Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tonga Voyaging Society

So I've always had a thing for sailing. I don't know where this affinity for anything and everything nautical comes from because I grew up in the Midwest and that just doesn't make any sense. Aside from the Great Lakes, I have not really ever lived near big bodies of water. But sailing intrigues me. There is something about paying attention to the wind and letting it guide you that is really beautiful and empowers you to get closer to nature (which I think is what a lot of us need these days!).
Aunofo (the captain) and I.
When it's not windy, the boat moves thanks to solar power!
These words represent stars and directions.
When I worked at summer camp, I loved to be on the water (when I wasn't in the art room of course). Sailing around (or attempting to learn to sail) a Hobie was so much fun. I love anchors. I love ropes. I loved watching the sailing counselors do their thing. I was jealous and was dying to learn. I only ever really got the hang of operating the jib but every little bit counts! It's all just so interesting to me. I'd like to think I was a pirate (a nice one) in a past life or something.
Detailed carvings line the boat.
I've already mentioned the Hine Moana on here. It's a Polynesian sailing vessel that was created (along with a fleet of 6 other boats) to inspire Polynesians to get reacquainted with their culture, specifically the sailing portion. These boats are replicas of the great seafaring canoes of ancient Polynesia. They are open-decked catamarans that are about 70 feet long and about 20 feet across. Besides being beautiful boats, what makes the wakas (pronounced: vah-kahs) so awesome is that their motors work because of solar power. Not only are these boats here to educate others about Tonga (and the other Polynesian nations and cultures), but a climate change/environmental emphasis is included as well.
And because I love facts so much I want to share with you another reason that these Polynesian boats are special (and the people who sail them): with no GPSs or maps (because those weren't around thousands of years ago), Polynesians needed to be creative and smart when sailing the open seas!
 Wade Davis, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, writes that the crew of these boats only use their "knowledge, and the pride, authority, and power of an entire people reborn". Faced with the vast expanse of ocean, Polynesians had to sail using "the fundamental elementary of the world: wind, waves, clouds, stars, sun, moon, birds, fish and the water itself" (Davis, The Wayfinders). These sailors would train their entire lives - testing hypotheses using astronomy, animal behavior, meteorology and oceanography. Amazing stuff.   
Here's an example - clouds provide clues to the Polynesian sailors - "their shape, color, character, and place in the sky. Brown clouds bring strong winds; high clouds no wind but lots of rain. Their movements reveal the strength and direction of winds, the stability of the sky, the volatility of storm fronts."
Mandy, why are you writing a novel on your blog? What does this have to do with anything?
Because I am going to be volunteering with the Tongan Voyaging Society until the end of my Peace Corps service (!!!!). They are in need of somebody who is experienced in social media, Tongan culture (still working on this), and who has an enthusiasm for sailing (raises hand!). I'm a little nervous, so excited and so grateful for this opportunity. Plus I get to embrace my love of sailing without getting motion sick! High five. Check out their website here.

No comments:

Post a Comment