Expedition Sailing Vessel Evohe
sunset in antarctic peninsula
IMG 4974
DSC 23317
Sleeping Quarters


The Film: Our Blue Canoe:


We are embarking on an extraordinary journey that brings together culture and consciousness as never before. For the first time ever, seven Pacific Island crews are sailing a fleet of traditional Polynesian voyaging canoes (equipped with solar powered motors) across thousands of miles of open ocean. They’ll map their way in the wake of their ancestors, using the stars, sun, wind, and wildlife as their guides. As we travel along with them, we come to experience first-hand, the power and the plight of our greatest ocean – the Pacific.

Far more than an environmental story, this is a human story, told by the people who are contending with the effects of a changing planet in very real ways. As we voyage with them across this vast continent of water, we find they are not only reclaiming their heritage as the finest of sailors, but also the finest of stewards. Drawing on the lessons of their past to propel us all forward, these navigators are charting a bold new course, steering us all toward a sustainable future on earth – Our Blue Canoe.



Pacific Voyagers support Vessel http://pacificvoyagers.org/ filming base for 'our Blue Canoe'









Whale grave yard

Sunday 050212 Bahia Magdalena Position N24’34.7 W112’04.3.
We have just put our anchors down again for a second night in Bahia Magdalena. This time we are anchored close to the entrance of the big lagoon. We have seen most of the whales close to the entrance. There is a lone beach with only a small camp of fishermen in one corner. They have been catching sharks, a lot of sharks. Last night we anchored further up, close to the little village PuertaMagdalena, only a few houses really, that haven’t had rain for twenty years! In the early morning we decided to visit a whale “grave yard” a couple of miles south of the village. We moved all the canoes down there and anchored about 0700am just in time for the morning fog to completely surround us. It looked magical when we paddled in to shore with our dinghies in the mist. The enormous white whale bones  were lit in the filtered rays of the sun. The bones are everywhere on this beach. Vertebras, jaws, skulls. We also found dolphin and seal bones. All washed ashore. We walked around, stunned by the bizarre beauty of the shining white remains.

Before noon we decided to move down towards the entrance of the lagoon despite the fog and lack of wind. Evohe is leading the parade of vaka with her radar the few miles south. Finally just at noon, the fog starts to lift. Almost simultaneously, a fleet of whale watching boats charge by us with hundreds of horse power and happy shouting people. Of course, today is Sunday and it seems like every living person around the lagoon has taken their boats to go and see whales. When we finally arrived at the lagoon entrance, slow as we are with our small electric motors in comparison, we found about 30 boats around a couple of groups of Grey Whales. So we held off and moved to the south. The wind picks up in the afternoon and its harder to stay around the whales. They are dispersing into the big lagoon. Suddenly the Mexican Navy turns up in a stealthy looking speed boat, curious about what we are and what we are doing. They board Evohe, but after a tour around the boat its all fine. Just after that, Uto Ni Yalo have a breaching humpback whale right in front of them, that becomes the excitement of the day!

From Hine Moana to everyone, a very good night!


Fiji Time: 11:25 AM on Sunday 9 June

Front page / News

A warm welcome into Honiara

Teddy Fong On Board The Uto Ni Yalo
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WE arrived in sunny and hot Honiara to a warm welcome from the bamboo pipe band and Miss Solomon Islands.

All seven vaka plus the Vaka Motu Okeanos and Evohe berthed at the yacht club and were made welcome by the commodore of the club. All facilities, including the shower and toilet, have been made available to the crew.

After Customs and Immigration clearance and the welcome, some of us decided to head off to town for a stroll. From the yacht club, past the market and back we went, a huge and tiring effort given we haven't had much strolling in our confined space on the Uto ni Yalo.

Some members of the Fijian community, including Paula Uluinaceva, Save Banuve, Tamana and Mereani Kativerata, Eroni Nukutaumaki from Datec and his beautiful wife and others hosted us to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The menu included spring rolls, soup, chicken, duck, three different species of crabs including the Fiji rare coconut crab (ugavule), a red snapper, roast pork, stir-fried beef, fried rice and the veggies. This was one hearty meal I tell you.

By the time the ugavule came out all we could do was stare at it. To our friends and family here in Honiara, vinaka vakalevu na vei nanumi kei na veikawaitaki.

After dinner we were taken on a tour of the arts village. No superlative can describe what we saw, so we will settle with amazing and brilliant. Yes friends, our Melanesian brothers and sisters of the Solomon Islands have done an awesome job.

