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 26, 2011
Back on the moana sausau again, back into watch mode and back into simple realities of life. Not only are we graced with an additional crew member, Akenese from Samoa but also a brother, Brown, from the Va’atele Marumaru Atua, Cook Islands. The two new members, I’m pleased to state, are doing quite well. Since we’ve been out in open sea again, the weather has been good to us. Fairly good that is: small squalls, sunny skies, bit of rain now and again; sea state small wavelets, white horses, bit of swell from the East and wind state 13-16 knots from the E.
On this particular leg to the Marquesas we’re all learning how to actually use the Hawaiian Star Compass which was developed by Nainoa Thompson (and using the Hawaiian terms). Cap has placed a sticker over our GPS so we’re not able to read our heading, velocity made good, speed, wind direction nor our position. Every shift performs a speed check about 3 times during their watch; this is then noted down on the log and is then calculated on how many nautical miles we’ve done. Each evening, the watch captains plot out our estimated position with the aid of the star compass (our course steered), calculated mileage and dead reckoning. So far they’ve done a fine job, being off in less than 20 nautical miles west of the GPS position; this is basically due to the over calculation of leeway that is taken into consideration. Also note that it’s the largest body of water in the world, so 20 NM off is not so bad. But otherwise, for novices, they’re estimated position is satisfactory, just a little more fine tuning.
We’re undeniably honoured to have Tua Pittman on board Gaualofa for the first time. He was dropped off courtesy of the Evohe dinghy service just yesterday at noon, making quite an interesting picture: this statuesque bronze figure at the bow of the dinghy poised with such ease in rough rolling seas, his silver windblown hair sweeping off the nape of his golden bronze neck as he makes his approach towards Gaualofa. It was like watching a scene from an adventure film, sound effects could almost be heard in the background on his approach…actually Kalolo blew the conch in honour for his arrival. That evening, the whole deck was full of Samoans gazing up at the starry night, with Tua quietly and patiently indicating what stars to use and the like. Tua will be with us until the Marquesas, so we’ll be absorbing as much as we can while we are still in his presence.
The wind factor being due East and our course being NE we again have the task of sailing upwind. It affects a few on the va’a: the constant beat up but for others it’s just another challenge. We’re still laughing, playing the guitar, pulling pranks and figuring out ways of getting more treats out of the cooks. Everyone is healthy and smiling like loons at times.
And on this note... E fia momoli atu alofa’aga i aiga, uo ma e masani; e momoli atu fo’i le fa’afetai tele lava i le tapuaiga mamalu o le atunu’u.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Position: Post Office, Fakarava, Tuamotu Islands, French Polynesia.
It's day three in port and it feels like the days are still merging. No sense or time or date, the last few days have just been taking it easy. Since we've arrived we're still going through our watches, but only from sunrise to sunset. This is to keep the routine and order going on the va'a. The people of Fakarava are endless in their generosity and beautiful smiles. The Tahitian and Samoan language sound similar enough that we're able to understand each other regardless of the language barrier. On Wednesday evening right after sunset the Faafaite te o Maohi Society held an ava ceremony. The ceremony was to celebrate the setting of the Matali'i stars which marks the start of the season of root food: taro, umala, manioca, etc. And giving thanks to the end of the season of above-ground crops: ulu and fa'i. Each va'a had two representatives at this ceremony - Koleni and Fealofani sat in for Gaualofa. Dieter Paulman was also present for the ceremony. Thursday morning and Cap informs us we're getting a treat of relaxation. We're to sail to a remote area called Orehara on the other side of the island with Hinemoana, Faafaite and Haunui to enjoy some downtime from the constant bustle of port. We are also given news by one of our crew members that he's needed at home and will leave us the following day, everyone at once hit him with WHYS?!!! The voyage has just started and a member of our aiga is leaving us. We understand and respect his decision and wish him a safe passage on all his endeavors. He will be greatly missed, and there will always be an available bunk for him when he is able to join again.
