The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
The wind on a sail can push a canoe right over. Therefore, most European boats have a deep, heavy keel GLOSSARY keel - the structure on the bottom of a European hull that works against the force of the wind to keep the boat upright that works against the force of the wind to keep the boat upright. They also have a heavy ballast GLOSSARY ballast - heavy weight placed low in the hull of European boats to keep them upright . Both the keel and the ballast slow the boat down [See figure 1].
Pacific canoes are different. They sail by working with the natural forces of the wind and water. Because of this, they don’t need extra weight to stay upright. Instead of having a deep keel in the water, the outrigger canoe puts the balancing weight (the outrigger itself) to the side – a clever solution because it doesn’t slow the boat down [See figure 2]. The canoes don’t crash through the water because their parts are flexible GLOSSARY flexible - easy to bend and move with the waves. This means less stress on the boat and less equipment failure, which is essential for long voyages. The canoes are built with very few materials. This is important on islands with few resources.
It’s not surprising that the lightest and fastest boats in the world today are modern catamarans. Their designs are based on Pacific double-hulled canoes GLOSSARY double-hulled canoes - canoes with two hulls !
Our voyage to Rarotonga
Maori master waka builder, Hekenukumai Busby (New Zealand)
“After we launched the waka many things needed adjustment. In 1992 we wanted to sail to the festival in Rarotonga. Despite being a difficult time of year we decided to try. Te Aurere had one mast then. We had an international crew. One Hawaiian, Mau and a nephew, the remainder were our youth. The storms during that voyage severely tested us for seven days. Our two steering paddles were destroyed and we were assisted in to Rarotonga by our support vessel. Once we got back to New Zealand I made changes to improve her sailing performance.”