Within the village is a lake with turtles in them, our adopted Uto ni Yalo totem. Lights like we've never seen before light up the village in an amazing aura of raindrop style visuals, most forming into lantern type balls of lights.

Bure and other traditional huts line the village fringe and these will house the delegations display, carving, weaving and other traditional and cultural crafts.

The performances will happen on stage. This we are particularly looking forward to. We saw the diversity of the Pacific right before our eyes at the official opening march to Lawson Tama Stadium. From the Australian Aborigine and Torres Strait Islanders, Guam, Nauru, Easter Island or Rapa Nui, Tokelau, Niue, American Samoa, Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the many diverse cultures of the Solomon Islands were on show. We are excited. How can we not be?

At 3.30am we were awoken by skipper to put up the sails and head to another beach for the official welcoming of the Pacific Voyagers. Firework displays began at 4am and went right through until 5.30am.

From our vantage point in the harbour at that time of the morning, the display was fantastic. As we got closer to the beach at sunrise we saw the huge crowd that had gathered to welcome us, including our very own delegation from our Pacific Island countries. For us, the women put on a cere.

The Rotuman delegation welcomed us in style with a traditional tiap hi from Itumuta, normally reserved for high ranking people.

This was reciprocated by Master Mausio who acknowledged them by dancing and yelling out moreye maka (spelling may be wrong but it was heard this way).

Mausio thanked Master Kafoa Pene, the head of the Rotuman delegation for bestowing us this honour.

We are honoured!

Later the men and women joined in song and dance on the beach. The other Pacific Voyagers are always in awe of the depth of the traditional and cultural connectedness of Fijians the world over.

The merrymaking is second to none. To all of you at home, we must maintain this as we develop. It is our identity; it is your identity. Do all you can, NOW, to know and understand this identity from your elders, while they are still with us.

OK, like our, Alisi and I's Professor (Randy Thaman) always says after a longer than allocated lecture, "END OF SERMON"!

You all have a lovely day and until the next blog, here's your very own Uto ni Yalo crew sending a big loloma levu to our family, friends, loved ones and to you, our fellow Fijians.

Moce mada vakalailai, Uto ni Yalo standing by.




Fiji Voyaging Online

Survive the savage sea (Report #79 - 2012)

print this page


Twenty-six days at sea with the sighting of the film support boat Evohe once to let us know that we are not alone in this vast expanse of ocean. Several years ago I recall reading a true account of the indomitable spirit of "man" called "Survive the Savage Sea". A man, his wife and their children were sailing the world in their sailboat somewhere in this stretch of the ocean, somewhat further away from Tahiti than we are at present. With no warning they were rammed broadside by a rogue whale. The boat sunk within minutes and all they could save was their covered life raft and a small dinghy.

The book tells their survival story and how through presence of mind, maintaining a positive spirit and calling upon their ingenuity they stayed afloat for many weeks that turned into months and were eventually saved by a passing freighter. With today's computerised satellite navigational systems and signaling beacons they would have been rescued much sooner. Think about the reverse. Our ancestors had no modern technology at all. There were no life rafts on board their sailing vessels. When they went to sea whether to fish, explore, migrate or trade they relied heavily on the accumulated wisdom of their forefathers in order to navigate, sail and survive in the open ocean.

We exist somewhere in that continuum between the former and the latter. If there's such a term as a "reverse transition" meaning we have at our disposal the latest in satellite technology and nautical charts, then we are on the long tack back to complete reliance on traditional sailing and navigational techniques. Our traditional navigators Seta and Jim have accomplished much toward achieving that goal.

It has been enjoyable applying word etymology, in using words constructively, often for emphasis or fun. Words are but expressive tools of communication that can inform, inflame or inflate an issue. For instance certain branches of the U.S military never retreat! They simply employ retrograde maneuvering tactics! When we learn that great apes have been taught to string words together and make sense from them it becomes humbling to those that feel that such cognitive tasks are the exclusive and eminent domain of their cousins - us! Just imagine how much more we would now know about ancestral sailing if a written language had replaced or better supplemented the oral traditions of Pacific island peoples. We now have many excellent texts, some tomes, early diaries and reports from those first Euro-explorers that rediscovered the Pacific concerning traditional navigation, canoe building, ceremonies and migration and other inter/intra island movement BUT there are many significant knowledge gaps yet to be filled.

