The Hokule`a began sailing the Pacific Ocean in 1976. Soon she’ll be
on her way to Micronesia to deliver the voyaging canoe Maisu as a gift
to Master Navigator Pius Mau Piailug (Papa Mau) who taught Hokule`a’s
first crew how to navigate by the stars. From there it will sail to
Japan. Recently I was able to catch up with Hokule`a crewmember and
Maui resident Tim Gilliom.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: What is your position on the Hokule`a?
TIM GILLIOM: I am the watch
captain, which is the guy who is in charge of the fishing. I’m also in
charge of communications or the radio. I’m not sure how that’s gonna
work if a fish is caught and the radio is on at the same time but I’m
sure I’ll figure it out.
How did you get involved in sailing canoes?
I first started sailing about 12 years ago, on the little 42-foot
canoe, Mo`olele, in Lahaina. I learned to sail on that with Uncle Leon
Sterling. He taught a bunch of us how to sail a sailing canoe. And then
in ‘99 I got to go over the equator on the Hokule`a to the Marquesas
and Pitcairn Island where I met all 43 descendants of the [HMS Bounty]
mutineers. That was kind of bizarre but I ended up traveling on with
the crew for the whole rest of the voyage, which was awesome.
What’s the challenge of being on a two-hulled canoe in the middle of the ocean?
What we teach everyone is that it’s like being on an island. If you
don’t take care of your resources and you run out, what happens? You
have nothing. So sailing on a canoe is a lot like living on an island;
you have to take care of your food, water and you’ve got to take care
of your people. At least, that’s how it used to be on the islands but
not any more.
What is the best part of being out there?
Just leaving the land and seeing ocean for weeks and weeks and weeks.
Is it difficult navigating with the stars?
Trying to steer using only a star as the star is moving while you
are moving is not that easy. Understanding the theory is not that hard
but doing it can be a little hard. We don’t have watches, we don’t have
a compass and we don’t have a GPS system. In Hawai`i in general, there
hasn’t been anyone to sail celestially for at least 800 years or more.
Nainoa was one of the first to learn from Papa Mau and started this all
30 years ago, so it’s very cool to be a part of it.
You’re sailing to Japan. How are you preparing for that?
It’s winter in Japan and the water will be cold. This is really one
of the most dangerous trips we have ever taken, without a doubt. Nainoa
studied the weather for the last 30 years and there is no real window
to go to Japan. People always talk about sailing inter-island and how
it’s so unreal but that’s actually a picnic compared to what we are
about to do.
So what do you have planned for when you come home?
I’ve been working on the sister canoe for the Hokule`a in Lahaina.
Her name is the Mo`okiha-a-Pi`ilani. So this summer we are going to
finish her. We are going to spray and lash her. It takes a lot of
people and line to do this, so all the voyaging canoes or different
canoe clubs from the different islands are gonna come and hold hands
and help us lash her together. We can’t wait do this because once you
start this the canoe begins breathing and she becomes alive. MTW