On the way to Orehara, we sailed through an underwater Tapuatea Marae. A marota (Tahitian word for gift/ offering) is left for the tufugas and gods of the past. This marae is related to the seven va'a that left French Polynesia in 207 AD; this is an estimated date according to the recorded genealogy of the families who settled in Fakarava. The Gaualofa crew chose a ma'a from the river of Tafitoala, in Upolu. This particular ma'a is significant as it's from a village that was named by voyagers of the old when they were sailing through. Koleni said a prayer acknowledging our tufuguas, praises to our fellow voyagers and expressing thanks to the Lord; afterwards Akenese released our marota into the lagoon. Each va'a also offered a marota ma’a for the marae. Afterwards we sailed to our destination and laid anchor for the night. Morning came and it was a relaxing day of swimming and much needed repairs. Siaosi and Fialelei went spear fishing and caught us lunch, while Salai, Akenese and our two local guests: Veronica and Vaia got us faisua. Lunch was up and we heaved anchor to return to the port of Fakarava to finalise the restocking and depart on Saturday.
Lunch Menu: oka pone and alogo, fried rice, fa’alefu fa’i, raw faisua in lime, garlic, chilli, coconut cream and onion.
Beverage: sweet niu.
Fa’afetai tele lava,
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I stood there beneath the deck hatch in thought: should I change into my foul-weather gear, or no? It had been raining earlier and we had all enjoyed running the genniker while bathing in only our shorts and skins. I was sure the deck would still be wet, but the moon now beamed down upon me; I looked up to see her bright shape, boldly filling what I could see of the dark night sky through the hatchway. No, tonight would be lava-lava and t-shirt.
I clambered up to the deck for the midnight shift to find the previous watch team in a relaxed state: one man on the foe, one on the guitar, and two more with a piece of the banana & walnut chocolate cake that was our night time snack in their hands, and bright smiles on their faces.
"Watch out for that rain cloud", one cautions, pointing to the NE beyond Gaualofa's bow. 'Drat', I thought to myself, and reached into the hatch to pull out my foul-gear after all. As I wriggled into it, tucking away my lava-lava, the drizzle set in. It didn't last long; just long enough to ensure that any topside sitting spot would require waterproofed pants to enjoy.
The moon beamed on, however, and we cruised into the early hours of the morning...
As the next watch now emerges from the dark recesses of our twin hulls, someone is again strumming the guitar, someone else is steering the foe, and I sit here enjoying this lovely piece of banana & walnut chocolate cake, watching the moon-shadows change shape, and the great Fish-hook of Maui (or scorpion's tail) move slowly across the starry patch of sky above.
It has been a long journey, and rumours have it that we may finally make landfall tomorrow. After a month at sea, what will it be like to stand on earth once more? Undoubtedly, it will be a good feeling, but also perhaps an unfamiliar one. The wide spaces, the different faces, the cultural experience; and just imagine the ability to bathe in fresh water, rather than sea!
It is exciting to think about, but the time for that is tomorrow. Right now, at quarter past 3am, it's time for bed, and dreams of loved ones at home.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
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.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Today’s weather forecast is supposedly good weather, in our case: no more breaking seas, no more squalls and actually a bit of sun to dry EVERYTHING out, including ourselves. Though every time Marc mentions this supposedly good weather, our deck gets pounded by an 8 metre swell, dousing everyone and everything in its path. So the verdict is still out for the count.
Due to the safety hazard, since the bad weather we haven’t been able to throw out a line. Still no fresh fish on the Gaualofa lines since departure from NZ. But with the weather improving we’ve begun to speak in hushed tones of finally throwing it out and trying our luck. What fish we’ve been eating has actually been quite interesting: flying fish. These poor creatures throw themselves on the Gaualofa deck unknowingly (or maybe not?) at night and become the cook-up for the dawn breaking shift. I recommend deep fry with a bit of garlic; the sizes vary from 6 inches up to 10 inches and they’re very plump out here we’re pleased to report. Though it must also be reported since we’ve come closer to French Polynesian waters, we’ve received less and less of these gifts that just seem to find themselves in the frying pan.