It is encouraging to note that there exists a “new generation" of Pacific sailors born of the stock that first came to this region millennia ago that have the passion, single mindedness and motivation to control their own destiny. To find out for themselves what their ancestors almost knew intuitively. They no longer want to rely on external scholars [no matter how erudite, well meaning or informative they've been]. There are those among the latter day voyagers that have the scholarship and intellectual capabilities to fill those gaps while creating knowledge of their own.  

The documentary Our Blue Canoe will undoubtedly be a modern day memorial to the mana and spirit of the old seafaring traditions and he people that made them as seen through the eyes of their progeny. All those that participated in its production will feel that inner sense of pride, but the real worth of this Pacific wide undertaking will come from the momentum generated from those years of proving that craft built on a Polynesian design could with sailors from Oceania voyage to all corners of the Pacific safely and with precision navigate the natural and man-made shoals and reefs that they encountered!

We anticipate, almost expect, research papers, commentaries, personal diaries and perhaps even a book or two to evolve from the variety of learning experiences that well over 200 Pacific Voyagers will have had. Wouldn't it be appropriate for a symposium to be organised by and for Pacific islanders where they can share their knowledge, analyses and experiences with the world! We're aware that many Pacific voyaging societies are planning new voyages to spread the gospel of traditional sailing further afield. Still others are looking inward at first to share what they've learned with many in their island nations. Whatever the case the movement will continue way beyond Honiara and the Pacific Arts Festival in July.

Tabu soro Viti kei Rotuma. Be sure you set aside time to welcome the fleet either in Levuka or Suva in early June.


South Seas Adventure

Magnus Danbolt is the captain of Te Matau a Māui, one of four waka on an incredible journey from Aotearoa to French Polynesia. The following is an extract from his captain’s log.

Day 8 | 260410
The wind is here now. At noon yesterday Te Matau a Māui and Hine Moana were overtaken by a southerly front. Like a grey wall it came thundering on to us with 25-30knots SSE winds and rain – a dramatic wind shift from the light westerly winds in split seconds. We quickly reduced sails and called Marumaru Atua and Uto Ni Yalo who were 10 miles north to warn them of what was coming their way. The two groups of waka are still sailing parallel to each other about 10 miles apart. In the strong SSE winds we can’t keep our due east course but are slipping slowly to the north. The morning had been very nice with sun and lighter winds. Many of us on Te Matau had taken the opportunity to do our laundry, which still hadn’t dried when the first squall hit. Now the bunks where we sleep are full of wet clothes that won’t dry for days. This weather is good training for the crews. Not too much wind and the sails are still easy to manage. The forecast shows that we might get up to gale force winds in the next days. The conditions now already make life hard on the waka. Nothing is dry and everything upside down. Even typing this is a challenge. Sitting squeezed into the whare in the morning light, Māmā Liz, Murray and Ema trying to make an omelette; Murray and Ema steadying the pans and Māmā Liz stirring. The simplest task becomes a mission. Now it is important to get the crew together, encourage everyone and work as one team. We are only just halfway to Raivavae.
Ngā mihi 260410 Time (UTC -11) Position Te Matau a Māui 0600 36″20S 162″44W

Day 9 | 270410
ANZAC Day. The heavier weather from the south east doesn’t bring down the crew’s morale. Instead the amping, yeehaa-ing increases and everyone gets their glow on. There are no worried faces when the waka surfs down a wave and buries her bow through oncoming waves. It is a constant rhythm if you are down below in the hull. It sounds like thunder and the hulls shudder on impact. You can hear the water hit the top of the hull and cascade down like a waterfall. At sunset we remembered family and friends that had passed due to the various wars and held our own ANZAC day ceremony. We are fortunate to have two ex-servicemen onboard. Twelve miles north Marumaru had their own Anzac ceremony. She has been tracking more or less the same course and speed as Te Matau and Hine Moana who are still close together. During the night Marumaru is coming closer and at 0600 only a few miles separate our latitudes. Uto Ni Yalo has problems maintaining her course heading into the wind (close to the wind). She has drifted further and further to the north and is not making as good speed as before. She is probably the lightest of all the waka and doesn’t seem to handle the heavier winds as well. In the evening she is out of VHF range. Luckily Evohe, one of our support boats, is tailing her and can relay our messages. We think that our Fijian brothers are really cold and desperate to get to the warmer latitudes. The south east wind is slowly veering to the south. That will give Uto the opportunity to catch up with the rest of us and now, in the morning she is on the VHF and has done a very good job fighting against the weather to come south! At 0400 the wind increased to gale force… We are still doing 10 knots and 15-17 knots down the waves. Big swell and spray whipping our faces in the wind. The canoe is being thrown around and a wave breaking over the deck took Tiaki, the youngster onboard, with it all the way to the guard rail. Luckily he is unharmed. Another day of voyaging!
Ngā mihi 270410 Time Position Te Matau a Māui 0600 35″36S 159″06W

