Thursday, August 22, 2013
THE signs on the horizon are that this year’s Veitau Waqa — The Boat Lives races could signal a resurgence in the dying art of crafting traditional sailing vessels.
With 10 vessels entering the competition this year as part of the Hibiscus festival events, one can’t be blamed for being more than hopeful for the future of the camakau and drua.
Last year’s champion Joji Misaele believes that if his camakau design wins the title again this year then he may be able to lure back those with knowledge of the ancient art.
With the help of FNU, Mr Misaele was able to make improvements to the traditional camakau to fix key issues that were always sinking the vessel.
“Now what we know is the camakau can be made better,” he said.
“What I was thinking is that if we can modify the safety and the performance of the camakau, those who used to build these vessels can go back to building them.
“That’s the hope and dream that we have.”
Working with new NGO Ocean Origin, as well as the Pacific Blue Foundation and other donors, Mr Misaele explained they had other lofty but not unrealistic ambitions.
He said the stories of the drua such as the Rusaivanua, owned by Ratu Seru Cakobau, had captivated them and they wanted to make those stories into reality again.
“Ratu Seru Cakobau’s drua, Rusaivanua, took 10 years to make and was able to take 300 warriors to fight in times of tribal warfare.
“It was also said that these drua could travel at speeds of 20 knots but if you look around now, there is no drua. What we want now is to prove that these stories are true and prove that we could build drua like that.
“These stories were written by the missionaries and the traders but the problem is that no one has actually seen it but with the latest technology we have now, it could be possible again.”
He said this was one of the main aims of Ocean Origin and they were working on it with the Pacific Blue Foundation and the Pacific Voyaging Society.
He explained that initial estimates for construction of a full size drua were placed at $100,000 with the largest cost being the manpower.
“With the advances in technology, now we can make the hull of the vessel from planks, whereas in the past, the size of the vessel depended on the size of the tree.
“This means that we are not restricted when building for size and they can be modified to ensure that they are safe.
“And the hope is that one day, traditional vessels will be built to assist those on unprofitable shipping routes in Fiji, saving money while also being environmentally friendly.
“But they realise that time is not on their side. Those with the traditional knowledge are getting harder and harder to find.
“We need to do this early while those who have the skill are still around but if we do this in another 10 or 15 years, it will be very hard to find people with that knowledge.
“For those who know the craft, they do not need a plan. Right now, they can be found in Kabara, Fulaga, Ogea, Moce and even Tuvuca where there are two traditional craft sailing right now.”
As the Veitau Waqa races start tomorrow, the undertones of a race against time will also run deep in the minds of those with traditional sailing at heart.
A race they hope will not come to an abrupt conclusion.
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