At sea somewhere halfway to the Tuamotus along a SW course doing between 7 and 9 knots averaging nearly 200 nm each 24 hour period. Our watches are divided into 3 hour shifts on a rotational basis starting with 0000 [midnight] and then shifts from there so that every three nights one shift gets the 0300 - 0600 hours duties. In port we are on a 6 hourly rotation as the watch crews can share the times with reduced duties. If in a harbor we regularly check the anchors for holding. If moored in a marina we are there to insure no unwanted intruders come on board.
One of the many objectives that FIVS President Colin Philp and Captain Jonathon Smith has for the crew is that they get motivated by some aspect of the voyage and immerse themselves in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to become very experienced in that area. With so much to choose from marine conservation to traditional navigation the crew has a real opportunity to launch a career.
Recently one of our younger, but very enthusiastic crew members, Jim - born Fuluna Tikoidelaimakotu from Korotolu, Moce had a vision. No, not an hallucination or dream, but an inspirational revelation of following in the footsteps of his grandfather! Several years ago Jim's grandad sailed singlehandedly from his Lauan island of Moce to Suva in his village constructed camakau. His grandad had no instruments to make his voyage easier. He used only tried and true traditional methods of sailing and navigating and made the trip of 140 nm in less than two days! As Jim grew up his grandad was there to instruct him on the ways of sailing the camakau. Some say Fulaga has the best trees [wood] for building a great camakau BUT Moce has the greatest sailors! I'm sure Seta our traditional navigator from Fulaga would disagree!
Then some years later when Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau's Maritime Funeral Procession was leaving Suva Harbor to return Ratu Penaia to his province, Jim's dad decided to try and duplicate what his father had done years before and sail a camakau from Moce to Suva. However tragedy struck and his dad was lost at sea and his camakau found washed ashore in Kadavu. Jim believes his dad had met with disaster as he was sailing at the wrong time - when a Fijian high chief was being taken home for his final rest. To this day Jim has wanted to make this return voyage for his dad and grandad.
If you are not aware of the anatomy of a camakau, it's a traditional Fijian outrigger canoe. That means one open hull and one outrigger for balance [kind of a hobiecat well before it was developed!]. Historical accounts tell of us camakaus sailing at very high speeds and the larger ones actually taking part in some of Fiji's major "naval" battles. There is a rara [deck] and only one movable sail with an uli [rudder] that is also movable. This design is in contrast to the larger Fijian double hulled drua and even more divergent from the Polynesian vaka we are sailing now that has two major sails and a fixed uli. This means that the lone sailor must steer [sometimes change the uli], change the sail position when wind, currents and direction require it AND he must bail water from the open hull, all without sleep!
You can imagine the dexterity, skill and knowledge necessary to operate a camakau successfully. Each year the existing camakaus and their sailors in the Suva area congregate for races in the harbor. Even the juniors get involved and sail their model camakaus with enthusiasm and a high competitive spirit. Unfortunately in many Lauan villages the camakau is not being constructed anymore and is being replaced by the fiberglass boat and outboard engine - at a cost of course!
Jim has had an interesting and varied set of experiences in his young life. Ladies he's 25 and single! He earned a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from FNU in 2010. During that time period he developed into a champion weightlifter representing Fiji at the Arafura Games in Australia and the Pacific Games in New Caledonia.
Jim has been studying traditional celestial navigation during our voyage and has become quite adept at identifying stars, constellations and planets that are part of maintaining the correct star compass course. Now for his "dream" for 2013. He plans to take his 7 meter camakau currently in Suva; make necessary repairs to make it seaworthy and plan a journey back to Moce and his extended family there. No one, to his understanding, has ventured to sail a camakau using only traditional methods from Suva east to Moce.
While the repairs are being made he will study the astronomical charts that pertain to Viti Levu and southern Lau. He will consult meteorological data to predict wind direction and speeds. Lastly he will stock up on the type of provision that his ancestors would have taken - coconuts for water and meat; bananas, some root crops already cooked and a trolling line for fresh fish.
This becomes quite an undertaking as he will use no instruments while his camakau is made the traditional way with magimagi [coconut sinnet rope] and his sail will be made by his elders thus insuring accuracy. His single concession may be installing running lights - a maritime necessity as he doesn't want to be run down by one of the many huge tankers, cruise liners and container ships that come into Suva!
Jim is excited about this goal. He hopes that FIVS will assist him as part of their encouragement of the restoration of sail power in the islands. He plans to record all that he does by keeping a log and photographing all phases of his exciting project. What a practical and pioneering way to apply what he's learned from his grandad and then from his voyage on the Uto ni Yalo.
You can assist Jim as he will be searching for the ancient Fijian names for all the compass and current directions AND for celestial names as well. He plans to keep as close to the vernacular as he can and those names will really help.
tabu soro Viti kei Rotuma.......................You are in our prayers during this holiest of all Christian weekends.