Okeanos Vaka Motu Specifications

Type: Traditionally-Based Double-Hull Sailing Canoe
Length: 14.8 m / 50 ft
Width: 6.2 m / 20 ft
Draft: 0.7 m / 2.2 ft
Displacement: 9 tons
Sail Area: 58 m2 / 615 square feet
Sailing Cruise Speed: 6 – 9 knots
Cargo: 3 tons

Bunks: 12
Crew: 4
Passengers: 8

Hull: E-Glass and Epoxy Resin
Super Structure: Wood
Steering System: Paddle / Hoi

Water Maker / Desalination: 60L per hour
(powered by solar panels or by generator at night)


The VAKA MOTU (Boat for the Island) is the best boat for the Pacific. Her design is traditionally based, she has one mast, a maximum weight of nine tons, and can accommodate 12 people and three tons of cargo. She is primarily designed for operation between the islands but also certified for open ocean safety.



The vaka motus are operated in various Pacific island states by Okeanos Sustainable Sea Transport Ltd  (local non-profit companies) and its experienced local Pacific crews. Their operations are based on the values of social entrepreneurship.

Okeanos’ current focus is on the development of partnerships to integrate Vaka Motus into the day-to-day lives of the islanders including transportation of teachers, doctors, and school children, and all goods and services, including disaster-relief to those devastated by extreme weather.

The vaka motu sails with a contemporary rig. It has a sail area of 615 square feet (58 square meter), a length of 50 feet, a 20-foot beam, a two and a half foot draft (80 cm) and is operated by four crew for normal operation.

It is steered by a traditional wood steering paddle (hoi). All beams are connected with the hulls through traditional lashings. It is equipped with GPS navigation, a compass, and VHF as well as international safety equipment such as life rafts, life vests, flares, etc., following international safety regulations. The average sailing speed is about 7 to 8 knots. It sails nicely high to the apparent wind between 55° and 60°.

The hulls of the vaka motu are made of e-glass and epoxy resin, as it would be environmentally irresponsible to build boats with wood nowadays.

The solar installation consists of eight solar panels with 230 W each, offering a total capacity of 1.9 kW. With normal sunlight, the boat can be driven with a speed of four knots. Using two independent LiPo 48v battery systems each with a capacity of 15kWh, the boat can run 20 nautical miles independent of the sun. It thus has a sufficient cruising range to reach ports or other safe places even when there is neither wind nor light. Two 10kW electrical pods can be lowered into the water from the deck to propel the boat or recharge the batteries during sailing. Two independent electrical systems are used so the vaka motu can still move if one system fails.

We are also operating one vaka motu with two 15 kWh electrical inboard engines that allow higher speed, greater range, and may reduce maintenance work. In 2016 we have started test runs with 20 HP Volvo diesel engines operated with biofuel. Since then we are operating our vaka motus ‘Okeanos Vanuatu’, ‘Okeanos Marshall Islands’ and ‘Okeanos Marianas’ with a biofuel powered engine that allows us to be independent from fossil fuel supplies and to operate without any CO2 emission.

The typical distance for inter-island traffic would be 50 to 100 nautical miles, but the vaka motu is also designed for long open ocean crossings. It can be used as a ferry boat to bring goods from remote outer islands to the central markets, coastal fishing operations, noise-free whale watching, sightseeing tours for tourists, and can even operate as a floating school-bus.

The vaka motu contains a 1.45 meter high deckhouse which provides eight passengers shelter against sun, rain, and wind. At the same time, it provides space for a navigational area and two pilot berths. For the well-being of crew and passengers, it is equipped with a special galley area in the port side and also with a functional toilet with a black water tank on the starboard side.

All of our vaka motus were built in New Zealand for practical, technical, design, surveillance, safety-at-sea testing, and construction reasons. However, in order to gain experience, it would be beneficial also if they were to be built locally on small islands. Its materials – including wood, lashings, sails, and ropes – can all be sourced locally.

The production – either with fiberglass or jute (now in a testing phase) – is relatively simple and can easily be handed over to local people. This is because the mould that is used to build the fiberglass hulls is easily transportable in small containers

The main impetus behind the vaka motu was to become the typical working boat for the Pacific, built and operated by the islanders themselves.

This not only revives old skills, knowledge and tradition but also provides a lot of opportunities for young people to stay on the islands and find a profession that provides a good balance of challenges and benefits.

Okeanos operates a total of six vaka motus at present: Okeanos Marshall Islands, Okeanos Vanuatu, Okeanos Ambassador (previously known as Okeanos Marianas now residing in Yap), Okeanos Wa’a Qab (Yap), Okeanos Pohnpei and Okeanos Palau.