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.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Remembering those we met on the journey

Good morning from roughly 435nm East of Tuvalu. 

Today is day 15 on the ocean, 3 days longer than first anticipated. Such is the case with voyaging. I have to say, I kinda prefer how our ancestors did it … sail ‘til you see land or run out of stuff to eat. None of this ETA and sailplan stuff. It takes the anticipation out of the equation.

Last night was a quiet night on Gaualofa, after a squally Friday night. Looking at our sail path over the last 48 hours, I noticed a couple of loop-de-loops on the screen – the first being from Friday night when the squalls won 3-1 over our shift’s attempts at tacking (our lone point comes from collecting a little over 50 litres of rainwater, a hard-won bonus). The second loop happened yesterday afternoon when we took the opportunity to re-patch a sail while the winds were light. Andrew and I took turns at sewing the relatively long tear, and I have to admit that Andrew’s stitches were much neater than mine. The only person who would be more horrified than my Form 2 Home Economics teacher at the state of my sewing skills, would be my mum (when we were growing up she could sew a dress perfectly, blindfolded). In any case we slapped on a length of sail tape over the sewed up bits. You know, just to be safe.

Like I said, last night was pretty quiet on board, with most people disappearing below deck after dinner. I guess the wind got taken out of our sails, both literally and figuratively. Nick, our fearless leader, posted up daily Easting targets on the whiteboard, putting our arrival to Tuvalu at this coming Friday (hopefully, with fingers crossed, and a multitude of prayers muttered into the wind). So, it’s understandable that people would need a little time to recharge and adjust to the new ETA. Sure, Gaualofa has done longer stints at sea, but it might have something to do with being homeward bound and the painfully slow progress we’ve made up to this point.

To other news, story time continues to be a daily hit. Since Jordan‘s post, we’ve had French language lessons, a couple of singalongs, a fitness demonstration (Kalolo’s attempt at getting the crew involved in more physical activity), and a fair bit of sharing. The other day, we turned our minds and memories to the people that have touched our lives at the various stops we’ve made - strangers who have opened up their homes to this ragtag bunch of voyagers. We’ll always be grateful to the people that made this voyage possible – Dieter and Hanna Paulmann, their hardworking logistics team, the Voyaging Societies, and many, many more. But, there are also those people who, at every stop we’ve made, have made each port feel that much more like home by their kindness and generosity. We each shared memories of total strangers who had, by their actions, forever earned a place in our individual voyaging stories. And, there were so many. There are so many. People that we can’t always put a name to, but can picture in our minds, with sincere gratitude.

A hearty handshake,
a welcome embrace,
a hot shower,
a place to sleep,
the chance to kick back amongst homey surroundings.
A meal here,
a drink or two there,
a token gift to remember a person and place by.

Strangers who have become friends,
friends who have grown into family.
Eager listeners who soak up our so-called adventures,
curious and in awe of our day-to-day lives on the va’a.
People who dream of what we do.
People who accept us as something we often lose sight of – voyagers from afar.
People who, through their kindness and generosity, have given us a place to call home so far away from our own.
People to whom we are most thankful.
Fa’afetai, fa’afetai tele lava.

Collectively, we can only hope to one day return the kindness that has been shown to us, if not pay it forward.

And with that, breakfast beckons. Lole has baked some delicious smelling bread to go with coffee, perfect for the drizzle and overcast weather that seems to be the order of the day. 

Wishing you all a peaceful Sunday, and an awesome week ahead at work and school.

Much love from somewhere along 7 degrees South and 171 degrees East.
Anama Solofa & the Gaualofa crew.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Family - on board and at home

Aiga folau a Samoa.  My current family here on board Gaualofa.  As the days draw on, I can feel us all growing closer and closer just like our canoe inches closer to Tuvalu.  Every day for the past couple of days we have been having story time just before we eat dinner.  We each take turns telling stories, giving demonstrations, and teaching one another a little more about ourselves.  We have laughed, cried, argued, been scolded, and grown just like any other family.  We have heard triumphant stories of survival in horrid situations, learned how to make toffee, give foot massages, and today I taught the crew how to start dreadlocks by giving Taleni one!  I am learning more Samoan everyday and learning more about where my mother’s family comes from.  

