Tak­ing a trip on a tra­di­tional Drua

mailife - - Contents - By ANDY PAUL

Dis­ney’s ver­sion of the Pa­cific’s tra­di­tional sail­ing ves­sel, the drua, in the film Moana is cap­ti­vat­ing – but noth­ing as awe­some as the real Drua Ex­pe­ri­ence. The coolest his­tory les­son of all time was to sail out of Suva Point like a true Fi­jian in a true tra­di­tional drua. This dou­ble-hulled craft is a piece of liv­ing his­tory right here in Suva. Where I come from in small town Trenton in Canada, we tend to stick to our ice hockey and maple syrup, and sail­ing and wa­ter ac­tion isn’t as com­mon as it is here in Fiji. Cer­tainly noth­ing com­pares to the Drua ex­pe­ri­ence. The I Vola Siga Vou is a scale replica of the drua of the past and she can be found an­chored at Suva Point. The Drua project is also an at­tempt to pro­vide em­ploy­ment to the next gen­er­a­tion of young sailors here in Fiji. The I Vola Siga Vou op­er­ates as a char­ter ves­sel as a means of giv­ing peo­ple a new kind of ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween the wind and the wa­ter. Chief Nav­i­ga­tor and mem­ber of the orig­i­nal Pa­cific Voy­agers who sailed across the world in the Uto Ni Yalo, Moala Tokota’a says they are try­ing to bridge the gap be­tween the cul­tural world and busi­ness world so that they may also pre­serve the art of sail­ing and way find­ing. “This is an at­tempt to cre­ate a busi­ness out of this so that we can em­ploy our sailors and also help in­still the in­ter­est with sail­ing and way find­ing,’’ Moala says. Moala is widely known as one of Fiji’s top am­bas­sadors of con­ser­va­tion. A vet­eran to the open seas and forests and has vis­ited dozens of vil­lages dur­ing his years with the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety and also with the Coral Al­liance.

He hails from Lau, which is where the boat builders of Fiji are from. “Yes we have put a price tag on it be­cause all these things cost to op­er­ate but look at it this way – we are help­ing pre­serve it if we sup­port such ini­tia­tives,’’ he says. My other high­light of the tour was meet­ing up with their only fe­male mem­ber of the crew. Cather­ine Le­dua 24, knows the Drua in­side out as she comes from the last re­main­ing clan of mas­ter boat builders in Fiji. She hails from the is­land of Moce and her grand­fa­ther was one of the peo­ple the mak­ers of Moana con­sulted in or­der to bring to life the sail­boats in the Dis­ney flick. She lives with her fam­ily in the Korova Set­tle­ment which is near Suva Point. The peo­ple of Korova also set sail from Moce Is­land some 40 years ago to make a bet­ter life and ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren. Mean­while the orig­i­nal Drua built dur­ing the days of old, is housed at the Fiji Mu­seum. Once re­garded (and still con­sid­ered by many) as the great­est battleship of the Pa­cific, Bri­tish ex­plorer and cap­tain in the Royal Navy James Cook once said “the Drua made my boat look like an an­chor”. The drua’s en­gi­neer­ing is truly re­mark­able and makes its glide through the sea seem ef­fort­less. “Our fore­fa­thers were ex­cel­lent en­gi­neers,’’ Moala says. “And they even had their own brand of physics – you see the Fi­jian sail it not only pushes the craft but also pro­vides lift, that’s due to the de­sign and shape of the sail.” Now that to me is some­thing that is al­most be­yond our imag­i­na­tion – I told my­self. Smaller Druas can carry up to 10 pas­sen­gers and have been known to reach speeds of up to 40 knots. Back when druas roamed the ocean, ves­sels would carry around 200 peo­ple and be out at sea for months at a time. While my drua voy­age was noth­ing as long as that, sail­ing in this beau­ti­fully crafted ves­sel true to it’s ori­gins was a re­mark­able ex­pe­ri­ence and is def­i­nitely some­thing I will never for­get. I Vola Siga Vou means The New Ris­ing Star, and this Fi­jian drua con­tin­ues to shine.

To find out more about The Drua Ex­pe­ri­ence visit www.dru­a­ex­pe­ri­ence.com

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