Jul 2, 2018

Historic voyage for ‘alternative educational platform’

The waka hourua Tairawhiti ‘floating classroom’

The waka hourua Tairawhiti “floating classroom” sailed from Gisborne port yesterday on its first official education voyage for students.

On board were 17 Gisborne Girls’ High School prefects, who were taught a range of ocean skills including nautical and navigational practises.

Tairawhiti Voyaging Trust chief executive Te Aturangi Nepia-Clamp said that until this voyage the waka had mainly been used for educational waka orientation purposes in port, so yesterday’s journey into the bay marked a major achievement.

“This has been an historic voyage, as the initial purpose behind the fundraising and building of this waka was to create an alternative educational platform.

“We had these same students on board two weeks ago for orientation while the waka was docked, so to head out on the ocean today is a significant moment.”

The waka is certified to carry up to 25 people. It has fibreglass hulls but traditional timber upper decks, including a section in the bow made from pohutukawa sourced from Hawaii and Tokomaru Bay.

The trust raised the necessary $1.2 million to build the waka — a unique double-hulled design that uses a special coconut oil and diesel motor — as an education resource for Gisborne schools and a” floating museum” for Tairawhiti.

“The idea is to teach our young people about our voyaging ancestors — Polynesian, Maori and European — and this is the perfect vessel, the perfect waka, to be able to do that,” said Mr Nepia-Clamp.

“Today we divided the students into three groups/watches. Each was given responsibility for steering, operating the sails and centreboards, and the general operation of the waka, along with other skills related to seamanship.

“The teamwork and camaraderie between the girls was a pleasure to behold. They were an absolute delight to have on board.”

The waka sailed to Te Kuri-a-Paoa (Young Nicks Head) while the crew did tacking and other sailing manoeuvres. They were at sea for around three hours.

“We had a beautiful day of sailing, with blue skies and sunshine.

“A bit more wind would have been good but it’s been a wonderful voyage, with all the young people active on deck.”

Mr Nepia-Clamp said this was a test-run of sorts and the plan was to take out more school groups.

“To provide this hands-on opportunity for people to learn our region’s dual nautical histories is something very special.”

Through a special arrangement with Tairawhiti schools, the trust employs four teachers who were on board for the voyage, along with three volunteers, the skipper and Mr Nepia-Clamp.


By Jonathan Rush for The Gismore Herald, 30 June 2018