Community rallies behind canoe build
Under the makeshift shed that stretches alongside John Misky’s home, a promise is being kept.
Every weekend, people gather to watch the Porirua man create the traditional Polynesian canoe, or va’a, he promised his grandmother he would build.
Some people come to help, some to look and some to talk, but the most important thing is that they come, Misky said.
‘‘It takes a village to raise a child, and a community to build a canoe.’’
The canoe has been a long time coming. It was back in 2003 that Misky promised he would build it and sail around the North Island to raise money for the Tokelauan Bible translation project his grandmother loved.
He made a couple of attempts at it, but the years just slipped away. Then so did his grandmother.
‘‘She died before I did anything, and I have carried this monkey on my back for a long time.’’
At the moment, the va’a is just polystyrene shaped like a canoe, but by November it will be a sleek, single-hulled vessel clad in kahikatea wood.
Misky is funding the project himself, but the help of friends and strangers has been integral. ‘‘I could never have come this far by myself.’’
He’s building the 10-metre craft using a small prototype, but he works mostly ‘‘by feel’’.
When it’s completed, a sixperson crew of young Pasifika will sail to Auckland, paying tribute to iwi along the way.
‘‘It’s a cultural thing – we need permission to travel through their waters.’’
Misky is no stranger to seafaring and boatbuilding. In 2009 he joined the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which builds canoes, and completed a mammoth doublehulled canoe adventure from Auckland to Tahiti, Hawaii, Samoa, San Francisco and Mexico.
Building a canoe in Waitangirua is different, though. ‘‘It’s become more than a boat somehow ... it’s like it’s become a community in itself.’’
The project has been drawing so much attention that a seating area for visitors is being erected out of scaffolding.
‘‘I used to lie awake worrying about my promise,’’ he said. ‘‘I sleep much better now.’’
John Misky is building a traditional Samoan canoe - called a va’a - as a tribute to his late grandmother.
Misky aboard a traditional canoe during a massive voyage around the Pacific.