and the lures would get in the water (unclear)
I: Okay, thank you.

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