A grand adventure on Hokulea

This week, Kauai resident Steve Soltysik and five other sailors traversed the Panama Canal aboard Gershon II, the escort sailboat for Hokulea.

Hokulea traversed the canal side-tied to an 85-foot, oil-crew-supply boat.

“The initial start before entering the locks, the canoe weathered a violent and strong squall with much spray and slamming along side the powerful steel tow boat,” Soltysik wrote. “The 85’ vertical lift through the locks of Panama was smooth and without any damage to the iconic voyaging wa‘a Hokulea!”

Soltysik, who returned home Friday, went by “Salty” on this voyage, as the captain of Gershon II was also named Steve.

“After traveling 22 hours, and now well rested, I begin to readjust to living on the wonderful Island of Kauai!” he wrote. “I still sway and walk with a little odd sway from sailing offshore.”

Crew and Hokulea safely arrived Wednesday to a mooring in Balboa, home waters of the mighty Pacific ocean.

Following is a brief account from Soltysik about the trip:

Hokulea and escort boat Gershon II stand by for navigating the Panama Canal. After a week of provisioning in Key West, we had three days of tailwinds at our stern (rear). Rounding the western tip of Cuba, the next five days were tough going: 10-foot seas, 20-knot headwinds, and furnace-like indoor conditions (thanks to Gershon II’s engine raging night and day). Still, the 50-foot, 30-ton cutter monohull seemed to thrive in these extreme conditions.

Once our wa‘a caravan broached 80 degrees west longitude, we relished our easy beam reach past Jamaica all the way down to the entrance of the canal in Colon, always just one to two miles apart. After 12 days of bathing with salt water, the crew promptly headed for Shelter Bay Marina’s freshwater showers upon making landfall — we love our kai, but we also love our wai!

A great adventure awaits us within the days and waters ahead: We will make the 50-mile canal transit in approximately 10 hours and once again be back in our home ocean, the Pacific! It has been an honor to serve alongside my fellow Gershon II crew members, who have been maka‘ala (vigilant) day and night to ensure Hokulea’s safe passage and to help fulfill her mission of spreading the message of malama honua.


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