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Waka return after 18-month voyage

Thursday 16 Aug 2012 4:41 p.m.

Waka Haunui sails into Auckland Harbour after travelling 30,000 nautical miles (Photo: Imogen Crispe)
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By Imogen Crispe

Traditionally sailed waka have returned to New Zealand following an 18-month trip covering 30,000 nautical miles for the sake of protecting our oceans.

Two waka arrived this afternoon at Bayswater Marina on Auckland’s North Shore and two more are due to arrive tomorrow morning.

The voyage of seven waka left Auckland in April last year and have since sailed up to North America and back through the Pacific Islands.

The aim of the voyage was to raise awareness about contemporary threats to the oceans especially the Pacific Ocean.

The boats have been built as traditionally as possible, with a few small modernisations such as fibre glass hulls and solar panels. There was no running water, and the only fossil fuel used was natural gas for cooking.

The waka’s crews of between 14 to 16 people included both men and women aged from 17 to 60, with various levels of sailing experience.

The crews navigated using the stars, sun, wind, and wildlife as guides, while adhering to the voyage motto “move your paddle silently though the water”.

Haunui waka arrived about 2pm this afternoon carrying Maori, Hawaiians and Samoans, followed by the all-Maori crewed Te Matau Maui, and were greeted by a small group of friends and family.

Captain of Te Matau Maui Frank Kawe really enjoyed the 18-month trip.

“It’s been an awesome experience, a great opportunity for myself and others, [both] those who have sailed a lot and for the young ones who have seen a lot of great things.”

It had been eight months since he’d last seen family, so he was pleased to see his sister and his niece at the marina.

Mr Kawe says the trip was virtually problem free, with no equipment malfunctions for the whole 18 months.

And he was not bothered by the traditional conditions of the waka.

“I’ve only ever sailed on vessels like this.”

Crew member of Haunui, Natasha Fabricius, 28, from Samoa loved being on the waka

“It’s an experience that you’ll never get again, to be able to sail on semi-traditional waka.”

She joined the Gaualofa vaka eight months ago and transferred to the Haunui last month. She got to visit many different places, including the Galapagos Islands.

But the best thing about the “vaka” - the Samoan word for waka - was just being on it, Ms Fabricius says.

“It’s just being on the vaka, there’s something about it, it’s got a nice warm fuzzy feeling about it. Once you’re on it you don’t want to get off.”

The voyage was funded and conceived by German philanthropist and conservationist Dieter Paulmann, who is also producing a film about the voyage.

The film will be directed by New Zealand director Mike Single and is called Our Blue Canoe.

Now the voyage is over, the waka will be sold to the waka trusts from the communities the crews came from.

Two other waka, Okeanos and Faafaite are due to arrive in Auckland tomorrow and the other three waka who took part in the voyage have returned to the islands they came from.

See the photos of the boats and crew arriving.

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