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.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Galapagos Islands: A Pacific Voyager's perspective.

Where do I start. This is my immediate thought as we are sailing away from one of the most interesting set of Islands I have ever been to. Sailing back now into our home ocean, our part of the Pacific. Homeward bound. It’s a nice feeling, and one filled with reflections that only seem to come while back out on the water. I sit here in the stifling heat of our small galley getting some respite from the tropical midday sun, with little wind and shade around, and wonder where do I start in trying to explain some of the wonderful amazing things we saw, experienced and lived for the past 10 days in the Galapagos Islands. These are hard thoughts to articulate especially when the heat here seems to engulf you. Despite this I am sure of one thing - time flew by too quickly. There definitely wasn’t enough of it for us, with sail plan times restricting us to visit 2 of the 13 Galapagos Islands. The main Island of Santa Cruz and the largest seahorse shaped Island of Isabela.

Our first days in sighting the Galapagos captivated us. Literally. The first island we encountered did not seem to want to let us go. For over 2 days, winds and currents around the Island of Marchena toyed with us edging us close to its dark rocky lava field-filled shores. Over these 2 days the power supply from our solar panels were running dangerously low. At times we were going backwards in the 2 knot currents. Before times could get dire - and so that we were not late in getting to the main port of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island - we were forced to get a tow from our support vessel the Evohe. The Evohe came late one afternoon and towed us as well as the Maori Vaka, Te Matau A Maui, which was also in the same predicament as us, to Santa Cruz. Better to be towed than spend the next couple of days battling to get loose of the grip of Marchena island. After a 10 hour tow, and a hilarious ceremonial equator line stop for a quick baptism, we arrived with the others into Santa Cruz Island. The port town was about to be invaded by 96 pacific voyagers.

Santa Cruz Island was lush. It was volcanic, it was classic Galapagos. The harbour itself was framed by its highland volcano with a large collection of yachties scattered in the bay, serviced by an efficient system of cheap water taxis. This helped us immensely during our time here as there is no dock or marina. Re-provisioning of our fleet would be made a little easier in this manner.

The islands are the strangest set of islands I have been on. Not fully tropical, or temperate. Just a mix mash of both at times, which has plenty to do with the cold water currents that upwell around the island group. I’m not sure where else on earth you get a mixture of 500 year old cactuses, penguins and sea lions competing with fisherman for space and food at the fish market and on their boats, scaly black marine Iguanas swimming, sunbathing or just walking on the road, very large hissing wild tortoises that seem to have come from prehistoric times, extensive lava tubes and deep sink holes, pelicans, boobies (both blue footed and masked), and of course finches…lots of inquisitive finches. And that was just on Santa Cruz Island. Isla Isabella treated us to darting penguins, pink flamingos and one very large volcanic crater and lava field.
During my time I was also lucky enough to discover the underwater world that the Galapagos is famous for. I swam with sea lions, marine iguanas, rays, inquisitive hammer head sharks, Galapagos sharks, dolphins, a pod of pilot whales, turtles being cleaned in cleaning stations, large schools of bonito tuna and barracudas not to mention the hordes of tropical fish species you typically find in Pacific warm waters. The abundance of life was fantastic and not surprising when you think about the protection afforded the unique archipelago - the same protection that attracts many a wild life tourist.

Ecuador realizes the gem it has and as such the Galapagos Islands are under tight Ecuadorian tourist regulations. You cannot simply sail in and go anywhere you want to dive or snorkel. First you have to come in and register and then go through local tour operators to do most things in the Galapagos. At first glance this may seem very restrictive and over the top, but I like this system of control, as it regulates the total number of tourists visiting sites every day limiting their impact on sensitive areas as well as providing tourists with expert wildlife guides that inform and educate. This is sustainable tourism, and it has to be, especially where you have a pristine protected area that tourists flock to, and where their numbers are increasing by around 6% per year.

Unfortunately for us our time in Galapagos was short. 5 days in Santa Cruz and 3 days in Isabella. But this was enough to give us a taste of what Galapagos is all about. I will be back, and next time with more time.

