The Kamafiki Crew, as we named ourselves, went on our first overnight sail this past Saturday, a moonless night so we could see stars. Basically there are six of us on this crew that means ‘magic’ in Samoan, according to Captain Buddy.
It’s a word he uses when something suddenly fixes itself or does what it’s supposed to. None of us could find it in a Samoan dictionary and the one Tongan one of us asked had never heard of kamafiki. When you think about it, it makes sense that there wouldn’t be such a word as magic, at least in a Polynesian cultural context, because magic is sorcery. Anyway… we liked the word. The six of us on this crew bonded from training for the Hokule’a world wide sail. We all pretty much started coming to classes at the same time last year and so became friends.
Only four could make it last Saturday but it was enough to set sail. Captain Buddy McGuire has been very generous to teach us and to give us ocean time on his 41 foot sloop. Every sail is a training opportunity, and we are having a crash course in sailing vocabulary as well as how to do everything aboard ship. Preparations are especially critical as it would not be good to get stuck in the middle of the ocean.
We finally got everything checked, verified that it was all working and headed out. We weren’t going far, just to the sandbar in the middle of Kane’ohe Bay. We got more or less to where we were going and stopped for the night. I didn’t think about the fact that we were going to have to take turns doing ‘anchor watch’. Even though our anchors were pretty firmly set, we wouldn’t want to accidentally drift during the night, so after dinner we paired off and started our watches. This was the part we had all been waiting for. A clear sky on the ocean, away from city lights, where we could observe stars. We spent much of the time looking at our star charts and comparing them to the sky. It was exciting to actually see stars and constellations that are too difficult to see from land. Leo and Scorpio were the clearest constellations I saw that night as well as many individual stars. It was the lessons in the Planetarium coming to life. The steady breeze and rocking of the boat made it feel like we were moving, although we weren’t. I thought about my Scottish great grandfather, Captain Daniel McGregor, who captained the ferry that went back and forth between Hau’ula and Kane’ohe in the late 1800s. I thought about my Hawaiian ancestors, who must have also known these waters. There’s lots to think about at night while keeping watch aboard ship. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to sleep and get up every two hours – and stay awake – although I don’t know how many nights in a row I would be able to do it. We were all pretty exhausted the next day, which was a beautiful day for sailing out into the deep blue, which we did.
As far back as I can remember I have wanted to spend the night at sea in something smaller than a passenger liner, something more closely one with the elements. I finally got my wish and I wasn’t disappointed. Now I look even more forward to actually sailing at night on Hokule’a, navigating by the stars. That will be next.