Day 10 | 280410
The storm continues throughout the day. Towering waves and 48 knots of gusts force us to reduce sail even more. A dramatic change of the staysail to the storm jib saw three of the crew mostly submerged for the best part of 30 minutes when the bow ploughed into the waves. One second there is water up to the main mast. Next second the bow rises three metres up in the air with water pouring down the side and the crew, Murray and Tiaki emerge again through the white wash only to smash down again into the next wave. It looks dramatic and they come back with a smile. It is all about working together and looking after each other. The waves are still crashing over us but the worst of the pounding is gone. In the morning Uto Ni Yalo comes flying by. She has managed to climb up against the wind and is pushing hard eastward. She doesn’t seem to have any problems in the hard winds. The lighter canoes seem to handle better after all! She disappears to the east of us until we can’t reach her on the VHF anymore. In the early morning Uto and Marumaru are joining up 30 miles north of Hine Moana and Te Matau.

Ngā mihi 280410 Time Position Te Matau a Māui 0600 35″27S 156″37W

Nine days later island drums thunder across the ocean as the first Polynesian fleet to sail the Pacific in hundreds of years arrives at Raivaevae harbour. Conches trumpet their arrival and a large crowd of uniformed school children and families, dazzling in their leafy headdresses and flower garlands, sing and sway to beating drums. A procession to the Mayor’s residence follows and everybody enjoys a sumptuous feast.

Welcome to Papeete.

After 19 days sailing 2200 miles from Auckland, the fleet has just completed the first leg of their two-month voyage that began in April.

For the locals, this is an auspicious occasion. Seeing their heritage in action and witnessing Polynesian waka with their crab-claw sails aloft is cause for celebration.

Hine Moana.

Collectively the crews make up the Pacific Voyagers Network. Marumaru Atua hails from the Cook Islands, Uto Ni Yalo from Fiji,Faafite from Tahiti, Hine Moana has a mixed crew from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. Te Matau a Māui from Aotearoa has three Ngāi Tahu crew members, Frank Kawe (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tahu), Tiaki Latham-Coates (Ngāi Tahu – Kāti Huirapa) and Eruera Tarena (Ngāi Tahu – Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau a Apanui), and through tenacity and a bit of luck, this TE KARAKA reporter for the Samoa-to-Tonga leg of the journey.

The voyage is about reviving Polynesian non-instrumental navigation and sailing traditions and cultural reconnections between the Pacific Islands. The crews are also trying to catch up to the Hawaiians who have been sailing and navigating traditional waka for more than 30 years.

Frank Kawe and Hekenukumai Busby
at Taputapuatea Marae, Ra'iatea.

Each waka has a 16-person crew, which is broken into watches that take charge for a three-hour shift, followed by a six-hour break. Due to the long time at sea, many crew members leave at different ports and new ones arrive to take their places.

From Raivaevae the waka will sail to Moorea, Papeete, Ra’iatea, Rarotonga, Upolo in Samoa and Vava’u in Tonga. TE KARAKA caught up with Te Matau a Māui in Samoa to record Ngāi Tahu’s presence in this historic journey and to chart their part in cultural reconnections within Polynesia.

But first the crews have to be trained to master the sea, the weather and the stars.

In Aotearoa, Hekenukumai Busby (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kāhu) is widely considered to be the father of star navigation and waka.

He was introduced to ocean voyaging by Hawaiian Nainoa Thompson and the Polynesian Voyaging Society in 1983. He also became a student of the late Micronesian master navigator Mau Piailug. Busby learned to observe and interpret the stars, sun, the wave action, ocean currents, wind and bird activity.

Piailug, from the island of Satawal, was one of the last master navigators in Micronesia. The re-birth of traditional navigation in the Pacific is largely due to his generous teachings. Piailug did not believe in Micronesian/Polynesian/Melanesian distinctions; he  considered all the islands of the Pacific one people.

Many scientists and historians had believed that Polynesians had accidentally colonised the Pacific through drift voyaging. But when Piailug navigated the 4000km journey from Tahiti to Hawai’i in 1976, he proved them wrong. His death on July 12 this year, at the  age of 78, is greatly mourned by the traditional navigation community.

