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Hawai‘i has been lending its mystique to the bikini for sixty years
Vol. 8, No. 6
December 2005/January 2006

  >>   The Bold and the Beautiful
  >>   Women of the Canoe
  >>   The Motorcycle Diaries

Women of the Canoe (Page 3)

She tells the story of her 500-mile leg on the sail to Pitcairn, the first voyage where she experienced solo navigation. Finding Pitcairn, as she describes it, was like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” The canoe ran into eleven days of flat weather, followed by a storm and squalls that sent the vessel rocking and rolling, circumstances that can be disorienting, albeit exhilarating, for the navigator. She started to figure out the math—trigonometry, that is—and concluded that they would meet landfall in sixty-one miles, around 1 p.m. When they started to see birds, she and the other navigators knew they were nearing shore. Her dead reckoning was right on. The first glimpse of the fringe of coconut trees was overwhelming to the point of tears, Catherine remembers: “Tava Taupu [a veteran Hokule‘a crewman from the Marquesas] came up to me and said quietly, ‘Good girl.’ That probably meant more to me than anything.”

Catherine recently got her U.S. Coast Guard-issued captain’s license. A captain on a voyaging canoe executes all of the onboard operations and may also serve as navigator. The veteran of two long voyages—twenty days from Hawai‘i to Tahiti in 1995 and twenty-four days from the Marquesas to Pitcairn in 1999—and dozens of short trips, Catherine offers an insightful reflection: “Before you leave, you have to settle everything first. You leave land things on land, and you make space for the ocean.”

The reverse of that journey—leaving the canoe and returning to land—is, Catherine says, probably the most challenging part. After one voyage, she stayed home for three days. “It’s such big culture shock. I just spent three months with three T-shirts and three pairs of shorts ... what do I do with all this stuff?”