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Holau Vaka Taumako Association Expects Arrival of New Proa Sailboat to Preserve Traditional Navigation Skills and Heritage

The Holau Vaka Taumako Association in Taumako (Duff Islands), Temotu Province, is expecting the arrival of their new outrigger sailboat later this year.

The sailboat, measuring 38 feet in length, is a Proa (a multi-hull outrigger sailboat) that will come from the United States.

The vessel was designed to provide a sustainable sea transport vessel for the Holau Vaka Taumako Association and to help raise money to support its voyaging school program.

S.V Lata Causey anchors at Kona, Honokohau Harbor in Hawai’i. Photo supplied by Dr. Mimi George

Speaking to SIBC News, Executive Director of the Holau Vaka Taumako Association Mr Luke Vaikawi confirmed that the vessel will sail into the country when it is completed.

“The aim behind this project was to give the Holau Vaka Taumako Association a boat for safe sea travel and to earn money for our voyaging school.”

“This vessel was designed to offer diverse services, including transportation of people and cargo, facilitating fishing operations, and serving as a vital emergency transport vessel when needed.”

“Once complete, we will sail the vessel into the country when the cyclone season ends, probably at the end of this year,” Mr Luke Vaikawi said.

Known as Sailing Vessel Lata or S.V Lata Causey for short, this impressive vessel is currently situated at Honokohau Harbor in Hawai’i. It is currently undergoing some minor adjustments to its mast and installation of its main engine.

Luke Vaikawi, Executive Director of the Holau Vaka Taumako Association

The total cost of constructing the boat is more than USD 200,000, approximately SBD 1.6 million.

“We launched the Proa earlier this year, and after conducting tests, we made the decision to readjust it to better suit the conditions of our sea in Taumako. This was done to improve its performance, taking into account its modern design and equipment.”

“The sailing vessel is still in Kona, Honokohau Harbor in Hawai’I and is undergoing a few touch – ups to the mast and the installation of the main engine to the bottom of the hull.”

“According to my schedule, I should leave the country by the end of this month with the voyage set to commence in November or December. “It is estimated that the journey will take approximately four to five weeks to reach the country,” Mr Vaikawi said.

An investment of USD 270,000, approximately SBD 1.6 million was already made to acquire the necessary materials for the vessel’s construction.

“An additional $52,000 USD is needed to complete the mast and install the main engine. We are actively working on securing this funding, relying on generous contributions from friends and supporters around the world,” Mr Vaikawai said.

The Proa’s design mimics that of a Tepuke canoe, which is a traditional ocean voyaging canoe unique to Taumako and Pileni people residing in the Outer Reef islands of Temotu Province, however, it differs slightly as it is constructed using fiberglass and equipped with modern safety features, including a communication system, Automatic Identification System (AIS), life vests, and radar.

The Proa primarily relies on wind power but is installed with a Yanmar motor engine to propel the vessel when there is no wind.

“I came up with the idea for this Proa design to cater for the needs of my Taumako people, who lack familiarity with modern compasses and marine engine operation.”

“We designed it after our familiar Tepuke canoe, a vessel they know well and understand. Constructed with fiberglass for increased strength and extended travel capabilities, this Proa features a sail and a few modern components, including a motor engine, communication system, Automated Identification System, Life Vests and radar.”

“We adhere to our traditional navigation methods, even with modern equipment on board. We chose not to install a compass to support the Association’s goal of reviving our ancient voyage navigation skills,” Mr Vaikawi said.

A similar design TePuke on the way from Taumako to Ndeni (Santa Cruz) in 2017. Photo Supplied

Meanwhile, Dr. Mimi George, Director of the Pacific Tradition Society (PTS), a non-governmental organisation based in Hawaii and a supporter of the Holau Vaka Taumako Association, described the project as a trial by constructing a Proa using modern materials.

“So far, there hasn’t been a case of building a Proa with modern materials for practical use. This was just a trial and through the process, we encountered errors and had to address various issues like the rigging.”

“We have gained valuable knowledge on how to fix the vessel, and we are currently raising funds to cover the expense,” Dr. George said.

According to the Executive Director, they are in the process of collaborating with relevant authorities to secure an exemption for S.V. Lata upon its arrival. This exemption request is based on the vessel’s length, which is less than 20 meters, and its traditional design, aligning with the provisions of the country’s Shipping Act of 1998.

He added that the ownership of the vessel is still registered under the Pacific Tradition Society (PTS and will be transferred to the Holau Vaka Taumako Association upon its arrival into the country.

The Holau Vaka Taumako Association is an organization based in Taumako, which is part of the Duff Islands in the Temotu Province.

The association is primarily focused on preserving and promoting the traditional Polynesian wayfinding and voyaging skills of the people of Taumako.

The people of Taumako are known for their expertise in traditional navigation techniques, including celestial navigation and wayfinding using the stars, winds, and natural signs.

These skills have been passed down through generations and are integral to their culture and heritage.

The Holau Vaka Taumako Association plays a crucial role in keeping alive the traditional navigation skills and cultural heritage of the Taumako people while also fostering connections with the broader world to share their unique expertise.


By Simon Tavake