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.

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