Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Kawaihae Women Cross Alenuihaa Channel

group canoe paddling photo

Women of Kawaihae Canoe Club

The sport of canoe paddling can be physically demanding and requires a powerful upper body and strong legs, but for veteran Kawaihae Canoe Paddling Coach, Manny Veincent, a positive mental attitude is even more valuable.

Veincent has been recruiting all wahine crews over the past five years and his group recently made its third crossing of the ‘Alenuihaa Channel, which is no easy task for any gender to conquer.

 The ocean between Kawaihae and Maui, known as the ‘Alenuihaa Channel, can sometimes receive wind gusts with up to five times more velocity than the surrounding waters which makes for one of the most dangerous channel crossings in the Pacific.

Veincent can recall hearing stories from kapuna (elders) of how residents of Kohala would sometimes cross the ‘Alenuihaa Channel to attend parties or family gatherings on Maui.

 “I used to hang out with kapuna who would tell stories of how some people crossed the channel in outriggers,” Veincent said.  “It is a very rough crossing and women crews have never done it as it goes against the grain.”

 Veincent had dreamed about putting together an all female crew and in 2004 his dream came through when wahine paddlers made the journey to Nu’u on Maui.

 “On our first all women crossing I chose Nu’u, an old Hawaiian fishing village, because it was a straight shot from Kohala to Maui,” Veincent said.  On the second crossing I wanted to learn about angles, so we went to Makenna which was further away than Nu’u and trickier to get there.”

 The third all women’s crew crossing came on October 17 which left from Keokea Beach Park at 6:55 a.m., after waiting an hour for the winds to die down, with their destination of Hana, Maui.

“The crossing to Hana had always been on my mind as I had sailed there in an outrigger canoe, but always wanted to do it with an all women’s crew,” Veincent said. 

 “I handpicked all the ladies and I don’t necessarily pick them for their athletic ability as I prefer women with good attitudes,” he said.

One of those handpicked paddlers was Izzy Calaau-Catrett, who was making her third crossing with Veincent.

Hana_Coast
Approaching the Hana Coast

“The morning was totally awesome with swells at 4 to 5 feet,” Calaau-Catrett said.  “When we got closer to Maui the current was coming in and the swells got to be 8 to 10 feet, it was pretty scary at times.”

Two escort boats, Kohala Divers from Kawaihae and Chiripa out of Kona, were used.  On board were 13 relief paddlers, four deck hands, a video photographer and Coach Veincent.

Paddlers in seats 1 through 5 were rotated out of the canoe every 45 minutes and the steersperson, Kim Kimi, was relieved after 4 hours with Veincent’s daughter, Kahea Veincent taking over steering duties.

The starting paddlers were Rachel Gillis, Ginger Tennant, Eunice Veincent, Lisa Ebrahimi, Kim Takata and Kimi.

Relief paddlers included Eva Conway, Nicki Ludwig, Nadine Dochin, KC Stallsmith, Carol Laau-Silva, Louise Muskat, Gloria Simon, Faelyn Jardine, Ava Williams, Katherine Groves, Trisha Tom, and Kalaau-Catrett with relief steersperson Kahea Veincent. 

After six hours of paddling and with land in sight the channel waters became more difficult as the currents began pushing the canoe south and away from land.

“Our average speed of the canoe was 5.5 knots per hour until we reached the Maui coast,” paddler Kim Takata said.  “We hit a strong current just miles from the Maui coast and we were too far south and had to paddle up current to reach Hana Bay.”

   The final three and a half miles took the wahine paddlers three hours as the canoe had slowed to 1.2 knots per hour, according to Takata.

   “The Hawaiian community of Hana met us on the beach with blowing of the conch shell, beautiful chant to welcome us on shore, and water and refreshments,” Takata said.  “They helped us bring the canoe on shore, wash it and prepare to ship it home on the barge.  We offered puolos as gifts of thanks.”

Cost of this amazing adventure was around $10,000 as the two escort boats were hired and the three sets of crews needed to fly back to the Big Island after spending a night in Hana.  Veincent had received a grant from Parker Ranch which paid for a portion of the third all-women’s crew voyage and the women fundraised to get the rest of the money.

Coming from the Big Island a ground crew had flown over earlier in the day to Maui and they rented three vans from Kahului as they drove to Hana to meet the paddlers.

“Our ground crew shopped at Costco and helped with the meals and transportation while on Maui,” Takata said.  “We stayed overnight at Mike Spalding’s guest cottages in Hana and he prepared a wonderful dinner which included kalua pork, rice, poi and sweet potato.”

“It took us about a year to prepare for this crossing and we had to train steady three to four times a week,” Veincent said.  “It takes a tough mental attitude to do this and for me it was very spiritual.

Veincent takes pride in connecting to his Hawaiian heritage through canoe paddling.  “Not too many people know about these women and their crossing of the ‘Alenuihaa Channel,” he said.  “This crossing was a rediscovery of who we are and where we’re going.”

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November 4, 2009 Posted by | Canoe Racing, Events | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment