On the evening of November 11, 2018, the ‘Okeanos Messenger’ arrived at Pohnpei’s port, ready to serve Pohnpei’s outer islands. Pohnpei officially welcomed the vessel this morning in a ribbon cutting ceremony in Dekehtik.
Pohnpei’s Governor Marcelo Peterson welcomed the vessel saying that it will provide cost effective, regular and reliable services to Pohnpei’s outer islands in a cost beneficial way while also providing training for potential Pohnpei mariners.
The “Vaka Motu”, is a double hulled open-ocean sustainable sailing canoe. It departed New Zealand two months ago. On its journey, the beautiful vessel visited Vanuatu, Kiribati, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, accomplishing a journey of 3000 open ocean miles. The canoe is propelled first by wind power but is also equipped with an engine that can run on coconut oil. The electricity on the vessel is supplied by solar powered batteries. The Vaka Motu has a kitchen, a flush toilet and a water maker that can produce 60 liters of potable water per hour.
The crew provided a tour of the vessel to people in attendance at the ribbon cutting ceremony. While the sleeping quarters and galley were each small, tiny even, as would be expected on such a vessel, they were serviceable, with 12 bunks to accommodate seven passengers and five crew members. In addition to passengers, the vessel can accommodate three tons of freight. Its two and a half foot draft means that it will be able to approach outer islands atolls much closer than can the field trip ship for easier passenger and freight transfer.
The brand new vessel arrived in pristine condition. Five of the seven crew members aboard when it arrived were from the FSM—two from Pohnpei, and three from Yap. While the vessel was captained by Okeanos Skipper Angelo Smith, originally from Fiji, and Watch Captain India Tabellini from Tahiti, Tony John of Pohnpei will assume the role of Captain of the vessel now that it has arrived in Pohnpei.
After the vessel has been registered as an FSM flagged vessel it will be named the “Okeanos Pohnpei”.
After the conclusion of the tour, the Okeanos headed to sea for a short excursion with members of Pohnpei’s leadership and some members of the media aboard. We elected to stay ashore and take photos of the vessel as it passed Pohnpei’s majestic Sokehs Rock.
The vessel does not yet belong to Pohnpei. Until costs have been recovered it will be owned and operated by the Okeanos Foundation which commissioned the building of the vessel. After the vessel has reached the “break even” point, ownership will then be transferred to Pohnpei.
Meanwhile, the Okeanos Foundation, whose mission is to empower Pacific Island people to implement traditionally based sustainable sea transportation to ensure independence, cultural revival and ocean stewardship, intends to establish a traditional navigation school in Pohnpei. It also intends to establish a boat yard for maintenance of the vessel.
The Okeanos Vaka Motu non-profit operations are conducted by Pacific islands-led social enterprises that offer traditionally based sustainable sea transportation to meet day-to-day needs. The company already has vessels in operation in nine Pacific islands countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Vanuatu, Marshall Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Okeanos says that it has already trained hundreds of previously inexperienced sailors in the art of traditional navigation.
FSM will be the 10th Pacific Island nation to receive placement of a vaka starting with Pohnpei. Yap is scheduled to receive a vaka vessel in April.
Managing Director for Okeanos operations in Pohnpei, Jack Yakana said that when he learned of the mission and purpose of Okeanos Foundation for the Sea, he was so supportive of it that he left his position at Pohnpei Transportation and Infrastructure to help with the project.
Yakana neglected to read a message from Dieter Paulmann, Founder and President; and Dena Seidel, Director and Chief Operations Officer of Okeanos- Foundation for the Sea. He asked that we include that message that was addressed to FSM President Peter M. Christian, Pohnpei Governor Marcelo K. Peterson, and Lt. Governor Reed B. Oliver in our coverage. The message follows:
“Kaselehlie Okeanos Pohnpei, distinguished guests, your Excellency President Christian, Honorable Governor Peterson, Lt Governor Oliver, Mayor Henry of Mwoakilloa, Mayor Clark of Pingelap, Mayor Sena of Nukuoro, ladies and gentlemen and especially our brave and skillful sailing crew who travelled thousands of miles of open ocean to bring the vaka to you today.
“We are honored to have Okeanos Pohnpei arrive in Micronesia ready to begin the very meaningful work of traditionally based sustainable sea transportation servicing your outer island communities.
“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Governor Peterson for your leadership, vision and commitment to meet the urgent transportation needs of your outer island communities.
“Okeanos is honored to support you and your country’s goals for regular, reliable and safe sea transportation between your islands empowering your people and your economy while inspiring pride and creating jobs for open ocean sailors and vaka operators. Your state’s proactive charter commitment to really use the vaka to services remote communities is why we are here.
“Your ancestors were the greatest open ocean sailors and navigators the world has ever known. You are the descendants and carriers of that great traditional knowledge.
“When your Pacific brothers and sisters had all but lost their traditional seafaring skills, it was Pius Mau Piailug from Micronesia who dedicated his life to reviving the sacred practice of open ocean wayfinding and, in so doing, brought back the ancient sea roads of your ancestors. Papa Mau’s gift to the world was a gift from Micronesia.
“Okeanos is proud to be here in Micronesia supporting you and your own goals for lived voyaging culture as means to addressing the real world challenges and day-to-day needs of your people.
“The skill and bravery of the Okeanos Pohnpei crew that sailed from New Zealand to Vanuatu to Kiriabati to Marshall Islands and now Pohnpei to be with you are evidence of the pride and heartfelt momentum that will be the source of your success
“When young Pacific people are eager to stand in the place of their ancestors, servicing their families and country through proud practices of open ocean sea transport relying only on your native sources of energy, there is no limit to what Pacific countries can accomplish.
“We extend our deepest respect to our crew beginning with Captain Angelo Smith, Watch Captain India Tabellini, Okeanos Pohnpei captain in training Tony John, Tyron Jano, Isaiah Yarofyan, Jeffson Yeliglur and Larry Shielmai.”
“You are role models for the Pacific and the world. So many solutions are possible when you stand on the shoulders of your ancestors and combine their wisdom with global friendships and modern technical experience to meet the urgent challenges your island countries face today.
“We are very proud and honored to have Jack Yakana as Okeanos Pohnpei’s managing director leading Okeanos’ mission for your state. As an outer islander who grew up with traditional canoes, Jack brings to this position his deep passion to bring to life cultural sailing practice into day -to-day service to outer island communities.
“A proud, strong future based upon regular, safe renewable transportation can be FSM’s because of who you are and who you have always been. The potential for positive growth from the successful activities of this one canoe can be enormous extending to training centers and boatyards providing place-based education and job opportunities throughout your country.
“We wish we could be with you in person today but please know we are with you in heart and spirit with the greatest admiration and highest hopes for our robust and meaningful long term partnership.”
COO Seidel wrote that Governor Peterson initiated the partnership with Okeanos in July of 2018 by committing to charter the vessel to serve outer island communities. During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Peterson thanked the Pohnpei State Legislature for committing the funds to make those charters happen.
By Bill Jaynes for The Kaselehlie Press, Vol. 18 Issue No. 25, 13 November 2018