It was through Piailug’s teachings, a handful of Māori sailors – Stanley Conrad, Jack Thatcher, Piripi Evans and Busby became master navigators.

Te Matau a Māui and the fleet arrives at

“We all learnt together from Mau,” Busby said when TE KARAKA spoke to him in March at a Ngāi Tahu Celestial Navigation Hui at Awarua Marae in Bluff. “We had lost the art of navigation. It was through that man we got the taonga back again and I don’t think we’ll lose it again … the boys are recording everything now.”

A bridge builder by trade, Busby is also a renowned waka builder.

In 1991 he built his first sailing waka, Te Aurere, which was Aotearoa’s first waka hourua (double-hulled sailing waka).

On this latest Pacific voyage, Busby joined the fleet in Papeete, where the crews visited marae and placed stones from their homelands. Busby then joined Te Matau a Māui.

Te Matau a Māui hoe.

In Awarua, Busby had struggled walking around and sometimes needed assistance. At the time he said he felt younger and his body moves easier when he is on the waka. This proved true on the six-day sail to Ra’iatea.

Ra’iatea, also known as Avaiki, has huge spiritual significance because Taputapuatea Marae, the great navigational temple synonymous with Polynesian origins, is located there. At Taputapuatea all the crews change into formal traditional dress and make special presentations.

After Ra’iatea, the fleet travel to Rarotonga. Their arrival echoes a similar event 18 years earlier. In 1992, about 20 Pacific waka, including Te Aurere, sailed to Rarotonga for the South Pacific Arts Festival.

Having made the journey many times before, master navigator Tua Pittman, who was trained by Mau, and Te Aturangi Nēpia-Clamp, guide Marumaru Atua and the rest of the fleet through Avana passage and into their home harbour.

Uto ni Yalo, Hine Moana and Te Matau a Māui take a break in Tonga.

They are given a tremendous welcome and after a few days celebrating, Faafite departs for Tahiti and Marumaru Atua remains, while Te Matau a MāuiHine Moana and Uto Ni Yalo carry on to Samoa.

The origins of this waka fleet go back to 2008 to the South Pacific Arts Festival in American Samoa.

German philanthropist Dieter Paulman,whose foundation Okeanos aims to protect the oceans and preserve marine life, was attending the festival. Paulman was planning a movie about the problems the oceans face and looking for a metaphor to carry the message of how to treat the ocean to sustain it for future generations. In a meeting with Rarotongans Ian Karika and Nēpia-Clamp and filmmaker Rawiri Paratene (Ngā Puhi) the idea of the vaka-journey emerged.

Speaking from Cologne, Germany, Okeanos project manager Tanja Winkler says to bring the project to realisation, Okeanos set up Ocean Noise Productions (ONP).

ONP owns all the waka until the end of the project. It deals with all the logistics of the voyage, which also included three support boats.

The aim of the whole project is to produce a documentary that brings the message to the world.

Winkler says the Pacific has huge environmental meaning because it is the largest body of water on earth. At the same time, Pacific cultures provide “genuine ancient knowledge” of how to preserve the environment.

Kava bowl.

“We have lost connection with the sea, only seeing it as a means for trading, leisure or to feed you. But people are not really aware it is part of you.”

“When you sail waka you move more quietly without disturbing marine life, you respect Tangaroa and only take what you need. You don’t fight the elements; you are part of the elements,” says Winkler.

In addition Okeanos is funding a climate change and ocean study that also focuses on the Pacific and its problems.

Each of the waka has been given on a charter agreement to participating islands for four years, after which they are able to buy the waka for a nominal fee.

When it came to buying Te Matau a Māui, Ngāti Kahungunu was quick to put up its hand.

Consequently, a number of the crew are Ngāti Kahungunu including watch captain and ex-Navy diver Rob Hewitt, who is well known for surviving four days in the sea when he was swept away from his friends near Wellington.

Hewitt was employed by ONP to train the Aotearoa crew.

Rob Hewitt.

Frank Kawe is the most experienced Ngāti Kahungunu/Ngāi Tahu sailor aboard. He is another watch captain.

Kawe says waka hourua provide an opportunity for people to get in touch with their own ancestral waka, to learn how tūpuna travelled across the seas; and he is excited to hear Ngāi Tahu has taken initial steps to learn about waka hourua.

“To me I think they’ve shown the way in maybe producing a model that could work for other iwi to follow, to go and do the same thing,” says Kawe.

