Saturday, July 24, 2010
Upoo Tahiti Sets Sail
On July 20, we watched the people in Huahine bless the repaired rudder of the traditional 15 meter outrigger canoe docked in the town of Fare. This special catamaran called Upoo Tahiti, which means “Head of Tahiti,” has a piglet, rooster and plenty of bananas and taro on board. She is one of many outrigger canoes sailing west across the Pacific to China. Captain and designer, Clement Pito, has been imagining this voyage for the past 20 years and his dream had finally come to fruition.
Pito, bare breasted with two bands of tatoos on his right arms and wearing a traditional skirt, hopes his sailing expedition will bring Polynesians closer to their ancestors who bravely left their homes in Asia and sailed east to settle in the Pacific islands. In the traditional fashion, Pito’s crew will navigate by the stars. They have an outboard Yamaha motor just in case, but they don’t plan on using it much.
Unfortunately, last week when Upoo Tahiti sailed 90 miles from Papeete to Huahine, the strong seas damaged the boat’s rudder and delayed their departure in Huahine. Five days later with lots of help from the locals, they repaired the boat and set sail again.
Before they untied their dock lines, the town gathered to give them a serious send off and to bless their repaired centerboard and rudder.
Exquisite dancers came to the dock, wiggling their hips in a sensuous manner all in sync with the musicians, who pounded their drums and strummed the ukuleles. Politicians, sailors and others showered the Upoo Tahiti crew with gifts and blessings, to make sure that the seas would treat them kindly and that their bellies would be filled with local food.
The numerous tikis (spiritual wooden statues) on board also served as guardians. My favorite was the fishing tiki who undoubtedly helps bring in the fish. The port side tiki on the bow was equally intriguing.
The ceremony was fantastic and made me a tid-bit envious of the send-off. The town of Sausalito didn’t gather on the docks and serenade us when we left more 22 months ago. They’ll have to study the Tahitian way.
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