Monday, November 17, 2008

Guests on an Outrigger Adventure

An Outrigger Adventure

On this trip to Kauai the only thing I thought I might want to do, as a tourist, was to perhaps go out on an outrigger, I had not done that the last time here. I was thinking I would go do one of those tourist guided tours I see around. Maybe see some sea turtles, maybe even whales.

On my first morning, Tanya and Bill wanted to show me the fish ponds they are reconstructing in the Waipa’ ahupua’a; places where fish were reared for food. This is located on private native lands down near the beach, and as we walked we passed a camp with a carving and a sink for preparing fish and foods, familiar to me of native fish camps along the Columbia I’ve visited, nothing fancy, but all you need. It is so nice to be seeing this part of Hanalei, it is really all I’ve seen this trip, of the native lands and the simple way of being on this island.

We came upon a group of outriggers pulled on shore and I stopped to photograph them, thinking of the Canoe Family at home. I wondered out loud if we’d see any on the bay, I’d love to take some photos. As we walked away a truck pulled up next to them, so we walked back and I asked if they were planning to take one out. The young (and handsome) man said no. I told him about the Canoe Family a bit, said I’d love to share this with them, and then he asked us if we’d like to go out with him. It was a surprise turn around in the conversation! His name is Trevor, and later he told us that he had no intention of taking the outrigger out, he thought he had pulled it ashore for the last time for the season, normal for November. But as we spoke, the wind had come up, in just the right direction, and he saw that he could. By the time we had returned at the end of our trip the wind had changed course and he would not have gone out. It was meant to be.

He said to come back in about 20 minutes, in the meantime we could go down the beach a ways and look at the wooden, traditional, outrigger the Waipa’ community had just finished carving. It was beautiful. It is carved from two types of wood, albizzia and kamani, in lieu of the native koa which was the traditional canoe wood. They are now planting hundreds of koa trees in the ahupua’a but they are still little. Someday….We came to find out that it had just been brought into the water for the first time a week or so ago, in ceremony of course. The ti leaf tied to its center is a reminder of that.

We returned to the outrigger, and a new person joined us, Amanda, who writes for the ‘Lonely Planet’ guidebooks and she asked if we minded if she took photos, she might include them in her next version. And it turns out that Trevor could not have gone out without all of us, we are ballast, and help to keep the outrigger upright. Trevor made this double outrigger himself, 12 years ago, when he was 19, over a winter. In summer he takes out visitors as his primary income.

We helped set the sail, and pushed it out to the water with some help from passers-by. And off we went. The sail was full of wind and we did not need to paddle, Trevor just steered with his oar, and guided the sail, something we learned later is somewhat difficult to do physically. He talked about coming out surfing in the full moon the night before. He talked about how he came to name his boat, ‘standing proudly upright in the open spaces’ is the literal meaning, but he was told it also means something about the wisdom and strength of gods.

Mostly we reveled in the moment. It was a beautiful day, with the wind and warm water splashing us occasionally, and we passed easily across the reef and into the ocean swells. They seemed large, swelling up 6-8 feet on each side but our canoe with its outriggers just floated over them. We really found the wind out there and Trevor guided us parallel with the swells and we just flew across the waves. It was exhilarating. (see video below).

We turned in back towards the bay and just then we saw shapes in the water and passed a small group of sea turtles, just floating on the waves, heading out to sea. Surreal really, these amazing large, primitive looking creatures, just bobbing along.

As soon as we passed the bluff of the bay the wind suddenly died, and we brought out the paddles to get us ashore. At the last moment we hit a new wind and strong waves and we raced ashore, people running towards us to watch us, it was striking.

Tanya and Bill could not believe our luck, they had never been out on an outrigger, and to be asked as a guest in this way, unbelievable. Tanya is terrified of water, but she resolved to go, it seemed too much like destiny for her to do so. Bill could not get over that later, he said that any other way, she would not have gone. Here she is getting used to the idea of it all...

We invited Trevor to the house to see Tanya’s paintings, he had told us about the owls that ride the wind over their valley, so I knew he’d like to see her bird paintings. We had food from the night before and he brought his girlfriend. Bill brought out his guitars and they played music and visited. He has built himself a simple house in the forest across the valley, so they are neighbors. It was a good way to connect.

It was a wonderful moment.

This is Waipa foundation website... perhaps the Canoe Family can come and visit the Waipa people and share knowledge about ocean going travel, navigation by the stars and more.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

This is still a favorite memory, I hope we meet Trevor soon and share it with him. Love Tanya