He says waka hourua also tend to boost the confidence levels of those involved. “I always liken it to the Spirit of New Zealand but geared specifically to Māori and Polynesian.”

Kawe got his start on Te Aurere when waka veteran Jack Thatcher (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pukenga) asked him to travel to Mt Maunganui to bring Te Aurere to Tauranga for a series of wānanga in 1996.

Kawe’s interest was piqued and he has since sailed in Hawai’i and Micronesia many times.

He says they have yet to fully realise what Ngāti Kahungunu leadership has envisaged for the waka.

He would like to see waka used as a platform to introduce people of all iwi, particularly Ngāti Kahungunu, to sailing kaupapa and all that it has to offer.

“I’m sure there are other aspects that the waka can be used for – some commercial, some promotional and environmental – but I think for myself and number of others that the most important aspect is the transfer of traditional knowledge.”

Namaka Barclay-Kerr arrives in Tonga
on Te Matau a Māui.

Kawe says one of the things he enjoys most about voyaging is encountering different peoples.

“The underlying thing, especially for ourselves as Māori, when we are travelling through French Polynesia and Central Polynesia, is the aspect of reconnecting to the kōrero of our past, and re-strengthening whanaungatanga with the tangata whenua of these islands.”

When the fleet arrive in Samoa, Head of State and Samoan Voyaging Society patron Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi speaks about how the fleet are reviving the traditional conversations of the Pacific forefathers.

“This conversation sings of Hawaiki/Hawai’i, and the connection with the original Savaii; and of Te Ika a Māui, where the lands of Aotearoa were believed to be fished by Māui out of the ocean; and, as well, of how Tonga and Rarotonga are markers of being southward, in the direction of the way-finders.”

Uto ni Yalo weighs anchor in Tonga.

Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr presents Tui Atua with a Te Matau a Māui t-shirt and a stone from Aotearoa.

He explains that one of the stories in Aotearoa is how pounamu returned to Hawaiki. When people heard about this beautiful stone that could only be found in Aotearoa, they journeyed there to find it.

In Samoa the crews stay an extra day to attend a dinner for the Fijians. Although the fleet does not travel to Fiji, the Fijiians are welcomed by their compatriots on each of the host islands.

Their waka, Uto Ni Yalo, is well equipped with sponsors from Fiji, an onboard journalist, who writes daily stories for The Fiji Times and a cameraman, and kaumātua Ratu Manoa Rasigatale. They also have their own captain in Colin Philip.

Te Matau a Māui captain is Swede Magnus Danbolt who works for ONP and has been with the waka for more than a year.

Although Kawe has sailed for more than 15 years, he does not hold a skipper’s ticket. Barclay-Kerr only joined the voyage from Rarotonga after attending the Waka Ama World Championships in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Hewitt has much less sailing experience but gained several qualifications during his time in the New Zealand Navy. This year he will sit his Yacht Master Ocean Certificate.

With the backing of Ngāti Kahungunu, Hewitt is running two Day Skipper wānanga in October for iwi members. It will cover whakawhanaungatanga, kapa haka, first aid, and basic seamanship revision.

Te Matau a Māui captain Magnus Danbolt.

Danbolt says the qualifications are a “Pākehā technicality”. He says there is a lot of traditional sailing knowledge that can’t be put down on paper but the qualifications are part of the criteria for insurance. The qualifications also shows that the crew has training in basic safety and seamanship. It also requires the crew to commit and learn about sailing as well as tradition.

Although gaining skippers qualifications is new for the Aotearoa crew, in Hawai’i the rules allowing non-qualified crew members to sail are much tougher because of the possibility of expensive lawsuits.

Danbolt says that of course the captain of Te Matau a Māui will be Māori.

But while he has been at the helm, Danbolt has learned te reo Māori, adhered to the use of karakia and when the crew perform a fierce and rousing haka in Samoa, he is part of the line-up. He says the Pacific culture and its peoples is what make this voyage special.

From Samoa, the fleet set sail for Vava’u, Tonga.

Ema Siope resting on an ali,
a traditional Samoan pillow.

Clear night skies allow Te Matau a Māui to navigate by the stars, with Barclay-Kerr using a red laser pointer to indicate Takurua (Sirius), Aotahi (Canopus), Rehua (Antares) and Te Matau a Māui (Scorpio). The fleet makes short work of the voyage and arrive at Vava’u in less than 45 hours.

Most of Te Matau a Māui crew then fly back to Aotearoa and Uto Ni Yalo sets sail for Fiji, knowing they will receive a heroes’ welcome in Suva.

