“It is our commitment to have her back in the water with the help of the people of the Cook Islands and a number of other organisations,” says Puna.
“She is an essential part not only of our voyaging culture and history but more importantly, our future aspirations for Marae Moana.”
A fire in September ravaged one of the vaka’s hulls as Marumaru Atua was moored at Avatiu. A Maritime Cook Islands surveyor recommended in a report into the damage caused by the blaze, that a new hull be built. Cook Islands Voyaging Society members were desperate to have her restored and a Givealittle page was set up to aid the cause. Despite efforts by the Cook Islands Voyaging Society to raise the funds to have Marumaru Atua restored, the target was too large a sum to meet by donations alone.
New Zealand boat building company Lloyd Stevenson has the contract to build the new hull.
The company also has contract with Okeanos Foundation to construct the smaller Vaka Motu, and have been building them under the supervision of Cook Islander captain Peia Patia. Shipping company Matson is sponsoring the transportation of the remaining hull and other parts of the vaka to Auckland.
Marumaru Atua was gifted the people of the Cook Islands in 2012 by the Okeanos Foundation in recognition for the Cook Islands contribution to the Te Mana O Te Moana Voyage.
“She has sailed over 20,000 nautical miles through the Pacific with the fleet of seven vaka to highlight the health of the Pacific Ocean, our home,” says Cook Islands Voyaging Society secretary Cecile Marten.
To ensure that the vaka meets Cook Islands Maritime safety standards and insurance requirements, she says it is imperative that the vaka is rebuilt to the highest standards and under the guidance of boat building experts.
“The hulls are constructed of e-glass and foam core using an advanced infusion process,” says Marten.
“The fiberglass hulls are a tribute to the environment. They are robust and we haven’t had to cut a single tree. In contrast to these modern (components), traditional aspects remain clearly visible with each hull lashed together using wooden beams and ropes.”
This technology connects the best of the past with the best of the future and includes the use of solar panels and coconut oil-fuelled engines, perfectly suited for fossil fuel-free transport of people, food, medicine and supplies between South Pacific islands.
Nia Tero, a new conservation non-profit organisation dedicated to helping indigenous people efficiently manage the environment, has agreed to fund the installation of two new bio-fuel engines at Loyd Stevenson and the voyaging society team will work to re-lash and reassemble Marumaru Atua at the shipbuilder’s yard before she is relaunched and sailed back to Rarotonga in April 2019.
The budget for the rebuild is close to $485,000 and though the new engines shift away from the 100 per cent green solar engines that were previously installed, the bottom line is, the vaka will not be safe if it doesn’t have a reliable source of propulsion.
“Our current system has failed us too many times and to continue down that path will undoubtedly put the safety of the crew and vaka in jeopardy,” says Marten.
“We have been advised by the surveyor that New Zealand is the best place to ensure that the work is done properly to the highest standard and that he will be comfortable to sign off on the rebuild and have it (deemed) seaworthy and certified when this is complete.
“Though we are still short of our target of $485,000, we will be continuing to fundraise and look for other donors and partners in this venture.
All connected to this vaka and the members of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, say “meitaki maata” to the people of the Cook Islands for their very generous contribution to their vaka, because this is the vaka of the people.