Maori master canoe builder, Hekenukumai Busby (New Zealand)
We went to the Marquesas. In Nuku Hiva we prepared for the BIG voyage, which was to be 2300 miles (3700 km). We had two trainee navigators who would get the canoe to Hawaii from Nuku Hiva. The University of Hawaii electronically recorded our course. Later, the data showed Te Aurere to be the closest canoe to the sail plan submitted before the voyage. I was proud of our trainee navigators.

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Navigating

Before setting out, a navigator and his community have to prepare well for a journey. Once at sea, the navigator has to bring together all his knowledge about the stars, sea, sun, and wind to keep the canoe on course and safely find land. At all times, he must know his canoe’s position in relation to his home and destination and adjust his course if necessary. To do this, he must stay awake for long periods – sometimes all day and night. Otherwise, he might miss important information, like a star sighting or wind change.

But navigating isn’t just practical – it’s spiritual as well. It is said that you can tell a navigator because of his red eyes – a sign that he’s spiritually blessed, not so much that he’s had no sleep! In the Caroline Islands, a navigator carries a charm GLOSSARY charm - spiritual object made of wood and stingray spines to protect the voyage. In the Louisiade Archipelago, he places plants like coconut leaves on the canoe to show his authority and keep spirits away. In Kiribati GLOSSARY Kiribati - Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands , he might perform a chant GLOSSARY chant - song to keep away dangers like bad weather.

Ruberubei-te-nang, nkoe!
Me na baka, me na maototo i maiaki-ni wa-u ni boborau ikai!

Tremble-the-cloud, you!
So it falls, so it breaks to the south of my voyaging canoe!

Adapted from Grimble, A. (1972).