This overnight adventure took me sailing in the uninhabited islands deep in the South Pacific, whilst I was on a longer trip to Papua New Guinea. One sunny morning, I hauled myself aboard a Vaka, a beautiful traditional wooden Polynesian sailing vessel comprising of two sturdy double-hulled canoes and an incredibly lively crew from the Okeanos Foundation, where I was to spend two days and one precious starry night. The Okeanos Foundation is a remarkable organisation with a mission to empower Pacific Island people to implement traditionally based sustainable sea transportation, ensuring independence and cultural revival. These canoes are entirely green, operated by the wind, sun and powered by coconut oil. I shook hands with my skipper and exchanged enthusiastic smiles with the rest of the crew, busy tugging on ropes. I always jump at any opportunity to sail, but coming from South Dorset, these tend to be sailing for fish and chips on Cowes and racing back to Lymington by sun fall, or similarly exploring the Cornish coastline with friends in the rain.
“Stars are like road maps,” one of the crew members piped up, as I finished my final mouthful of traditional LapLap that evening, which was piled high with freshly caught fish we had caught earlier in the day. I leant back on the cushion behind my back and looked up towards the clear night’s sky. For the Pacific Island communities, the relationship with their environment is their livelihood. By using ancient methods and techniques, including navigating entirely by the stars, the crew’s ancestors have sailed these routes for many years, and they passed on this fascinating knowledge to me.
Through our South Pacific team’s special relationship with the Okeanos Foundation, we love to arrange private expeditions and charters for families and friends wishing to spend a few nights island hopping to seldom-visited islands and learning to sail by the stars from the crew of these beautiful Polynesian vessels – an authentic and rich astrological and anthropological experience. I am going to be putting this trip back on my bucket list, but definitely for longer next time!