We passed the half way point to Tuvalu recently and are praying for more wind to blow us in the right direction to get to Tuvalu in a timely manner.  We are currently creeping along going about 2-3kts and with the wind sometimes straight from the east, we have to tack north and south struggling to keep us going somewhat in the right direction.  The refreshing squalls come in everyone once in a while giving Gaualofa and her crew a nice fresh water rinse and replenishing our water supplies.

It’s a beautiful clear night tonight, with the moon and stars shining down on us.  There is a nice breeze coming in, and the boys are playing their ukuleles and guitars and singing songs from back home.  I think it’s time I get off the computer and join them.  I just want to send my love to all my aiga ma uo back home in the South Bay of LA and in Arizona.  

Miss you all, talk to you guys soon!
Blessing from somewhere in the south Pacific,
Jordan Suyeto and the Gaualofa Crew

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gaualofa - Tacking her way to Tuvalu

It's been seven days now since we left the Solomon Islands, and for most of that time we have been fighting very strong sea and wind conditions; not to mention having been constantly wet from the squalls and the waves that have been breaking over the va'a. At night, it is so dark in these conditions and the wind so strong, that the wind-driven rain is hurting when it hits you in the face. Up till now, we are still fighting upwind, tacking our way to Tuvalu.

In the last two days the winds have eased off, bringing Gaualofa to a crawling speed of just 2.5 knots. Slow as it is, it's given us time to recover and regain our strength, and enjoy a much needed rest.

Late yesterday evening, to lift our spirits, I landed a massive yellowfin tuna. It was a good fight on the hand line; everyone crowded to see what was on the end of the line, and when it was landed there was a great shout of "cheeeehoooo!". It weighted 60 plus kilos cheeeehoooo! We had a feast - a tuna feast. You name it, we had it: curried tuna, sashimi, oka, poke, fried fish, flaked tuna with onion and mayo on crackers - all washed down with a nice ice-cold Vailima....... now there's a thought for when we arrive in Samoa! It's strange how a cup of coffee can taste out here. As always, it was amazing as to how Lole, our cook, made that tuna taste different in so many ways.

With still 667 nautical miles to go, tacking our way to Tuvalu, we are asking you to keep us in your prayers for a favourable wind as we on Gaualofa endeavour to make Samoa proud.

Tofa soifua,

John Misky & the Gaualofa crew.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Knots, sunrises and fish!

We’ve been a little light on blog entries of late. I put it down to post-Festival of Pacific Arts exhaustion. But things are well on their way to getting back to normal on Gaualofa. A few of us left Honiara with sniffles and slight ‘flu, most of which have cleared thanks to Lole’s intuitive cooking of soups and belly-warming stews. The sometimes squally weather we’ve encountered so far ain’t got nothin’ on Lole’s ability to keep the crew well-fed and heart healthy. So far this leg, we’ve covered roughly 360 nautical miles since leaving Point Cruz Yacht Club on Saturday. At this rate, we hope to arrive in Funafuti before the end of next week.

Sailing has sometimes been changeable, almost as frequent as the change of watch crews. On the first night out, John’s watch weathered a storm that caused a slight tear in one of our sails. By the time our watch came up, all was calm on deck. But then again, we’ve had our fair share of squalls and rain showers that the next watch happily avoid. Such is life on the watch merry-go-round. Yesterday afternoon, with the sails set just so and the winds holding steady, we were able to tie down the foe and enjoy auto-foe for the rest of the day. A productive afternoon in the sun saw pretty much the whole crew on deck practicing knots. Kim and I are being put through Kalolo’s school of hard knots after our skills were found to be a little, shall we say, untidy. Our bowline exam was set for yesterday, but I think there may be a few resits, what with Kalolo relishing his role as school teacher/taskmaster (maybe a little too much?).