Fa soifua
Schannel and the Gaualofa crew

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lolesio - 13th March 2012

My day normally starts at the end of dinner, by making sure everything is put back in its rightful home and that the galley is clean for the long night ahead. At the completion of that, I sit and go through the day, what I have left, what I need to do, what I need to use and how was the weather (the weather plays a major part in planning meals for the day ahead). With those four points you get an idea for the first meal of the day: are there any eggs left? do we need bread? Etc. Some days you need to make bread, some days you make hot cakes. Other days you feel like something from home to remind you of your family and what you used to eat, as an example koko laisa, sua fa’i and kopai. Or some days you feel like slow roasted tomatoes, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce on an English muffin and blue berry oaks with a cappuccino (slim milk, decaf). Breakfast is over by 7:30am, tidy and put away…pretty soon lunch rolls around. Because of such a hearty breakfast, lunch is the Pacific Islanders only vegetarian meal. Things like, toasted sandwiches, pastas and soups. To make the pastas and soups more inviting, infusion is the go. What is infusion? It’s mixing cuisines from different neighbouring continents.

To be continued….


Lole a.k.a. Loren

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tempting The Lady

Date: 12th March 2012
Position: about 100nm south of Coco's Island

It was the time of our first watch on the night we left the beautiful Cocos Island, a place I will treasure the memory of for the rest of my life. And as I took the foe (steering paddle) for my turn, a warm breeze was blowing off my left shoulder from the port side. We were sailing by the stars and the moon keeping a course of south to Galapagos as a test of the celestial navigational skills some had learnt and were looking to build on, so had switched off all the electronic gear that normally augments our instinctual Pasifikan guidance systems.

Every now and then the wind would shift to blow more onto my face from the direction of the bow with this breeze being noticeably stronger and cooler. Consequently sliding stars around various points on the va’a became that little bit trickier. Sometimes the Lady Gaualofa would point higher into the wind to better keep our course and we could pick up some boatspeed, but when the warmer wind blew we had to go slightly off course to maintain forward movement, so it became a battle between course and speed as to who could tempt us more.

I imagined back in the day the ancestors probably had a story to immortalise the change in conditions. And that when told as story, it is just that, an entertaining tale of truth and observation destined to become legend, then blurred as myth to easily pass on through the oral traditions handed down to successive generations.

But when told using the magic jawbone of Maui that reveals hidden meaning to the initiated, it becomes something more. A cautionary tale of differing weather fronts interacting to force wind and temperature variations which demand constant attention and intense focus from those charged with steering the canoe.

So thought it might go something like this…

A beautiful Samoan girl from the village of Gaualofa went swimming one evening from the treasure of an island named Cocos. She happily swam quite a distance without realising how far she had drifted then soon realised she was losing track of her bearings and became worried. It was at this time she saw in the distance two fit young men swimming towards her, one approaching from off her left side and one from in front, so it was she hoped they might offer some assistance.

The first boy swam up, told her of his island not too far away and offered her a shell. He said if she held it to her ear she would hear the wonder of the sea as the wind would hastily carry them to his island and beyond. The second boy swam up and offered her a calabash with holes in it that when told to hold a certain way to the wind would sing to her of the beauty of his island just below a bright star low on the horizon.

The first boy then produced a fish of such magnificent colour that he said represented the excitement her travels with him might produce. The second boy produced a coconut of such exquisite taste that he said would provide her with all the sustenance she needed if she travelled with him.

And so it went from gifts to promises of such exuberance that, although the girl took them all, she still couldn’t decide between the affections of the two boys. Instead she became weighted down with the gifts but came to a decision to take the travels of wonder and excitement the first boy promised over the safety and security of the second boy’s offerings.

Yet as they swam together she grew tired with all the gifts in tow and the first boy realising his travels would be compromised now with a partner he would have to wait on, decided to leave her and swam off. Slowly the girl let go of all her gifts and began swimming towards where she thought the other boy’s island might lie and noticed the second boy once again swimming towards her. This time upon their meeting all he offered was safe passage to his island and an eventual return to her own if she desired to pass up on the security he offered as a prospective partner.

