Nalu It, a sailing canoe race experience by J. O’Malley

Nalu It 

Friday morning. Keokea Beach Park. I’d just met my crew for the 2014 Hawaii Sailing Canoe Association’s Alenuihaha Challenge. It consisted of (2)14 year old boys, an old guy, two other guys I didn’t know and ‘Buckman’. I heard the stories about the latter in particular and I certainly didn’t like all that I heard (eg. he likes to fall off moving canoes). Their calling us the ‘Perpetuation Crew’ because of the experienced Steve Baker and the inexperienced boys, Francesco (aka “Nacho”) and Manoa. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of perpetuation, but paddling 100 miles over two days with this crew seemed like a bad idea, a really bad idea.

Friday afternoon. We’re experiencing minor rigging issues and I’m hearing rumors that we don’t have a mast that fits the sail. Even worse, the wind forecast doesn’t look good. The six other boats are rigged and we barely have one ama attached to the hull. Not good.

Friday night. I’m deeply concerned about this weekend. I’ve been playing it cool all day, but my attitude is starting to change for the worse. I run into a member of the double-hull sailing canoe crew and asked him why he wasn’t racing; he told me sometimes things just don’t happen. “We pushed pretty hard to make it, but we just couldn’t do it. Sometimes you just need to nalu it.”, he said. Hmm… ‘nalu it’, ride with the waves, go with the flow. I think about ‘nalu it’ over a beer and feel better.

Saturday morning. Aaron goes on a coffee run (mahalos!), the rest of the rigging goes amazingly smooth, a mast appears courtesy of Tim Woods (mahalos!) and a great breakfast was laid out (mahalos Keokea community!). Suddenly we were good to go and there is some wind filling in (mahalos to whoever you believe in!).

Saturday’s race. I didn’t take very long before I lost all concern about the crew. Nacho and Manoa proved to be solid paddlers/sailors with that waterman natural ability and a positive attitude. Steve Baker provided plenty of experience, Todd and Aaron are hammers in the hull, and Buckman never fell overboard. Wind was good, surf was good, and it was a great day on the water (I’m conveniently forgetting about the last hour of brutal paddling in flat conditions).

Ripping accros the Alenuihaha Channel photo: Gloria Reed

Ripping accros the Alenuihaha Channel
photo: Gloria Reed

Saturday night, Hana. In typical HSCA fashion, I’m being told to get in the back of a truck with other paddlers and then driven around the country surrounding Hana. Good fun driving one lane roads with no purpose other than to cruise. We wind up at our camping site, which this year happened to be next to the Hana Taro Festival. Live Hawaiian music is playing as we pull into the parking lot and set up our tents. I can’t help thinking that this is quite a stark contrast from the way I felt yesterday at this time! A solid dinner with Kona Brewing Company beers sets up a nice night.

Sunday morning, Hana Beach Park. Back at the beach for a taro pancake breakfast courtesy of the Hana Taro Festival. Perhaps this is most relaxing pre-race meal ever. Couple of old-time Hana folks sit with me and talk story about growing up in Hana and I tell them about growing up in Philadelphia (they’re polite but unimpressed for some reason). The crew finds me and is telling me ‘we go’.

Sunday race. We’re all motived today because someone who raced with us yesterday jumped ship and is now on another canoe (the traitor will remain nameless but you know I’m talking about you Steve). We’re moving well on the outside line and in the mix. And that’s when the stories became reality; someone shouts, I look back and see Buckman’s feet and okole in the air and then, in the water. Something just snapped and we round up and heel (excessively!). The safety ama is waaayyyy under and for the second time this weekend, I’m concerned. I make ready to bail out of the canoe because this is bad and I’m not gonna ‘nalu it’ this. But Nacho is able to get on the trampoline and bring the sail and the immediate situation under control for us but what about Buckman? Now we’re paddling what feels like the world’s heaviest sailing canoe upwind to get him. He starts swimming, which is really in his best interest, because we are going nowhere, and finally he’s back onboard.   Once he’s done yelling at us for some stupid reason, we get going but we’re clearly out of the race. So we ‘nalu it’ and wrap up this awesome weekend just cruising and enjoying the scenery of the north Maui coastline.

Monday morning, my office. Not so bad today. Johann ( and Gloria Reed’s pictures are starting to appear on the HSCA facebook page. My biggest immediate concern is which of their incredible picture to save as my new desktop. Buckman calls and asks me to write an article about up the weekend. “Like what?” I ask. “Just write up what your experiences were this weekend” he replied. “You mean I should nalu it?”     …….J. O’Malley

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