Hine Moana and Te Matau a Māui remain in Vava’u as a sailing training base for Tonga, and to investigate the possibility of a commercial venture into whale watching.

After three months in Tonga, Te Matau a Māui is making her way back to Aotearoa where preparations are underway for next year’s great voyage. In March the fleet will sail from Auckland to Tahiti and then on to Hawai’i. Now there is also talk of sailing to the west coast of the United States of America and then down to the Galapagos Islands.




The emerald green waters of the coast of Mexico are home for a plethora of sea life and marine creatures. The first thing that most people associate with this beautiful country is perhaps, one “tequila” and two “tortillas and refried beans”.

I must confess I was one of them, memories of Tijuana and Rosarita on my late teens come to mind at the moment but if you ask me about Mexico now, all I can think about is the great biodiversity in the ocean. The fleet departed San Diego on the late afternoon of January 24th 2012 headed for Ensenada to clear customs in Mexico. Our original plan was to go straight to Cabo San Lucas but the fleet admiral decided that it would be wiser to clear customs asap and have a green light free of hassle all the way to Cabo.Ensenada is only 60 miles from California so it took us two days to get there. When we arrived we were greeted by a few heavily armed officers from “La armada marina de Mexico” or Mexican Navy. They were very intimidating but nice people.

It was the first time out of the country for our crew mate Kainoa so we all went out for some drinks. As soon as you stepped out of the harbor you had a major culture shock. The town is rather dark and poor, our first experience as we walked out to town was a few woman with their infants begging for money on a bridge. We had left the canoe at 10:00 p.m. and those children were going to be there with the mothers, begging for coins all night long. It broke my heart and it deffinatelly made a big impression on Kainoa, who had never left Hawaii in his life. Welcome to the real world my friend… We walked around town looking for a good place to hang out and celebrate our first time out together and get to know each other a bitt more before the long journey, we wanted some good live music and we found the right spot. A tiny hole in the wall dive bar with live “ranchero” music. We danced a little and mingled with the local people, it was a great night.

Sea lions, seals, turtles and dolphins became an everyday event while traveling the coast of Mexico. I never imagined I would see so many sea creatures, every day. Spinner dolphin pods of over 200 dolphins were very common. We would see the birds first, diving and going circles around the bait balls the dolphins were always around if the birds are eating. I imagine giant bait balls under the water and everyone feasting…. sea lions, dolphins, tuna, sharks, birds. I never, in a million years imagined that some day soon I would have the chance to be in the water with the creatures watching such an event, it happened in Coco’s Island and you will read about it soon. The main reason we were going to Cabo san Lucas was to see the gray whales. It was their birthing season and Cabo is their final destination. I had never seen a gray whale before and I was really exited to meet them for the first time. I had heard loud blows in the middle of the night while doing my watches but never seen them. I couldn’t wait!

Gray whales are not as acrobatic as the humpback whales, which Im in contact with on Maui every year for six months but gray whales are also very friendly and they transmit a feeling of serenity that is hard for me to explain… is like a “let go” feeling, let go, let it all go and relax… Their scared skin and bulky heads are beautiful to me. They sacrificed their lives for us for so long, the ancestors of this same pod Im looking at right now were true victims of whaling, this same population Im looking at right now was almost extinct. The cruelty of man is all I can think of, the selfishness and barbarism… why can we just vibrate in “love and light” and stop senseless killings. I guess its easier to be bad than good?

We looked for gray whales and we found them… and we also found humpback whales! I could not believe it when I saw them, I felt at home. Pectoral slaps and tail slaps on the distance, spy hops and breaches! I had forgotten that some of our humpback whales from the northern hemisphere go to Mexico for breeding season. It was such a treat to have seen humpbacks and gray whales at the same time. My heart was overflowing with joy! Everyones hearts on the entire fleet were full of love and happiness. Its amazing the effect that the whales have on us humans. The fleet kept on traveling south towards Cabo, we have had a great day with the whales but we were blessed with a final surprise from the whales and tangaroa right before sunset…

We were approaching a channel at the mouth of a large bay where the whales were and you could see a very strong current and very choppy seas in front of us. Our support vessel Evohe was ahead of the fleet and they called us to tell us to secure all loose things cause we were going to rock and roll! It was before sunset so I was cooking dinner at this time, it was pumpkin soup, that all I remember, the pumpkin soup flying in slow motion across the counter from the stove… Ohhhhh shhhhheeeeeeps! It was the messiest spill so far! It was the messiest spill ever!