She accepted, and as they swam a true course to his island, a bond of love was formed that still exists to this day. Together they made decent time and upon settling there lived a life of peace and satisfaction that produced many offspring and also saw her eventually, and often, travel back to her own island and the many other treasured ones, such as Cocos, which were known to the boy.

The moral of the story would then be…

Sometimes when you settle for less you gain more, which in the context of our voyage means sometimes, though you may be tempted, it is better to sacrifice the promise of excitement and wonder a fast ride on the cool winds can offer for the safety and warmth of holding a true course to your intended destination if it means that you don’t become stranded in no winds on an ocean that promises nothing but the weight of missed opportunities and that maybe if the gods favour you…

It’s never too late to change your mind.

Fa Soifua,
Rob and the Gaualofa crew

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cocos Islands

Expectations are a funny thing. Everyone on board Gaualofa, and I imagine within the Pacific Voyagers fleet, had their own expectations about what Cocos Island would be like, what we expected to see, how long we expected to stay, what we expected to get out of it. All these expectations were surpassed within the first few days of arrival. That was the Magic of Cocos Island.

Cocos Island is part of Costa Rica lying about 280nm southwest of the Costa Rica Coast. Cocos Island or Isla de Coco had its name given by a Frenchman as it appeared to him as the shape of a cocoa bean coming out of the water. To us it appeared as a large dark rock in the middle of the blue ocean in the clear morning sunlight, slightly resembling a kidney. On closer inspection and amongst the fleet it was described like a mini Nuka Hiva in Marquesas or simply as vegetation and rock coming straight out of the sea. However, despite what it was like or what it resembled, it was inviting. Very inviting after 18 days at sea. I think that the wind, sensing this, had finally given us a favour and blew from astern to push us towards it at a steady 7 knots on the morning of March the 3rd. This was a good omen especially given that on the journey thus far the wind had been temperamental at best.

As we came in on that first day I was impressed by the number of Brown and Masked Boobies and Frigate birds we passed while heading into Bahia de Chatham. Impressive still was entering this bay through the narrow channel between the massive sheer rock island called Isla de Manuelita and Cocos, where above these seabirds flew in great numbers. There were obviously good feeding grounds around. And so there should be given that Cocos Island is one of many wild life Sanctuary parks created by the Costa Rican government, where all Marine and terrestrial wildlife are protected - protection that encircles 12nm of the Island. This was an intact Island ecosystem where populations of species were left alone to keep their own checks and balances with the environment without the perturbations of man. Over the next couple of days, the Pacific Voyagers fleet would witness first-hand the evidence of how well nature can do without human interference.

In wanting to write so much to describe a place worthy of its own nature documentary I can only share highlights and vivid memories of what we experienced while there. Even as I write this, it is only now that I am fully reflecting and absorbing the time we had there, because while there, living it and experiencing it, it was hard to have a moment for reflection as there was always something new going on, something new to take in and new people to share it all with. From the diving and the snorkelling in clear waters and through dangerously narrow surf-filled rock cracks to the Umu/hangi (earth oven) and kava ceremony we had with each other and with the park rangers of the island; From the walks inland and upland, to waterfalls and spots with amazing views to lazing on grass and in icy cold fresh water pools; From hanging around the ranger station collecting coconuts, to the va’a hopping and intermingling with other va’a crew members. Everyday Cocos gave us something new to experience. Every day we learned something new about Cocos and each other. I think it was for this reason that it was decided to stay here longer than expected. There was no way we were going to experience and record even a little of what this place had to offer in 2 or 3 days.
Bait ball - Cocos Islands

Cocos will be remembered in my mind analogous with sharks, tuna and bait balls. Sharks were regularly seen everywhere. Every time you would enter the water in fact. Mostly seen were White tips sleeping on the bottom, but also Galapagos, Hammerheads and the occasional Tiger shark. These were all good signs of a healthy ecosystem where top predators were in abundance. And these were not the only predators that I witnessed in abundance. During my time in the water - and I think I spent more time in the water than on land or on the va’a - I snorkelled with feeding schools of Yellowfin Tuna, as well as with very large schools of marauding Bonito Tuna and Trevally. I saw the occasional unhindered spiny lobsters running along open sand, I saw spotted eagle rays vacuuming sandy bottoms, as well as a wide variety of different kinds of tropical fish species that are common in these locales. Fish seemed to thrive; Habitat was healthy.