As I write this entry, dawn is breaking on the horizon. The 3-6am shift is, I find, the hardest and the best shift – hard because it’s the second shift our watch crew has done in one night, but best because we get to see the transition from pitch black night to the start of another day on the ocean. Kalolo has just set our fishing lines for the first time since setting out for Tuvalu. Here’s hoping we catch some fish soon, I’ve got a craving for sashimi. We’ve had a few flying fish land on the deck the past couple of nights, but their small sizes meant they were returned unharmed to the sea … if somewhat regretfully by the boys. Another flying fish has just been discovered near the bow, a decent sized one this time, but again discarded because it seems to have lain undiscovered overnight. Oh well, the oka-cravers will just have to wait a little longer.

I wonder how the other vakas are doing. It’s been a little over a week since we said our goodbyes on Ranadi Beach in Honiara and we hear they’ve had a rough time of it so far. I hope the winds and weather are kinder to them as they set out for their respective destinations. While still in Honiara someone said to me ‘in a few weeks this will all be a dream’. Thinking back, the last two weeks in Honiara alone were like an activity-filled, multi-cultural, technicolour dream. I’ve been on Gaualofa going on 6 weeks now and have collected so many awesome memories already … and we’ve still got Tuvalu and Tokelau to go!

Well, that’s it from us this Friday. Lole has started on breakfast, my favourite meal of the day, so I’m off to wash up and see if I can get some bowline practice in before Kalolo remembers that Kim bore the brunt of much of his ‘lecturing’ yesterday, and decides that today is to be my turn.

Manuia lava feau ole aso.
Alofaaga mai le auvaa ole Gaualofa.
Anama Solofa

Looks like the crew got what they were hoping for :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

11th Festival of the Pacific Arts Closing Ceremony

What a spectacular cultural feast we experienced with the closing of the 11th Pacific Arts FWhat a spectacular cultural feast we experienced with the closing of the 11th Pacific Arts Festival in Honiara. Our va'a Gaualofa having said our farewells to the rest of the fleet 2 days earlier had stayed to be part of the closing ceremony. Starting with a street march to the stadium, each country one behind the other lead by their national flag bearer sang, danced, waved along the way. I think also a lot of us were in awe as the crowd along the street sides really started to build up in numbers and enthusiasm. 

Arriving just outside the stadium awaiting our call we were met by the many varied peoples of the Solomons from their different islands and provinces. All in traditional dress lining our path into the stadium. Behind them hundreds of people, cheering and waving. Smiles and laughter everywhere. Then we heard our call."Introducing Samoa". The crowd was electrifying. Thousands of people everywhere. All around the hills were thick with people. It was loud. The big hollow drums, a familiar sound around the pacific, were beating loudly from different areas of the arena. To the dance music of the bamboo pipe bands of the Solomons to the noise of the cheering crowd. 

To walk in to this packed stadium as part of our motherland contingent representing Gaualofa and her sister vakas was an honour and privilege to be long remembered. On the hill was a large coordinated group of people who would show above their heads different placards which when viewed together from afar would be a huge national flag of the country walking past. Which would create a response from the country to the crowd in the hills. Dance or haka the crowd would just go wild. We gathered in the centre of the stadium as the speeches and presentation of gifts were delivered. 

Gathered as we were country by country I could not help but notice the varied tribes of the Solomon Islands. Here they were standing shoulder to shoulder celebrating this event. Celebrating themselves. Not so long ago this would not have been the case. It was said 200,000 people attended or were involved with the Pacific arts festival. And when it came to the finale it almost felt like a good portion of them were here. Costumed birds, alligators, fish, giant people covered in grass, people fully painted blue, yellow, orange, green with flags. As well as the different tribes of the Solomons and with their uniqueness all dancing in time to the drums and the sounds of the bamboo sounds of the Solomons. The crowd did not stop cheering. Then the fireworks, what a show, there were so many that it felt as if we were in it. A great show and a high bar set for Guam 2016 to follow. I think it was great to see the high involvement of the children in all that I had seen. They gave a great performance and a valuable lesson for them in front of their world.

Many Thanks Solomon Islands for the 11th Pacific arts festival. See you in Guam 2016! 

Andrew Banse

Pictures from the Festival of Pacific Arts

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reconnecting with family

As Gaualofa sailed through the Solomon Islands towards Honiara we passed Malaita, the island my Papa Sale came from.  All the stories my mom told me about Papa went rushing through my mind and I could picture him sitting there on his rocking chair in our family home in Samoa as he did his best to pile all his grandchildren on his lap.

