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.