The Samoa Voyaging Socety (SVS) works to promote positive Samoan cultural values, respect for the ocean and nature, individual and social responsibility, discipline and integrity.

The SVS considers that the reintroduction of traditional sailing in Samoa will provide opportunities for youth development (sports, leadership), environmental awareness, cultural development and, potentially, tourism opportunities such as whale watching and adventure tours.

SVS is developing hands-on educational and training programmes in traditional sailing and navigation. The programmes will target young Samoan youth including school children, school leavers and other interested groups. The task of learning traditional sailing and navigation skills also develops leadership and discipline among the youth, leading to well-rounded young people capable of contributing positively to the growth of this nation.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

10th May 2011

The huge grey beast persisted on our tail, appearing to devour everything in its path. One other boat, following some miles behind, had already disappeared into its bowels, sending shudders down our spines; no one wanted to go down there - not again. The shifting, fluctuating wind was no comfort for the watch, who struggled to keep our faithful Gaualofa on course; every inch of muscle and willpower going into our hopeful escape from that looming monster...

After more than two weeks of constant head winds and the relentless bashing of toppling towers of water onto our deck and hull, the calm that had finally arrived only a few hours before had been such a relief that almost the whole crew could be found on deck in shorts and t-shirts, despite the not-necessarily sunny weather. Perhaps, I thought, this meteorological relapse could be enough to finally dampen the spirit of our ever-smiling crew.

We struggled on, however, as the air turned cooler around us; we were in the mouth of that thing and could feel its terrible wrath about to fall upon us. Each member of the watch hunched his back, grit his teeth, and put on his hooded wet-wear, as realisation of our fate galvanised in our minds. Also in mind were memories of warm, dry land, and thoughts like, "Please tell me once more why, oh why i am out here??...".

...One hour later: the squall, what seems to have been our Great Ocean host’s last attempt at overcoming the crew’s sterling resilience, had not been as severe as it had looked and had already passed over us, leaving a beautifully reddening sky behind a hedge of silhouetted cumulus castellanus on the horizon. The clouds were far off, but towered like a row of purple blooming trees into the evening sky. High above, the moon smiled down upon us once again; her toothy grin brightening our evening for songs, prayers, and our daily story before dinner.

The cold, the damp, the wet feet, the sticky salt, the sleepless nights; all would be forgotten, promised me one watch captain, once we had reached the tropics and made our first festive landfall. Those days of hardship would be over-written in memory by the pleasant, warm, tropical days to come... Well, i shouldn't hope so! An important part of this experience, for me, is enduring this hardship. Each day when I sit down with the crew to enjoy our next gourmet meal, graciously provided by the Almighty and one of his three cooking assistants aboard Gaualofa (which includes the captain), I remind myself that whether six of us are attempting to shelter from the rain or ocean squalls within the 1.5x2.5 metre galley space, or whether we are braving the elements on the deck as we eat, we have it a whole lot easier, warmer, safer, and more gourmet than any of our original voyaging ancestors had it - and we should be grateful.

So now, as I sit on the deck, enjoying the evening sky and the roast kumara wedges with caramelised onion and capsicum, and miso soup on the side, I am happy to have come through those weeks of rough weather. It gives me a little more perspective on where we have come from: for me that means not only the thousands of miles from my lavish Wellington lifestyle of comparative luxury, but also my journey as a member of this great voyaging race, over these countless generations of culture and development as a people. I am grateful for the good times we share on our deck in the moonlight and sun, but even more so for the hard times when we have had to band together, when we have had to knuckle down and grit our taro-hardened teeth, relying on each other and on our Gaualofa, who, with God and undoubtedly the spirits of our many watching ancestors, is protecting us as we travel onward to Fakarava, Nukuhiva, Hawai’i, and the future.


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