My mom Helen was one of the youngest. As a child I always wanted my mom to describe Papa Sale. She said he had copper skin and reddish brown hair with a big friendly smile. About 10 years ago we found a photo of Papa in an old family album. My mom and her sisters made copies to frame and place in their respective homes.  We could only dream of the day that this very photo would help us trace our family in the Solomon Islands.

With myself on board the Gaualofa heading towards Honiara and my parents and sister flying in from Samoa for the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts, destiny was lining us up for a family reunion of the century.

It was an easygoing morning in the floral arranging booth at the festival village when my mom started chatting with some of the volunteers about her grandfather from Malaita. This is something we often spoke to people about upon arriving in Honiara, but this time the volunteers insisted on making an announcement on the main stage in hopes of connecting our family. Shortly after hearing the announcement, a young lady from Malaita named Selena who was working for the Tahitian delegation called her parents to inform them that the granddaughter of Sale Gwaliasi was here from Samoa looking for her family. Amazed and stunned by the news, Selena’s parents and other members of their family-our family, came to meet my mom.  With Papa’s photo in hand, my mom met several cousins who resembled many of my aunties and uncles in Samoa and New Zealand.  

I was working on Gaualofa at the Point Cruz Yacht Club when I heard the news and I was overcome with joy. My mom’s cousin Samson was organizing a big family dinner and soon I would have a chance to meet my Solomon family too.

Uncle Samson picked us up and drove us to our family home in Lau Valley where many of the Malaita population in Honiara live. Lau is the name of the region on the Northeast coast of Malaita where my tribe comes from. When we arrived at our family home, cousins, aunts, and uncles were there to greet us and I was so thankful to see them. It was a moment in time that felt like a dream. Being with our family from Malaita felt surreal and at the same time it all seemed to make sense, like a piece of a large puzzle that fit perfectly.

My great grandfather Sale Gwaliasi came to Samoa in the early 1900’s and about a century later we have come full circle, reconnecting with our family from Malaita. My heart is filled with gratitude and I will never forget this reunion.

Tofa Soifua,

Monday, July 2, 2012

Navigating to the Solomons

The winds have been really shifty the past couple of days, ever since we sighted San Cristobal, one of the bigger islands in a group of many southeast of Guadalcanal where Honiara is positioned. It has been a chase for wind at times and buckling down on our sails when we are gifted with strong gusts inside squalls, we can’t complain either for the for the fresh water showers. All in all it felt like we were racing along from Vanuatu to hit the hand break all of a sudden when we hit land, but whose complaining???

Without sounding too up ourselves, I must give our crew a pat on the back for the fantastic steering throughout the voyage to Solomon Islands that saw Gaualofa slowly make her way from the very back of the pack to the front. For most of the time it was strong winds and big swells which could easy have thrown Gaualofa off course but all 3 shifts maintained course which resulted in us sighting land first which is something we are all be very proud of.

A first on Gaualofa, Jayde Leota got her hands wet with leading our traditional navigation for the first time during this leg, therefore earning her the name of navigator. What does it mean to be “the navigator” you might ask? It means you set a course for the crew to follow along the star compass. For example this particular leg from Espiritu Santo – Guadalcanal she set a course line of Lai – Manu which translates to a course North West (Lai) running 320-325 degrees (Manu).

How does the crew know which direction to go? Another important job for the navigator is to show the way whether it be stars, moon and planets to follow at night or direction the va’a should be in relation to sun and swells during the day. I know! It sounds harder than I thought too!

So how does it all work?? Every shift records their estimated speed (by dropping a banana or watching waves pass from the front kiato where the deck starts and counting how fast it takes for it to reach the last kiato where the deck ends) and direction (using stars, planets, moon, sun swells, wind) every 30 minutes that they are on shift. Jayde then works out a summary every 6, 12 or24 hours and estimates and plots how far the vaa has sailed and in which direction. The navigator is only responsible for getting the va’a to land, so once we sight land, we can say the navigator has successfully done his/her job regardless of whether it’s the right land or not! He he he…I am happy to inform you all that Jayde lead us in the right direction and we sighted San Cristobal Solomon Islands early Friday morning . For over 600Nm the “trad nav” as we call it was only off our actual position by 25miles!

