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.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Loimata o le Alofa (Tears of Love)

Position: S 20*47.776’ W 163*23.004’

Last year we celebrated with great joy and jubilation as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Unbeknown to us, on the bridge, there stood a woman, whose tears fell silently as she watched Gaualofa sail beneath her. You might ask who was this woman, and why the tears. Were they because she saw a dream sail into a reality? Was it because of the joy she felt as a Samoan? Was it because of the thoughts of loved ones back in Samoa rekindled and brought to mind by the very sight of Gaualofa sailing beneath her? Or was it because of the young lives on board of Gaualofa, who by their own adventurous spirit have taken a piece of Samoa to say “O a’u o le Samoa - I am a Samoan”? There were many reasons for the tears that fell on the Golden Gate Bridge that day, but, by recalling a conversation that took place 30 years ago, this caused the first tears to flow. Auntie Sose, as she became affectionately known to the crew, was the woman who was standing on the bridge. As Sose Papaali’i put it, the tears were “Loimata o le alofa”. 

Recounting the conversation that took place 30 years ago was hard because “Tui”, she said, “is no longer here.” Tui is remembered with love and great respect throughout Samoa. Tui is the late wife of Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale; Joe is our voyaging president. One day, as Auntie Sose went on to tell her story, she got a phone call from Tui. Tui was so excited, and as the conversation went on, Tui said “we are going to build an alia, a double hulled canoe, and we are going to sail it to San Francisco”. Auntie Sose remembers her response, “uh, ok, I’ll be here, see you when you get here.” 30 years later, Gaualofa is sailing beneath her through the Golden Gate Bridge. Tui was sadly taken by the tsunami that hit Samoa in November of 2009 and that same year Gaualofa was launched in December. There was a great elation of emotion running through her mind, Auntie Sose said. Upon seeing Gaualofa sail beneath her, she could hear Tui say, “Auntie I am here” and so began the tears, loimata o le alofa.

The hopes and dreams of Joe and Tui Annandale came alive when Gaualofa sailed to San Francisco that year. And even though it took 30 years, Auntie Sose said, it was like I was talking with Tui yesterday when she saw Gaualofa sail by. Gaualofa has become in her own right a symbol of hope for those who dare to dream and believe for so long, even against adversity. Gaualofa has also become a symbol of strength and courage. Of his late wife Tui, Joe said “if it were not for her, I would not have attempted half the things I have done in life”. Tears fall for many reasons and for the silent tears that fell from the Golden Gate Bridge, they are silent no more for Auntie Sose, Gaualofa sailed by as if to say “I am here”. 

Upon reflection, this has been an amazing story of hope and courage and the strength to persevere and the faith to believe. And on that note, I want to express my deepest gratitude of sincere thanks to all our Samoan communities who have given so much to Gaualofa and her crew. Thank you for helping to make our dreams come true and giving us a sense of pride and achievement in our endeavours. We are now sailing towards Samoa, along with six other canoes in time to celebrate our 50th year of Independence from New Zealand. When we left Samoa, almost a year and a half ago, it was not in our sail plan to come back at this time. But, how amazing it is to be going back to Samoa as a fleet with seven canoes from the Pacific to celebrate our independence. We look forward to joining everyone in the celebrations.

Tofa Soifua,
John Misky

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