Sunday, August 21, 2011

Six Vaka, One Girl

Faafaite vaka - Tahiti (foreground) and Te Matau A Maui - Aotearoa (NZ) resting in Rarotonga (c) Ina Lejins 2010
It began for me in the Cook Islands, June 2010, when six newly constructed vaka sailed into the 'ancient' harbor of Rarotonga after concluding a three month inaugural South Pacific voyage. The same day I, too, arrived in Rarotonga for the first time. The magic of that sighting and the following introductions make for another story but, needless to say, from that moment I was deeply inspired by their profound mission and message.

It was said the Pacific Voyagers were planning a journey that would cover over 20,000 nautical miles, visiting ports of call on a mission of ecological ocean awareness. It was difficult for me to believe anyone would circumvent the entire Pacific for any reason, but at the same time, I was hopeful it wasn't silly sailor talk or a pipe dream.

Then, just as planned, in April 2011, the voyagers left the southern hemisphere on an epic journey and a quest. They sailed north as their ancestors did thousands of years ago and, as the waters cooled, a pulse quickened.

Awaiting their arrival with anticipation, hope, and welcoming arms, Hawai'i –the most distant Polynesian shore at over 2400 nautical miles away – received her ancestral family. The vaka wove their way through the Hawaiian Islands visiting as many ports as possible. Too soon, a wistful parting in Kaua'i sent the vaka bounding toward San Francisco which required a long, cold, arduous crossing northward toward Canadian waters to catch the currents south again.

Their arrival in San Francisco was historic and I was blessed to be part of numerous celebrations. To witness the power these voyagers carry is overwhelming, even to themselves. Yet the sea keeps them humble. It brings balance and is the source of humility, as are the stars with which the crew navigate a vast ocean.

Ghost Vaka leave Rarotonga, Cook Islands (c) Ina Lejins 2010
I have now seen the va'a in both hemispheres. At times they are like ghost riders on the horizon, an honor to their navigating ancestors; other times, a string of precious pearls, "na momimakamae", trailing through the ocean carrying a message for people today to malama pono our oceans and, in turn, be healed.

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