There seems to be a lot of action in traditional voyaging these days, and we thought that it might be interesting to just look at some of the different projects, both new and ongoing, that are happening right now in Polynesia.
Tahiti's Va'a Motu
Tahiti had dueling canoes for a few months when the two partners on a planned canoe voyage to China parted ways, and then each went on with their own project. Clement Pito had a large single hull canoe (called a Va'a Motu in Tahitian) that he had begun building many years ago, and Hiria Ottino had the idea to do a voyage to China for the Shanghai World Expo. About the time they finished Pito's canoe they broke off their partnership and Ottino set about building his own canoe while Pito tried a couple of times unsuccessfully to launch his. Pito finally got his canoe launched and set sail on July 11th, the day of the total solar eclipse in Tahiti. He has had a rough voyage so far, breaking down on the first leg to Huahine and recently running aground in Kiribati.
Ottino's canoe, the O Tahiti Nui Freedom is a 15 meter (50Ft) va'a motu. It was built using plywood and epoxy in an amazingly short time, and completely outfitted and regulated for open ocean voyaging. He and his crew set sail on July 27th, and have reached Papua New Guinea. They are now estimating that, given their average speed and the distance left to cover, it will be very difficult to make it to Shanghai before the end of the Expo. In any case they seem to be moving along very well, even leaving their support boat behind. You can follow their voyage on their website - http://otahitinui.com/vaa/en
The Okeanos Fleet
The Okeanos Foundation started a project in 2007 to build 6 voyaging canoes and sail them to Hawaii in order to raise awareness of ocean noise pollution. This was a very ambitious project that came together amazingly fast.
The canoes were commissioned in 2008 from experienced builders in the Cook Islands who made made one model that worked well, and then copied it (fiberglass hulls and hard wood decking). The canoes were then built in or delivered to New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Cooks Islands, and Tahiti. In March of this year all canoes set sail from their islands and converged on the island of Raivavae in French Polynesia. Then from there they sailed to Raiatea, Moorea, and finally Tahiti. This was meant to be a test sail for the fleet and it went over very well. Seeing the canoes sailing together, all obviously the same lineage, but beautifully decorated in distinctive island designs and colors was truly magnificent. The Okeanos Foundation will be making a documentary film about this project which will really be something to look forward to. See - http://www.okeanos-stiftung.org/topics-and-projects/documentary-film/
Hawaiki Nui 2
In 1985 Francis Cowan and Matahi Brighwell set sail on a double hull voyaging canoe, the Hawaiki Nui, that they had built using only traditional materials and (as much as possible) traditional tools. The canoe had no plastic or metal parts, sails made from pandanus, and all cord and lines onboard were made from coconut fibers. They sailed without a support boat from Tahiti to New Zealand, by way of the Cook Islands, and showed the ease of which a beautifully designed tradition craft can handle the waters of the South Pacific.The idea of the Hawaiki Nui 2 project is to build a voyaging canoe with a slightly different design, still
from traditional materials and with traditional tools, and sail it from Tahiti to Easter Island and South America. This project got started in 1999, moved along slowly but steadily, but has recently run into some hard times. First of all Francis Cowan, at the age of 82, died in January of 2009. Although this was a major blow, Matahi carried on with Francis' dream and the project. Then in February of 2010 the winds from Cyclone Oli knocked down the roof over the one hull that was finished, and crushed it. The hull is salvageable but the project is in dire need of funding to keep it going. So, the decision has been made to move the project from its home in Moorea to New Zealand where Matahi has family and resources that will allow him to complete the project there. Hopefully this amazing canoe will make it to the sea in the near future. See - http://www.hawaikinui.org/
Mau Piailug was one of the last Pacific Island to be trained in traditional navigation in a traditional way. Mau was from the island of Satawal and from a young age was infused with the knowledge of generations of his ancestors about the sea, and how to find ones way around on it. Eventually he was recruited to act as navigator for the first voyage of the Hokulea from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976. This began his long association with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and his role as a master teacher of traditional navigation. Through this work he passed on his knowledge of navigation to a new generation of people and both promoted and preserved this amazing body of knowledge. Sadly Mau died in July of this year, but his work and his enthusiasm will ensure that his legacy lasts far into the future.
The Hokulea is a full scale replica of a double hull voyaging canoe and certainly the most famous of all modern voyaging canoes. It was built in the early 70's by the Polynesian Voyaging Society (http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu) and did its first voyage to Tahiti in 1976 with Mau as navigator. Over the years the Hokulea has voyaged all over the Pacific including many times to Tahiti, all the way to New Zealand, and even to the holy grail of traditional navigation, Easter Island. In July and August of this year the Hokulea did a statewide sail in memory of Mau -http://pvs.kcc.hawaii.edu/index/newsletters/2010/2010_events_news.html
The Polynesia Voyaging Society is now preparing for to sail the Hokulea around the world.See - http://www.hokuleawwv.org/voyagers/blog