Celestial navigator


Sunday, December 8, 2017

11.33 N, 159.56 W (from InReach tracker)

Up early this morning. Woke thinking about getting through the surf into the yacht basin in Honolulu, quickly had to change that channel in my mind as we were going on the rocks. Best alternative was to get up and wake up as well and focus on the GPS numbers.

Our speed is 5.5 – 6 knots. The wind is blowing 15-20 knots, and we have 635 miles to Honolulu. Our heading is not that good 331 T but not bad enough to tack on to port. The ideal bearing  to Honolulu is 008 T so in one way we are sailing away from our destination.  I am hoping we will get some wind with a lot more east in it so we can put some east in the bank for when we get closer to the islands.

Sailing without the main has taken the driving force out of WW II’s forward motion which has had the effect of softening the blow as she meets some of these big waves. and so the flow of water is less and the pump is not on as much, but we are going slower, which is OK by me.

It’s still dark and the stars are twinkling in the sky. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is the change in the position of the stars as we transit the equator and move steadily north these past few weeks. I have become aware of their transit from east to west as each night passes but also their change in altitude from  south to north as we pass under them going further north each night. I am getting a sense of how the ancient Polynesians were able to use the stars to navigate between the Islands.



Also, having just passed through the Southern Cook Islands, the Northern Cook Islands and the Line Islands you begin to realize there are a lot of Islands out here and not that far apart. The sight of birds in relationship to the islands along with the many wave patterns would have all been signs to the trained Polynesian sailors and navigators of where they were.

I’m not sure we are that much further ahead with our technology these days when it comes to the relationship to the natural world and navigation. I would find it much more challenging and as a result more satisfying to be more in tune with the natural world having to depend on the position of the stars, the flight patterns of the birds, and the set of the waves to find my way across the Pacific Ocean.

So, now I feel better about navigating the channel into the marina when I get to Honolulu.

I may even go back to my bunk till the orange light of the sun rise fills the cabin.


  1. Doug Rutherford says

    It amazes me how the Polynesian sailors knew about the stars and the wave action to go to other islands. One day I may have a taste of that. Good luck with your entrance to the harbour. Will you have any engine power or just sail?

    • MaryLou Wakefield says

      Thanks Doug. At this point he’ll be under sail and will get some assistance from the local yacht club to get in to the harbour.

  2. Hi Glenn
    Great story and observation of your view of the stars on a transit South to North hemisphere. However I must correct you in that the stars don’t move. You are moving with the rotation of the earth. It is a choice of words and perspective. I would have loved to have your experience to navigate through the heavens — space ship earth.
    Jim and Kathleen in Sointula

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