Finding Our Way.

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Finding Our Way.
Using the natural elements around her, Kala Baybatan Tanaka navigates the ocean in a canoe. She is part of a four-woman team that recently set the record for fastest rowing time from California to Hawaii.

By The Foundation for a Better Life

Kala has deep ties to her Hawaiian roots. Her ancestors navigated the oceans for centuries using their knowledge of the stars, the sun, the currents and the wind. Today, she does the same.

It’s not that she navigates without technology. Rather, she uses the natural technology around her. It’s called Wayfinding, and it was taught to her by her father.

“My father was my foundation, my rock,” she says of her first voyage with him from Oahu to Lahaina in a traditional canoe. “I knew we would be OK.”

He taught her how to read the stars and the ocean swells and how to use them to hold the course. Over 200 stars have specific names and purposes when you are Wayfinding. You have to look at each and determine if they are rising or setting.

“You know that this is this star and the direction it represents,” Kala says. “If you can do that, you can use it as a tool to orient.”

During the day, Kala uses the sun until it hits a certain height. When she gets closer to land, she looks for certain species of land birds and stationary clouds that indicate there is land below. When Kala sails, she feels “very connected to my past and where I came from. I feel very connected to the crew and the canoe. We’re a family.”

The voyage from California to Hawaii required Kala to spend long hours studying the day and the night skies. It was demanding, physical work. But it also had its moments of awe. For Kala, the beauty is in tying together the past and the present to enjoy the moment. So, when she is not sailing, she teaches Wayfinding skills to school-aged children in hopes of preserving the skills her ancestors relied on.

It’s easy to get lost in the immediacy of the technology of our day, to be consumed by screens and miss the nature that unfolds around us. But if we take the time to look up, to see the stars and the sun, the way the clouds move, the miracle of life beneath and above us, we will discover something deep inside us, something that will always lead to happiness.

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Copyright ©2022 The Foundation for a Better Life. All rights reserved. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License (international): https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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