Sailing alongside Hokulea

Editor’s note: Kauai resident, educator and sailor Steve Soltysik recently joined Gershon II, escort for Hokulea. The following is his account of the journey so far.

The relief crew of the Hokulea, including me and Dr. Catherine Downey, are nearly ready for leg 17 of the World Wide Voyage.

Anchored a few hundred feet from Hokulea, the 50-foot escort boat Gershon II will sail just a mile or two astern (behind) Hokulea.

The 2,400-mile sail is projected to take about 20 days, depending on wind direction and strength.

Brazil is a huge country, rich in natural resources, but faces many difficult and challenging problems. There is a segment of the population that is very wealthy, and another in stunning poverty, and all mixed recently with the long celebration of Carnival. The mixed plate of contrasts — wealth, joy, and serious struggle of the poor — stirs my appreciation for living in Hawaii.

“So lucky to live on Kauai” could hardly be more true!

With the departure day set for Friday, Feb. 12, busy, hot days of preparations continue. Natal is just a few degrees south of the equator, so it is very normal to be sweating day and night. A fan certainly helps!

Hokulea will sail in a northerly direction 2,400 miles guided by sun, stars, ocean swell and birds with the steady southeast trades of 15 to 25 miles per hour. With the wind coming on her starboard stern quarter (right rear side of the canoe), this should make for a good swift sail to the distant island of St. John, Virgin Islands. Both crews and captains have high hopes for a smooth and swift passage.

Escort boat Gershon II weighs in at over 30 tons, and will have to sail hard and fast to keep up with the swift voyaging canoe. Gershon II provides an extra margin of safety in the event that a crew member falls overboard.

This is the second leg (first leg was Auckland, New Zealand) of the World Wide Voyage for me. I was surprised and very pleased to be asked to crew on the escort boat at age 67.

I think it is important that the young, next generation of sailors (both men and women) have the opportunity to crew on the Hokulea.

Polynesian Voyaging Society is inspired by the community efforts on all the Hawaiian Islands (including Kauai) that perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the care of our most precious island, Earth.

Kauai has been very kind to our ohana. One of my greatest joys is to be asked by our school teachers to share the World Wide Voyage of the Hokulea and build small wa‘a (canoe models) with our keiki. Stirring the spark and planting a seed of excitement at a very young age, this is absolutely the most rewarding teaching I have done.


Steve Soltysik first sailed on the Hokulea in 1996, interisland between Kauai and Oahu. Steve, with his wife Linda and 7-year-old daughter Tawna, sailed in 1985 from Catalina Island, California, to Kauai in 21 days aboard their 32-foot sailboat. Kauai has been their home for 30 years, where they raised daughters Tawna and Jade, and now have a 6-year-old grandson, Skye.

  1. Robert Weniger May 19, 2020 11:23 am Reply

    Hi Steve, I am happy for you to get to sail and be a community teacher and leader. I thank you again for spending that week or so with me in Honolulu in 1989. Talofa is still with me. Gentlemen don’t sail to weather…ha ha Robert

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