On the second day in Cocos a few of us were lucky enough to snorkel with a feeding force of nature. After finishing a dive off the Isla de Manuelita we spotted seabirds working a frenzy above what looked like boiling water, an indicative sign of a school of bait fish being pushed and trapped at the surface in a ball, by much larger circling predators. While dumping dive gear on our tender and snorkelling towards this excitement, the consistent and methodical clicking sounds of common dolphins were encompassing us. This, coupled with the extremely curious behaviour of some Galapagos and White tip sharks and Yellowfin Tuna coming in very close to check us out, while swimming through small bits of flesh and scales was an invigorating and scary experience. Being alone in open water with large predators such as these, and watching hunting tuna and sharks for the first time, first hand is not something you will forget quickly.

As if that wasn’t enough, this experience was then picked up a level. In returning to the mooring off the sheer rock face island of Manuelita, the bait ball had re-emerged. This time we were literally on top of it. A school of around a thousand bait fish were herded and circled by some Dolphins, Galapagos sharks, White Tip sharks, and many Yellowfin Tuna. The ball of prey moved like it was alive, like a lava lamp of motion blobbing in and out but keeping mostly spherical as sharks and tuna took turns punching through it, taking lunging gulps within, and creating swirls of open sea amongst the tightly huddled fish in their wake. I was nearly hit by the largest yellow fin I have ever seen (dead or alive) as it came roaring out of the ball. So close it was that I felt its force of water movement as it rushed past, while eye balling me as if to say “What are you doing here?” Beautiful. This ball at times would veer close to us voyeurs, trying to encapsulate us within it. At the beginning, the prospect of being within the ball was furthest from our minds. Shark food, no thank you, but as the sharks and tuna seemed to get their fill and started to hang back, us witnesses grew in confidence and we started to look for the experience that the sharks and tuna would have, punching through the bait ball. I took a breath, went down, circled the ball for a bit, and then punched through. The fish opening up and enveloping me like a cloud. Scary, brilliant and thrilling as I pushed thoughts of meeting Mr Galapagos or Ms Yellowfin in there, to the back of my mind. This whole experience, one where all your senses are heightened through a mixture of fear and inquisitiveness, will be one I will cherish for the rest of my life.

That was the magic of Cocos Island. As days went on, more diving, snorkelling and walking ensued. More experiences were had, more Pacific voyagers learned about Cocos and marine life protection. The park rangers liked our presence, we think, although at times I’m sure having around 90 people on 6 canoes all doing different things would not have been easy to keep tabs on and be responsible for while in the park. We learned about their daily fight to keep poachers out, the daily patrols, the shed of confiscated fishing gear (they even had an elaborate 25m bridge made solely of confiscated and discarded fishing gear) their educating the large number of dive tourists and boaties that visit Cocos each week. Cocos was a part of them and they were a part of it.

After a week in this haven of fresh water and greenery it was time to collect what coconuts we could, fill our water tanks with sweet fresh water and depart for the high seas again. Next stop Galapagos Islands, one of the most famous of protected areas in the world and inspiration to Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. The sail there will take approximately 4 days - just enough time to digest Cocos Island and re-asses our expectations for this new set of Islands that await, given our experience here.

This blog is dedicated to the rangers of Cocos Island and of all protected areas around the world. Your contributions and dedication is helping us save nature and its vital contributions to human society.