 Jayde as humble as she is will not let me send this off without mentioning the help she got from our usual navigators Kalolo, Fani and Lole plus the help from captain Nick. We must give credit to our ancestors for their bravery and trust in nature. They were true observers and listeners who were so inter connected with nature and had so much faith in their knowledge that they went out blind and navigated the Pacific Ocean one island at a time. It amazes me every time I think about it and pushes us to get back to what once was, one leg at a time.

Now back to the winds! Last night we had zero winds which left us bobbing around (hopefully not in circles) but in any case we were rewarded with a beautiful moon lit sky with many stars to gaze at. This moon seemed as if it were in front of the sun giving it a yellowy glow that was just magical! I can’t remember the last time I sat and enjoyed a good moonlit night…

Our destination Honiara and the Pacific Arts Festival is going to be the centre for all Pacific Islands for the next two weeks. To imagine all the different cultures and traditions that will be show cased during this festival just gives me goose bumps! What a great opportunity for the Pacific Islands to share and learn from each other, what a great opportunity to tighten the bonds we share as people of the Pacific. We the children of Te Mana o te Moana will be making the most of the Arts Festival to share our stories with our Pacific brothers and sisters.

Tofa Soifua
Tasha and Gaualofa 

Farewell Lonesome George

Talofa everyone,

We are speeding away at 10knots today, lovely and sunny outside :) The crew is with high spirits and are looking forward to our daily rehearsal of our skit and songs for the Arts Festival.

Now to paint you a rough picture - we have sailed in the past 3 shifts (9 hours) the same amount of miles that we have done in the last 30 hours. Top speed recorded was close to 20knots which Koleni, Taleni, Kalolo and Kim are quite happy to boast about. Gaualofa is truly slicing through the water like melted butter and positioning herself quite well towards the front of the fleet together with Hine Moana and Marumaru Atua. We are very thankful for the sudden change in weather, the whole day today felt like the doldrums with no wind and scorching sun. But now it’s a totally different scenario that we are more than happy to adapt to. These are the winds we were praying for the get us to Honiara on time for the Opening of the Pacific Arts Festival 2012.

It only seems like yesterday that we departed from the shores of Espiritu Santo Island, our last stop in Vanuatu and already we are only 371Nm away from Honiara. Luganville was a lovely little town located on a very big island. It was very sad to have spent only one day as the island had so much to offer in terms of beaches, pristine blue water holes, world class diving, delicious food and most importantly, the people were top class lovely if there is such a description. It is part of the voyage, to be flexible with schedules and to make the most of whatever time you are given. Jayde, Kim, Fani and I did just that when we heard news that we had until 5pm. We immediately hopped in a taxi for a ride to see the land, to visit the world famous blue holes then to explore the town and taste the local cuisine. One site we didn’t have enough time for was the Coolidge wreck but that will be done many times when we return to Santo one day.

On our last night in town the SBS news was reporting on Lonesome George, the last remaining Tortoise species from the island of Pintu in the Galapagos Island group. I should mention that Lonesome George had a special place in all our hearts here on Gaualofa. We first heard of George on our way from Cocos Island to Galapagos when James gave us the run down. George was an extra special giant tortoise because he was over 100 years old and the last one of his kind left in the world. Most of the fleet together with the Gaualofa crew got to see and meet George when we were in Santa Cruz a few months ago. We must all commend the great work of the passionate people at the Galapagos National Park and Research Centre. For many years there have been many attempts to cross breed George with other tortoise species in the hope that his blood line will survive. You can imagine our shock when we heard that he passed away. It’s even sadder to think that there will be no more Georges in this world. Tuesday 26th June 2012 another species has been wiped away, never to be seen again by anyone.

Our message is simple from Gaualofa, what you do out of love will live forever “E leai se gaumata’u, na’o le Gaualofa” It is more important now that our actions reflect our love for our fellow living creatures, our ocean, our lands, our culture, our children.

Rest in Peace Lonesome George, you might not have been able to pass down your blood line but you have made us want to better ambassadors of the environment and living creatures.

Tofa Soifua
Tasha and Gaualofa Crew