Every experienced waterman knows that when you’re on the ocean—no matter how well prepared you feel—anything can go wrong. Otsuji recounts a harrowing incident that occurred when the canoe’s ‘iako snapped in half off Maui. He and his crew managed to swim the canoe to a remote beach on L ana‘i, a stupendous effort that took more than five hours. They tried to radio the Coast Guard, but the signal failed. “We were literally ship-wrecked,” he recalls. The crew found matches and a newspaper left by fishermen and kept a fire going with a piece of their ‘iako. Dinner was oranges and Snickers bars, and they wrapped themselves in the nylon sail and the trampoline to keep warm. Fortunately, the Coast Guard found them the next morning.
Spalding shares a tale of sailing off Ka‘ena Point. His crew was barreling down twelve-foot waves when the boat suddenly made a false jibe, and everyone was tossed overboard. Everybody was able to climb back in, he recalls, “except my daughter, Nicole. She was trying to grab her paddle, and the canoe pulled away. So she grabbed the fishing line. And right then, a mahi hit the line. We pulled her in with the fish.”
A big reason he’s still sailing so fervently, Otsuji says, is because of something Spalding once told him: “One of these days you’re going to wish you still could, but you can’t.” Recognizing the truth of that statement, Otsuji continues to appreciate the peace and balance he unfailingly finds at the wind line. He describes a kind of immeasurable satisfaction that comes from jumping in a canoe and sailing out to sea destined for another island. “When I get in the canoe,” he says, “I leave land stuff behind.”