Schannel and the Gaualofa Crew.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nick Henry - 8th March 2012

Talofa, e Kia Orana to tatou iti Tangata o te kuki airani, e kia orana i te kopu Tangata o te Pacific Voyagers.

As this is my first blog for 2012, to our followers, especially in Samoa, please allow me to introduce myself, my name is Nicholas Henry, my family is from Aitutaki and Rarotonga Cook Islands. I sailed on Te Au O Tonga in 2008 to the South Pacific Festival of Arts in Tutuila. It was this voyage that was the catalyst for the building of the 7 Vaka Moana of the Pacific Voyagers. The very 7 that will sail into Apia harbour to celebrate the 50th year of Samoa Independence and complete the circle when we arrive in Honiara for the Arts Festival 2012 in July.

As Captain of Gaualofa, before I proceed I must pay tribute to past captains Marc & Jeff, in particular Marc Gondard who has trained the Samoa va’a crew to the highest standard and made my task, almost effortless. Meitaki atupaka Marc.

So here we are adrift on the Pacific (just north of the equator) some 300 miles off Galapagos, the wind has died, the ocean is calm and the ukuleles are strumming under the light of the moon. “Uncle Charlie” is on the fo’e. Taleni, Faapau, John are on strings, Sala is on spoons, they are singing songs from Samoa. This is voyaging in the Pacific, Samoa style.

To the people of Samoa I extend my humblest thanks for this opportunity to Captain your va’a, many wonderful things have happened to me on this voyage, but this is (in Jayde’s words) one of the bestest. We all sail for many reasons, to see the world, for adventure, to conquer fears, to rediscover cultural ties, to heal, some even to escape life at home and for many of us to spread a message of love for our ocean. Te moana nui o kiwa (hiva, kiva), the Pacific Ocean I am told by the experts is at risk. Serious risk...really, something this large is that fragile, it’s kind of hard to believe, especially when we experience her ferocity?

What do I know? Today (as yesterday and the day before, and even the day before that) we had turtles drift past Gaualofa, raising their lazy heads before plunging below. We had dolphins riding our bow waves. Today we had a 60kg yellowfin tuna dive out of the water right next to us, we had a red footed booby (seabird) land on the bowsprit and leave his “mark”, we had petrels swoop alongside us chasing the small surface fish, on the horizon there were flocks of birds working the fish and the ocean “boiling” in whitewash with skipjacks. This is what I have seen but it is a rare beauty that sadly only a very small percentage of the 7 billion of us will get to experience.

But, can you imagine what she(the Pacific) was like before longliners and purse seiners, before the mother ships, before bycatch, before man licensed our grandchildren’s heritage to a foreign appetite. I struggle to imagine pods of whales numbering in the thousands, now they are in the 10’s or 20’s, can you imagine what that must have been like to cross the Pacific 100 years ago. I sit and wonder.

Will whales and dolphins be a “stuffed” sight in our museums, or a limited few in Zoos and aquatic parks.

Let us learn from our past, each and every one of us can make a difference no matter how small your action is, it all adds up. You know what to do. We all do. We hear it and see it every day... reduce, reuse, recycle, we just need to act, today. Not taking that plastic bag at the store on your next visit actually matters to the little turtle who swam by us with a lesser risk of swallowing that bag.

It matters.

Faafetai lava,

Nick Henry.

Friday, March 2, 2012

2 March 2012

In 1989 the Hokule’a sailed to American Samoa. I was one of the paddlers that escorted them into the harbour. It was amazing to see these guys, they looked like warriors of the sea. I wanted to be part of that crew as soon as I saw them. Hearing their stories about their voyage and of navigating with the stars, I thought how can I do something like that which must be so fun…I wanted to sail so bad with the Hokule’a. I read about my people, tagata folau o le vasa. I read stories about these va’as in the days of the va’atele and so on, but still I wanted to see it for myself.