On passing the 21°S latitude we were able to spot a few new sets of stars that we rarely see in Samoa: Leo the lion and the Big Dipper. A night or so later on our early morning shift, at 19°S latitude and NNE of the va’a, we spotted 3 planets aligned in a triangle: Venus, Jupiter and Mercury. They were all quite a bright and a beautiful sight.
Salai made topai koko samoa for breakfast two mornings ago. It went very well with the crew, who praised his culinary arts but made a point of his clumsiness - he had accidently cut himself while trying to open the koko samoa packet, quite a minor cut. Of course it lasted until lunch (minus the putas). LoL. Though I don’t know if he’ll be able to be talked into making a koko samoa meal again anytime soon.
We’ve opened our 6th 5kg bucket of Punjas Breakfast Crackers since departure, which was about 22 days ago. That’s a lot but then again we Samoans are quite satisfied with our crackers, ergo the reason why there’s always a dozen boxes/buckets of crackers at every fa’alavelave.
Since the arrival of the sourdough culture, Lole and Marc have been constantly baking bread. And of course Brynne has been steadily baking away in great concern for our sweet tooth. John has done his share by making fruit crumble last night with a side of yoghurt (yes we have a yoghurt maker onboard, it’s a standard va’a issue)!
As we’re reading this, we notice that we’ve written almost entirely about food. We’d like to remind everyone we like to talk about food on our shift!
And on this note, soifua lava.
E fia momoli atu le faafetai lava I le tapuaiga ale atunu’u ao feagai ai alo ma fanau a le atunu’u i folauga I luga o le vasa.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Eighteen days into the wind: the waves roll high and crash onto our deck; they violently slap our hull at night and cause our small but proud va’a to pitch, sway and bounce along, as we slowly scratch our zig-zagged path into the surface of this immense blue that surrounds us. At times, below deck, it feels like sleeping in a tin can which is rolling down a bumpy, rocky mountainside. Our skipper, Marc, remarks that this has been his longest ever sea-journey with a constant headwind; and it has been long and it has been hard
Aboard the Gaualofa we have many daily practices, most of which (steering the foe, bailing water, tidying ropes, swabbing the deck) are in place for the safety and wellbeing of our crew and va’a. One daily practice, however, is a little different: Marc had stipulated before our journey began that each day before dinner one crew member would share a written story, which would be logged in the Gaualofa Story Book. Two stormy nights ago it fell upon Marc himself to fulfil this ritual, and here, I will make a humble attempt to relay the gist of his eloquent words.
As we sail into these relentless headwinds on our journey of cultural and spiritual rediscovery, we can each be reminded of our individual journey through life, as we brave the waves of social norms and the ever-present, ever-growing winds of consumerist conformity. The question we ask ourselves when facing these forces is, do we simply go with the flow, passively travelling to wherever these man-made forces should carry us; or should we strive against odds to find our own way in spite of these oft-overpowering pressures, taking responsibility for the course that we each should set, and leaving only good things for the future in our wake?
Aboard the Gaualofa, the crew had all made this decision before signing up. As we battle forth into this Easterly wind, we each also guide our personal va’a against the flow of material consumption, of modern enviro-unfriendliness, and of the divisive political tendencies of our time. Upon Gaualofa, we are powered by the wind, yet we travel against its flow. Upon Gaualofa, we receive power from modern solar panels, yet guide our va’a by the practices of our ancient forefathers. We are empowered by our ancestors, and we are supported by our people, and we travel with all of them to a better future for all of us.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Talofa Lava Samoa,
Today starts off as any other day on Gaualofa, gearing up for your shift in small tight quarters, while constantly being knocked around by the waves, making sure your watch is awake and ready to face what the South Pacific is going to through your way. During the change of shift, our only instructions were to sail north though go as high up to the wind as possible without slowing the va’a down. After Monday night’s debacle at the end of our shift - we drifted down wind from the rest of the fleet, leaving the next shift to make up for our mistake - we were eager to reaffirm ourselves in front of the crew that it was only a one time slip. There’s no room for error when we’re on the foe. Not only do we lose ground but also time in making up for the lost ground. So as we’re subtly told by Cap, ‘Don’t do it at all.’ So we make sure we don’t. After our turns on the foe, we have something to eat and then return below deck to have a little rest for the next shift.
