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Warm welcome for Marumaru Atua crew as FestPAC opens in Hawai’i

Thursday 6 June 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Art, Entertainment, Features


Warm welcome for Marumaru Atua  crew as FestPAC opens in Hawai’i
Traditional master navigator Peia Patai carried by two warriors ashore at the Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture Wa’a welcoming ceremony yesterday at Mokapu in Kāneʻohe Bay. MELINA ETCHES/24060515

Thousands gathered at Mokapu in Kāneʻohe Bay yesterday morning for the Waʻa Ceremony, which kicked off the 13th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture (FestPAC) from June 6-16 in Hawaii.

The representatives from the participating nations and the vaka crew were welcomed ashore by the sounds of the conch shells and indigenous descendants of this sacred land – Moku Kapu.

Cook Islands delegation and community in Hawai’i waited in anticipation for the arrival of the Vaka Marumaru Atua crew who sailed for 23 days from Rarotonga arriving in Hawai’i last week.

Tamaiva-Ariki Mateariki welcomes the Cook Islands representatives and Vaka Marumaru Atua crew with a traditional Cook Islands turou. MELINA ETCHES/24060511

Top male dancer Tamaiva-Ariki Mateariki led the turou, heartfelt songs and chants for the arrival of Prime Minister Mark Brown and his wife Daphne, followed by the crew who arrived on separate canoes to shore.

Traditional master navigator captain Peia Patai, who led the voyage, and his crew received a thunderous applause and was carried by two warriors up the shore.

The arrival of Vaka Marumaru Atua, a symbol of Cook Islands’ rich maritime heritage, and Tahiti’s Va’a Faafaite, which also sailed directly to Hawai’i for FestPAC, holds profound cultural significance. It represents a reconnection and strengthens the deep bonds that tie the Pacific Islands together.

Vaka Marumaru Atua crew members. MELINA ETCHES/24060513

Patai said the new crew members who sailed on the 23-day voyage were “awesome”.

“I’m really proud of them, and of all the crew.”

He said there were “no major dramas” however it was difficult to get into the wind.

“Finally, when we got into the northern hemisphere, it was a cup of tea trip,” said Patai.

Antony “Ant” Vavia, a seasoned member of the crew, said the entire experience was quite rewarding.

Ambushia Mateariki performs while waiting for the Waʻa Ceremony to begin. MELINA ETCHES/24060517

“I think for most of our crew passing through the equator and going through the doldrums safely was an achievement in itself and being able to do that, not only with crew but with our Cook Islands friends and family that are here (Hawai'i), is such a warm experience," said Vavia.

For another experienced crew member, Olliver Oolders, this journey was his longest to date.

“The most enjoyable thing was the crew, everyone got along awesomely. Even in the harsh weather and the gnarly swells everyone still gets on,” said Oolders who will be sailing back home on the Vaka.

Captain Deon Wong said what stood out for him on this journey was coming up across the equator and into the doldrums.

Prime Minister Mark Brown and his wife Daphne welcomed at the Waʻa Ceremony. MELINA ETCHES/24060512

“It was a bit of a struggle getting up to the equator but after that it was full sails all the way,” said Wong.

Ngametua Tuainepatira from Mitiaro says he is happy to have completed his first voyage.

The happiest moments for him were sailing such a long distance from home and enjoying the experience, and learning more skills from Patai.

Te Kaumaiti Nui, Tou Travel Ariki, middle, and Clerk of the House of Ariki Tuaine Unuia with other guests at the Waʻa Ceremony. MELINA ETCHES/24060510

“Mataora te tere, te ngakau parau au,” said Tuainepatira.

Another first-time sailor, Roimata David Rouru also from Mitiaro, said sailing on the Vaka feels like a home at sea.

“You look out for each other, and you follow the rules so we had a good trip and we had lots of food.”

Vaka Marumaru Atua will leave Mokapu today for the Marine Education Training Centre.

“She will be going into the next phase of the trip – preparing to go home,” said Patai.

Marumaru Atua is scheduled to depart Honolulu, Hawai’i, for the Cook Islands next week on June 14.