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Vaka Motu heads for Raro

Wednesday 14 September 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


Vaka Motu heads for Raro
Vaka Motu Okeanos Waa’Qab leaving Pohnpei. SUPPLIED/22091213

Rarotonga will receive Vaka Motu Okeanos Waa’Qab which departed Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, on September 10 for the 3000 nautical mile voyage estimated to take up to a month.

Okeanos Waa’Qab is under the command of Pwo master navigator Captain Jerry Joseph, who grew up on the island of Satawal learning the skills of traditional navigation from his grandfather, the renowned grandmaster navigator Mau Piailug. 

Second in charge on the voyage is veteran Cook Islands voyager Steven Daniel (Tupaia) joined by the crew of young 16-year-old Pareu Pera from Ngatangiia (Cook Islands), Pounamu Tipiwai-Chambers (Aotearoa), Raus Clyde and Vickson Yalisman from Yap, FSM and Alice Mason (Spain).

The vaka to be used as a training vessel in the revival of traditional voyaging skills will make one stop in Samoa before making its final journey to the Cook Islands.

Okeanos fleet commander, the Cook Islands Pwo master navigator Peia Patai was unable to join the crew on this voyage since having to meet several vaka related duties and responsibilities in Micronesia after a two-year lapse caused by the Covid outbreak.

Pwo master navigators the Cook Islands Captain Peia Patai, and FSM’s Captain Jerry Joseph onboard Vaka Motu Okeanos Waa’Qab before her departure from Pohnpei. SUPPLIED/22091201

“It was hard to hold back tears as I watched the canoe depart the harbour of Kolonia, Pohnpei (FSM). Tears of happiness and tears of excitement, knowing that Te Puna Marama’s future to pass on, revive and preserve traditional voyaging knowledge is now in a better place,” said Patai on the morning Vaka Motu sailed off from Phonpei.

“Regrettably, I was unable to sail her to the Cook Islands due to other vaka commitments here in Micronesia, however, I’m very much looking forward to seeing her arrive in Rarotonga. Thank you to Okeanos Captain Jerry Joseph for navigating her home.”

The vaka will be based in the Cook Islands and will be a huge benefit to young people who are passionate and keen to learn the art of traditional sailing and navigation, said Patai.

“She will be used as a training vessel and will also assist with the revival of other traditional skills that are slowly disappearing, I believe the canoe is the centre of our tradition and culture.”

Patai acknowledged and extended his appreciation to Dieter Paulmann and Okeanos Foundation for the Sea for their full support in delivering the canoe to the Cook Islands for Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation.

Okeanos has been developing and funding projects that inspire and initiate positive change for people and the environment – while increasing awareness of the threats the oceans face.

Te Puna Marama has a long-term goal to open pathways for career opportunities in the maritime sector for our young people in both modern and traditional ways, said Patai.

“Without his (Dieter Paulmann) support this opportunity would not come about.”

The 50-foot, twin-hulled open-ocean sailing canoe Vaka Motu has a design based on a traditional Polynesian model and is the third built by Auckland’s Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders.

Described as the “work boat of the Pacific”, the vaka weighs nine tons and can accommodate 11 people and three tons of cargo. 

Te Puna Marama Voyaging Foundation trustees Cecile Marten, Tua Pittman and Maara Maeva would like to thank and acknowledge Patai for his “hard work, commitment and persistence” in ensuring the foundation acquires a vaka to run its education programmes.

Secretary Cecile Marten said hard work begins now to formalise the training programmes and to look for funding to run these programmes throughout the Cook Islands and establish a training centre in Aitutaki.

There are only 12 Pwo master navigators from the north and south Pacific, and two are from the Cook Islands – Peia Patai and Tua Pittman – a huge accomplishment for a tiny country.

Patai and Pittman both trained under the wise guidance and teachings of Mau Piailug.

Pwo is a sacred initiation ritual, in which students of traditional navigation in the Caroline Islands in Micronesia become navigators (palu) and are initiated in the associated secrets.