Maurai first set his feet on board of a traditionally based double-hull Polynesian sailing canoe in September 2014, when he sailed from Rarotonga, Cook Islands, to Australia aboard Marumaru Atua, a so called ‘Vaka Moana’ (Boat for the Ocean) which was built and operated by Okeanos Foundation for the Sea in 2009.
He immediately fell in love with the beautiful canoe which, same as six other Okeanos Vaka Moanas, was redesigned based upon an earlier design by Sir Thomas Davis, a Cook Islander, which was made according to one of Captain Cook’s drawings from around 1770. In Cook Islands the vaka is deeply connected with the Cook Islanders’ history, as the country has an important traditional seafaring legacy. The old canoes allowed their ancestors to sail over the vast Pacific ocean, guided by traditional knowledge of wayfinding and sailing, to gather and distribute resources and to connect people. In 2015, the self-governing Pacific island country which comprises 15 islands and an ocean area of 2.4 million square miles of ocean of which 1.2 million have been turned into the Marae Moana Marine Reserve, even recognized the Okeanos-built vaka Marumaru Atua as a Cook Island national treasure by commemorating the sailing boat on a national $5 coin.
That same year Maurai started working for Okeanos, as crew on the Vaka Motu ‘Okeanos Aotearoa’ on a voyage from Tahiti to Samoa. With him on board was Okeanos Vaka Fleet Commander Peia Patai as captain, a Cook Islander himself. Peia teached Maurai ‘all things vaka’ – not only concerning the sailing but also boat building techniques and maintenance.
Since then Maurai has been working for Okeanos, partly as delivery crew and partly as boat builder at Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders in Auckland, New Zealand, where all Okeanos Vaka Motus up to date have been built. He also helped teaching new crew the correct woodwork and maintenance.
Maurai sailed an impressive total of more than 22,000 nautical miles on board of different Okeanos vaka motus of which the longest was 2,300 nm from Auckland to Tahiti to Hawai’i on Okeanos Marshall Islands plus sailed as crew during plenty of short trips around Auckland. His final longer voyage was in 2018 when Maurai sailed on Okeanos Messenger from Auckland to Port Vila (Vanuatu) and on to Tarawa (Kiribati).
Back at home in the Cook Islands Maurai will work for the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and be responsible for the vaka’s ongoing maintenance so that she can continue her important work of educating the local youth, ensuring the legacy of traditional sailing and navigation and caring for the environment through traditional practices.
Safe sailing, Maurai, and Aere ra,
Your colleagues from Okeanos