Thirty odd years later here I am, not on the Hokule’a, but my own Gaualofa, which makes it much more fun. Sailing with your own people, speaking the same language, singing the same song and sharing stories about our Samoan people when they sailed from island to island ages ago gives me great pride. My dream came true. It’s amazing how beautiful it is at night to sail with the stars and the moon. Some of the guys in the core crew have been teaching us to sail with the stars. Our Captain is always concerned about how much we know about the va’as safety and our own sailing experience, which I love so much. I thank God for this opportunity to see and learn about the ocean and also our people from the past.

Ia Manuia le Tapuiga Samoa,
Charlie Uhrle

Thursday, March 1, 2012

28 February 2012

North 8 degrees, West 93 degrees

The crest of a silvered moon hung delicately, like a pendulum hung below the blowing orbs of Venus and Jupiter. The new moon casting faint light upon our deck as we made our way through the ever increasing swells. This night was glorious.

To our left, mysterious flashes of light leapt from below the ocean’s surface. Muted slightly by the small column of water above, the effect of the glowing sparks was nevertheless enchanting. What could these flashes be? A disco party beneath the waves? A glowing squid tracking us through the water? Neptune’s glowing orb? The unmistakable blow sounded, and the flashing figures in the water, glowing shadows of sorts darting beneath our hulls became, in that instant, unmistakable. We had a pod of dolphins playing in the wake of Gaualofa’s sleek hulls. Their sleek bodies clashing long enough with the bioluminescence suspended in the water to create an incredible light show for the few lucky eyes there to witness.

It is no wonder that our ancestors, Polynesian, European, Aboriginal or the like, looked upon the ocean with such awe. While we now have a scientific explanation for many of the wonders which this vast blue expanse holds, (such as witnessed on this night) I still pear into the depths, mind racing with fantasy and myth. The ocean is nothing less than epic, putting the biggest budget Hollywood films, or most classic Greek tragedies to shame with the simple crest of a wave, the flash of a fluke of an elegant giant, or the (re)discovery of some of the most enticing and mysterious animals found on this blue planet.

We now know that the gifts in the waters, once thought infinite and inexhaustible, are not. We now know that this epic blue, still full of mystery and enchantment cannot handle all that we as humans, through ever increasing greed and consumption, seem to insist on throwing her way. We now know that no matter how far we live from the ocean’s edge, our lives our entwined with her, our behaviours and actions affecting her, and hers us. So, we now know that we must look after her, with the respect that such an awesome power, so full of life, and so life dependant deserves.

No longer is “out of sight, out of mind” justifiable. The patches of trash gathered en mass by the winds and the tides may be out of sight for now, but their effects cannot stay out of our mind for long. Plastics potential damage to fish stocks, mammal life, plankton (which at the base of the ocean’s food chain has such broad reaching effects that it will become impossible for us not to “see” such consequences) and we’ll find these consequences again in the decayed carcasses of sea birds, whose stomach contents, now visible, are confettied with bright, unmistakably synthetic, man-made colour.

This artificial colour flecking the waters juxtaposed to the fading colour of coral reefs the world over, dimmed in life and brilliance as the after effects of industrialization and mass consumption, CO2, wreak havoc on the delicate balance found in our earth’s waters. The acid level rising, as the blue waters (and the organisms within) attempt to handle the ever-increasing load of CO2 we demand the ocean process. From the microscopic to the mega, such effects cannot be isolated.
Again, however, we must be reminded that it is not too late. We have been assured by many renowned ocean scientists that there is reason for hope. The knowledge we now hold, of the delicate and finite nature of the world’s oceans, is reason to respect this ocean more; this knowledge is empowering. We must simply adjust our behaviour to the knowledge we now hold. No longer is ignorance an exemption from abhorrent behaviour. The ocean may continue to hold mysteries and be surrounded by oft-deserved myth, but some facts are as simple as black and white and with many mysteries unravelled, we are left without excuse.

As we continue to fight into the heavy winds, surrounded by an increasing swell of water topped by streaks of white running through, we sail. We sail and we fight- for ourselves, for our cultures, for our values, and for our ocean.

All the best from Gaualofa,
Brynne Eaton Auva'a