Okeanos Marianas arrives on Saipan

AFTER sailing for 40 days, Okeanos Marianas arrived on Saipan, Monday morning.

A welcoming ceremony was held at Guma Sakman in Susupe for the navigators: Peia Petai, Steven Tawake, Maurai Villa, India Tabellini, John Sablan, Devin Noisom, Andrea Carr and Deidre Golani.

Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter said the arrival of Okeanos Marianas was a monumental day for the CNMI.

“For so many years, this community talked about the need for regular transportation to our Northern Islands. Today, this has become a reality because of this crew and the other people involved in this project,” Hunter said.

Okeanos Marianas, a Polynesian canoe, started its journey from New Zealand on Sept. 20, stopping briefly at New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands and Chuuk. Saipan will be its new home.

The Okeanos Foundation for the Sea is funding the operation of Okeanos Marianas which will provide regular transportation to the Northern Islands for cargo as well as trips to Tinian and Rota.

At the welcoming ceremony, Hunter also honored Mau Pialug, the famous master navigator from Satawal who taught traditional navigation to individuals around the Pacific.

Peia Petai, who is from the Cook Islands, was one of his students.

Hunter said Pialug was instrumental in perpetuating “a millennia of tradition of building and sailing canoes across hundreds and thousands of miles of open ocean.”

He also recognized the hard work of couple Emma and Pete Perez of 500 Sails “for making sure that our sailing tradition will not die out and for using a technology that is viable and utilized in our daily lives.”

Hunter added, “Papa Mau, Peia Petai, Pete and Emma Perez, Okeanos Sustainable Sea Transport Ltd., the Okeanos Foundation and the efforts of many more have culminated on this momentous day.”

Hunter said “it is so emotionally moving to me to see our boats on the water and our traditional Pacific sailing culture still alive and strong. What is more moving and even more important is that this heritage has a place in our contemporary world despite all the changes we have seen — our canoe heritage still has an important role to play today.”

In an interview, Petai said the three crew members from Saipan he trained did well. “I can leave the canoe in good hands.”

Petai described their journey as “good but a bit slow, especially from the Solomon Islands going to the Marianas.” He said the weather was not on their side but everybody was fine and safe.

He also thanked his teacher, Mau Pialug, and the Micronesian people “for giving us back the gift of navigation knowledge.”

He said without Pialug, “we will not even be sailing today. We may be just singing and talking about culture but not actually practicing it. The culture of traditional navigation is very strong today because of Mau. It is an honor to be here, sailing in a Polynesian canoe that will be based in the Micronesian islands and operate as part of the people’s daily life.”

According to Petai, they will continue training people, especially the youth. “That is our biggest responsibility now — to teach so we don’t lose the knowledge again.”

He said in April, the Okeanos Foundation will be sending another canoe, this time to Palau.

One of Petai’s students is Andrea Carr, a former CNMI police officer. She said the journey was “intense sometimes, but it was wonderful. We were dealing with Mother Nature but as long as we respected the ocean and the sky, we were okay. We followed our captain, especially his instructions regarding safety.”

Carr said Petai was strict. “But everything he told us was for our safety and for the boat itself to be able to reach its new home in one piece. I really appreciate his enforcement of safety measures regarding life jackets and certain other things that we needed to do.”

Okeanos Marianas is a 50-foot double haul Polynesian canoe and based on traditional design, but built with modern materials, according to Emma Perez, general manager of Okeanos Sustainable Sea Transport Ltd.

She said the state-of-the-art Polynesian canoe cost over a half a million dollars. The fossil fuel-free canoe runs on sail and its two engines run on crude coconut oil.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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