A dream, Te Maru O Havaiki
Te Maru O Havaiki means ‘the shadow of Havaiki’ and is the realisation of a dream – or certainly of the fantasy that I had as a first-time visitor to the Pacific.
Now, I understand that for French Polynesian locals what is past is past. Here people think of the now, the present. The future and past are not so important; it’s another perception of life. They say of people in the islands: ‘They’ve got the time, and people from busy cities, they’ve got the clock.’
Te Maru O Havaiki is a 30ft Va’a Motu (outrigger canoe) designed by a local architect, Nicolas Gruet, and also built by Alexandre Genton. The build created the opportunity to train two young people from Fakarava, and one of these young men, Toko, hung in right to the end of the construction. He proved to be an excellent laminator as well as disconcertingly natural at sailing the 30ft canoe, which is not an easy machine for a beginner to handle. The Paumotu people have an incredible ease with the water.
The project secured sponsorship from the French marine preservation agency, which gave us almost €40,000. They liked the local values and tradition, but the most interesting element for them was the scientific
element of the project. For them we had to map an area of Fakarava’s lagoon using kites equipped with cameras!
For more than two months we sailed almost every day, skimming the lagoon from east to west and from north to south, sometimes camping rough for two or three nights to explore further. During each outing we learned a little more, and gained confidence by sailing with the same crew.
We start to dare to sheet on a little more. The canoe is fast, but on one tack it is unstable. Whenever we tack, we shake out or put in a reef, it’s a delicate balancing act. Others, more courageous than us, sailed with just two people, and later were able to turn by gybing. Three crew is fine, but you have to reef... four is better, five is ideal.
In the end, a government inspector from maritime affairs decided, after a stability test, not to register the dugout because it is too unstable. He is not a sailor, nor Polynesian, but freshly arrived from Dunkerque, where his job was to license cargo ships.
I don’t think he understood the importance of the shape of our canoe and it was painful at the time, but understandable with hindsight. The dugout canoe in this configuration, with only one ama, will not be a 100% safe boat. Instead we will transform the canoe into a trimaran. The Va’a Motu association reconvened to re-elect a new board in April 2021. Now we will write a second chapter, but this time in a trimaran. Te Maru O Havaiki continues to tell the story of the evolution of multihulls.