Similar to how students should bring their homework and materials to school every day, crew members are expected to bring their own gear and anything they would need to live on the waʻa for the duration of the voyage. I like to say that “Your parents aren’t going to pack your bag for you, we pack everything on our own.” We emphasize how all crew members need to be prepared before they step on board because “once you leave land, there’s no turning back just so you can get something you forgot.” I’ve learned to always have a bag and my diving gear ready in my car just in case I ever get called to sail at any moment. Essentially anything I would need to carry out my responsibilities and feel comfortable at the same time will be in a dry bag: a sort of carry-on bag you would take on an airplane. I have asked a question: “If it usually takes about 21 days to sail from here to Tahiti, how many pairs of clothing would you bring?” I show them that everything they take has to fit in a 5 gallon bucket, one small cooler or my favorite blue bag that’s always great to use for traveling. 30 pairs of clothes is not going to work. You really only need about 4 pairs of clothes and you can do laundry along the way. I ask the older students “off the top of your head, share with the group what they would bring” Their answers are aligned with what is actually brought on a canoe: cell phone, sunscreen. Sometimes they forget to say the two most important items, food and water. Occasionally, a student will say unique items like medicine, first aid kit, fishing line, “Your family taught you well, I would want you on my waʻa,” is an appropriate response. I have also laid out actual gear on the floor or table and students need to pick two items and explain why they would bring those items.
Uʻi does a great job at teaching this lesson to our younger students. When she prepares the sample dry bag lesson we have for the kids, she purposefully puts many unnecessary items into the bag like a Candy Land game board, stuffed animals, bubbles, toy racing cars, and an Elsa doll that belongs to her baby cousin. The younger kids tend to immediately choose these items. I can’t help but laugh when our preschoolers hold their items with a huge smile on their face, but no one in the group decided to bring water.
“You’re not trying to make a fashion statement when you’re in the middle of the ocean,” I say, which often gets a laugh. The gear you bring on the waʻa should be functional and comfortable. I’ve worn athletic yoga-style pants on board. I admit to the students that people will sometimes comment on my multi-colored striped leggings, but they dry fast, keep me warm, protect my legs from the sun and there’s three pockets. That’s an example of how something can be functional, comfortable and stylish. I have traveled with a Manuhealiʻi dress made with the material that doesn’t wrinkle easily is to wear once I get to my destination, just in case there’s an event I have to attend where I can’t wear my waʻa clothes.