October 18, 2023 | Leg 8, Day 18
October 18, 2023 | Leg 8, Day 18.
Morro Bay to Ventura, California.
Crew update and a special mahalo nui to Chad for his local knowledge and getting all of us, canoe and crew, to Ventura safely.
After a wonderful stay, we departed Morro Bay Harbor at 10pm under the looming presence of Morro Rock, mystical in its nightly repose, as a newly incoming marine layer whirled across its flanks. The pulse of the foghorn was punctuated by a creaking of the lashing of Hōkūle’a and the slapping of water as she glided across the bar and a 6 foot wave exploded on the break wall , reminding us of the power of this place, known by Chumash and Salinan people as lisamu or lesa’mo, and today renown for being one of the most dangerous harbor mouths in the country. Fog and heavy surf are trademarks of this part of central California, where I was born and raised and where my love and connection with the sea began.
Residual bump from the dayʻs onshore northwesterlies and multiple swells in the water made for a rollie start to the night, but stars stubbornly graced the skies for the first few hours, as she navigated past Point Buchon, named after the famous Northern Chumash chieftain who presided over the areas of Avila and Pismo Beach, when the Spanish arrived some 250 years ago. The reliable Kolea led the way with master navigator, Bruce Blankenfeld at the helm, and local former Matson barge captain, JD. The fog embraced the land and waters like a protective Mother and land wasn’t to be seen again until arrival at Ventura. Rounding point Arguello and point Concepcion in the wee hours of the morning, we passed through a mysterious wind and confusing array of swells and mainland reverb as we hooked left through the place Chumash peoples know as Humqaq – The Raven Comes , or Western Gate: the departure place where souls pass into the afterlife.
Once through we entered the Southern CA bite of the Santa Barbara Channel, where the character of the ocean drastically changed to smooth and filtered westerly swells passing orderly under the manu towards our destination. Monotonous views of the calm silvery sea draped in gray were enlivened by colorful conversation and the sharing of stories from across ka Moana from past voyages to mythical lands of Kahiki, home in Hawaii, to glacier rimmed bays and Tlingit villages in the Pacific Northwest. The arrival of dolphins around 0900 hours was perfectly timed as we threaded the gap between the islands of Limuw (Santa Cruz) and Wi’ma (Santa Rosa), which means driftwood in Cruzeño, where stories tell how Earth Mother Hutash long ago made a rainbow bridge to bring the Chumash people to the mainland – those who fell into the sea she made into dolphins – alulquoy or olol’koy, brothers and sisters of the people.
Soon thereafter the seals were playing around the canoe and Matariki spotted a whale and its calf just a few meters port side as they casually waved their pectorals at the crew with an elegant indifference. At noon, hours of isolation were curiously broken by the sight of an oil derrick, and I dreamed we had time traveled through the fog from the days of our Polynesian ancestors to 2023 as we passed the impressive structure steadily mounted to the seafloor, and gazed over starboard at the helicopter pad and other facilities.
A few hours later and we could make out the bleak images of the continent once again. We were soon met by several outriggers and a few local surfers and the port master. We sounded our arrival with pū blows, which were responded with distant cheers and screams, as the people anxiously awaited the beacon of light that is Hōkūle’a. All hands on deck as pulled into port passing by crowds and the Channel Islands National Park headquarters, before carefully docking at the Ventura yacht club before a row of Chumash leaders and elders and two local hālau groups. Cultural protocols were exchanged in respectful, poetic and somewhat musical ways, as the crew was welcomed to the land and Waters of the Chumash once again. A beautiful ceremony on the beach was highlighted by a warm welcome and gifting from the Ventureño Chumash and performances by the hālau groups from Camarillo where a mainland Polynesian community carries on Hawaiian culture. The City of Ventura and Harbor District also spoke and presented PVS with a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. A massive spread of kine grinds was shared by the crew, hosting Chumash and hālau families at the NPS facility. The day wasn’t over for the crew as we went back to the docks to turn Hōkūle’a around, clean up and make arrangements for upcoming days.
Mahalo nui to everyone on the crew and behind the scenes. Having Hōkūle’a and the crew here is a blessing and I am honored to join the crew as ‘ohana to share time and space onboard and on land. Aloha ē.
-Chad Kaimanu Jackson