I was really feeling at home, in my elements, humpback whales and rough seas, just like Maui!!! Whoooohooooo! It was windy and the swells were coming from all sides, making the canoe bounce and rock but the whales were putting a show for us. There was over 50 gray whales all spy hoping in thirty second intervals at the same time, they were all in that messy windy channel. The only thing I can think of is that they were feeding. Eating something that came floating in the current straight from the sea and into the bay where they were and that’s why they were at the mouth of the bay…. taking advantage of the fresh food rushing from the open OCEAN in to their giant mouths.

There was a frisky couple of gray whales making love, they were rolling on the surface of the water making a big commotion very evident for us and other creatures. Everyone was static… until we saw the whales large pink dork and we all burst in laughter! We had the whole nature show for ourselves, live in Mexico. The way to Cabo was long and after stopping at Magdalena bay for the night at “the homeless village” where we witnessed the shark finning incident, we gunned it to our final destination. One of the most interesting things we saw while on the way was a bird catching a ride on a turtles back… From the distance it looked like the bird was sitting on a log or a bucket, perhaps some debris but as the current brought us together we could see and photograph the curious event.

We got to Cabo san Lucas late afternoon right after sunset, it had been a few weeks with out touching land or with out showering with fresh water. Our hands were getting really leathered, worn out by the salt water and the element. The town is a tourist town and it was nothing like Ensenada, besides the begging children. Cabo san Lucas reminded me of Ibiza so I called it “Mexibiza”.

White tall tourist structures built in the late seventies, fancy brand new harbor with multi million dollar yatchs parked on their slips, green and blue umbrellas on the sidewalks. fancy restaurants, clubs, almost like an extension of California. Gated community houses, fancy hotels and malls. There is an annual fishing tournament that takes place in Cabo San Lucas and the first prize is one million dollars. Why cant all those rich people help all the poor in Mexico, how about donating some of that money to a charitable organization that works with the poor. It blows my mind… The next place we visited gave me tremendous hope for the future of Mexico, the small self sustainable community of Cabo Pulmo. We woke up early in the morning and drove for two hours through the arid coast of the tip of the Baja peninsula and reached Cabo Pulmo at about 7:30 a.m. The contrast between the desert like beach and the blue ocean was really beautiful. Away from the harbor and the fancy structures, finally at peace near the sea.

It had been over one month since I had gone free diving and seen some coral reefs. Cabo Pulmo was turned in to a protected area after overfishing had almost turned their oceans like the land that surrounds them, a desert. The marine life percentage in Cabo Pulmo has increased 450% since it became a preserve. There are so many sharks and rays, humpback whales, gray whales, sea lions, the reef is healthy and thriving with life.  Our ocean is  resilient… if we could only give it a chance. The zodiac ride from the beach to the diving site was only about 10 minutes. We were all geared up and ready to go underwater. A few people were diving with tanks and I went free diving. The visibility was not so good on the surface but once you got down to 40 feet it got much better. It was gorgeous but not as exiting as what was about to happen.

After we finished our first dive and we were all on the boat we noticed the splashing of mobulas on the water. There was hundreds of them and so many of them jumping. We asked the boat driver if he could take us were they were so we could swim with them and he agreed. It was fantastic! There was hundreds of them right underneath me…. even tho the viz was not good I still had a wonderful experience with the peaceful mantas. Next we visited nurse sharks. There was at least 5 of them all under big ledges and caves under the rocky reef. They were big but seemed very docile. To finish the excursion we went to visit the black tips, only  15 minute away but this time we didn’t jump in the water There were so many of them, everywhere.  Did I mentioned that we saw a humpback really close too!

This area is booming with marine life and It gave us all new hope in humanity. Yes, there are many of us out there trying the best we can to create a better world for humans and marine creatures. Many of us fighting for our ocean. We can all survive with out the unnecessary killings, with out so much greed. There is an urgent need to create more marine reserves and sanctuaries around the world. There is an urgent need to educate our people, specially the people who’s lives depend on the ocean. There is an urgent need for every citizen to stand up and do their part and make some sacrifices for our OCEAN. The time is now and the change begins with us.


Sunset in Mexico


Turtle back ride

Olive Ridley turtle

Waka times…

Looking for whales

My good friend Joy

The gray whales and Gualofa

Spy hops all around!

Cabo Pulmo

Flying mobulas of Cabo Pulmo


Our good friend David Castro and his friends the sharks…