Ready to Sail / 07 May 2011
The Faafaite crew ham it up for the camera
While our sister va’a battle it out in the Southern Ocean on their way to Fakarava, Faafaite and Marumaru Atua wait calmly in the tropics, just a bit further north-east (in Tahiti). Calmly may be a bit mild as both crews have been working hard to finish the electrical and other installations before taking to the sea. Because of their geographical location, these va’a were the last to receive the new electrical propulsion system. In parallel, both va’a have been preparing everything else for the voyage, including food and water supplies. All the gear has been checked and rechecked and properly stowed. Crew members are preparing their gear and putting their personal affairs in order before taking to the ocean. Some of the crew will not return to Tahiti for nearly three months.
The exact departure date is not yet known as it depends on the progress of the fleet sailing from Aotearoa, but it will be within the next week. Faafaite and Marumaru Atua will meet them before they reach Fakarava so that Faafaite, as host, can properly welcome them into her waters and then lead the fleet into Fakarava. It promises to be quite a sight and very powerful emotionally. The seven va’a are of the Tipaerua model which is said to have originated in Fakarava hundreds of years ago. If there ever was a return to the source, this will be it.
With our departure looming, a ceremony was held in the Paofai Gardens (a new ocean front park in Papeete) in the area dedicated to voyaging canoes. Not far from the plaque with a tribute to Hōkūle‘a is the Tohora Unu, a whale totem, which was dedicated during last year’s Tavaru. This wooden sculpture is a symbol which reminds us of why Faafaite exists and why we navigate: to protect our Ocean, Te Moana Nui, and all the creatures that live in it. It was a simple and beautiful ceremony which included the presentation of the ihitai (crew) from each va’a, an explanation of the project, a few speeches, a bit of singing and laughing, and wrapped up with hakas from each va’a. The crews then invited the gathered crowd for a visit of the va’a, moored a couple hundred meters away. Along with the solar electric system, Faafaite presented her newly decorated traditional sails.
Marumaru Atua, being all prepared and ready to go, relocated over to Moorea to await departure with Faafaite. Last minute details are being worked out and Faafaite will be ready to sail within a few days. All the crew will gather for a last retreat to prepare themselves psychologically for what lays ahead.
It is now our time to sail on Te Moana Nui, our time to reconnect with her power, her abundance, her healing powers; a time for respect and acknowledgement for all that she gives us, a time to be thankful and humble.