Due to rough seas, some of our meals have been ‘ready-made boil in the bag’ which has its advantages - no dishes to wash. It’s a big deal when you’re trying to keep dry. We finished our cans of Manaia pisupo which was part of the donation from Ah Mau Wholesaler a couple of weeks ago. Faafetai tele lava - it has seen us through some dire times. Back in March when we arrived in New Zealand waters we still had some of the vegetables (donated from the Chinese organic plantation), which we weren’t allowed to bring into NZ as they were perishable. We had a big cook up of those!
We’re so blessed in receiving these gifts from our many sponsors, local companies, friends and aiga. Faafetai faafetai tele lava.
The breaking seas and strong winds have not diminished the jokes we play on each other and the constant laughter. We’d like to let our families and friends know that we’re well and fit.
Faafetai lava mo le tapuaiga ma talosaga.
Taleni, Salai, Faapau ma Fealofani ma the crew.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
We are trapped in a big high pressure system, the only way out is to sail north, while trying to do some easting. We have 600 miles to go against the Easterlies to get out of it. 4 to 5 days; less if we are lucky. No big danger, just absolutely not comfortable and hard for my nerves. At least with high pressure systems the wind is dry and we can still see stars.
We receive lots of spray from the bow - it dries quickly and leaves a salty crust on our faces. With our hands getting thicker we are all turning into real sailors.
We still manage to have really nice food. Lole and Brynne are cooking and sometimes I prepare a meal to give them a rest. The ambience on board is positive.We are all thinking of the warm and calm waters a couple of days north of us.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Two weeks... For two weeks the crew of Gaualofa have been at sea. Two weeks without a fresh water shower. Two weeks without television or radio. Two weeks without cell phones or email. Two weeks without more than five hours of sleep in a row. Two weeks without much of the comforts of life on land, and yet in these two weeks without, there is not one thing I can find missing aboard Gaualofa or for want amongst her dedicated crew.
Without the distractions of daily life on land to which we all have become accustomed, we find fulfilment in different ways. There is a certain comfort found in the discomfort and restriction of life at sea. While the daily tasks on a voyaging canoe are multitudinous and continual, they all serve a common purpose and goal: to ensure the safety and security of the va’a and her crew, and to direct our canoe steadfastly through the waters.
With no cinema to attend, no faalavelave to consume our days, and no parties to take us until the early dawn, we seek entertainment not through the external, but from the internal; from one another and the activity on board. When not on shift or working on the va’a, conversation and song permeate our days. We have had very little luck fishing thus far, so the never ending hunt for the unlucky few flying fish which end up on our deck provide another source of amusement (and the occasional snack).
As I write this, sheltered in our canoe’s small galley, my watch team trying to entice a red tailed tropic bird to join us on the deck. Koleni must have quite a tempting call as this bird hovers just feet from his head. Senio attempts to lure our feathered friend further with offerings of yesterday’s sourdough bread. In the end, it is the bird who has the last laugh, leaving a lovely parting gift splashed across our deck and sails (bird leaves droppings are good luck right?).
While we have encountered several showers and winds, and the sheer latitude of our canoe has made for cold days and nights, we have been blessed to have quite smooth sailing thus far. Offering a welcome return to the sea, such conditions have served to reinforce our unity as a crew, and have provided a little refresher to life out in the blue. Today, however, will mark the beginning of rougher conditions that will crescendo for the next 5 or 6 days. Trying to make our way through a substantial high pressure system, we will do our best to continue to go East. The winds however have not cooperated, and with the forecast build in the wind, we are being pushed further North than desired.
For now though, we will enjoy another decent afternoon at sea. Lunch is close to being served and someone is back on the ukulele. It is my turn to take the foe, and help direct the va’a in the right direction, trying to head as close into the wind in order to keep a heading as close to East as possible (fingers crossed). Must jet - I’m already a couple of minutes late.
All is well on Gaulofa. The crew sends our love to all of our family and friends back home and around the world.