The “Aiga Folau o Samoa” or Samoa Voyaging Society (SVS), held an open day in conjunction with Apia Yacht Club last Saturday.
They shared the joint aim of promoting sailing throughout the local community, and well as raising awareness about the need to look after the environment – especially our oceans.
Both organisations are non-profit and are run by devout groups of volunteers, who pledge their time to ensure Samoa’s sailing community thrives.
Samoa Voyaging Society showcased the Gaualofa, a 22 metre long double-hulled voyaging canoe. Anna Bertram, a key administrative member of the society, explained the aims of the day.
“We want to get more people interested in the Gaualofa and our work, and also give the public the opportunity to come on board and have a look,” she said.
The canoe is built in the traditional shape, but using modern materials.
“We want to raise awareness surrounding traditional navigation. The Samoans are known for being navigators and because of this, we are trying to revive the culture of traditional sailing.”
The Society prides themselves on keeping traditional Polynesian voyaging skills alive, and are eager to encourage the participation of the younger generation in order to maintain this knowledge.
Both organisations take their environmental responsibilities very seriously.
“One of our aims is to promote environmental awareness; looking after the marine environment is very important especially for islanders and people that depend on the ocean and its resources.” They recently sailed the Gaualofa around the island, stopping at eight villages to hold workshops, teaching communities about sailing and the importance of protecting the Ocean’s eco-systems.
With a total of 20 active crew members, Anna adds that “there is still space to grow”; the society is always looking for enthusiastic Samoans to join the team and take advantage of the trips made by the seven strong fleet of vessels throughout the Pacific area.
The Society are custodians of the Gaualofa, which truly belongs to the people of Samoa.
Liza Anderson is head of registration at the Apia Yacht Club.
“The aim of today is to give kids in particular a taste of sailing, often people think that the Yacht club is quite exclusive, so we really want to encourage the locals to give it a go,” Liz wants to dispel rumours of exclusivity through the inclusive encouragement of all Samoans into sailing.
Hence Saturday’s event, which was a roaring success with attendance from all ages, skill levels and backgrounds.
The Samoa Observer spoke to local girl, Elizabeth Rasch, aged 11, who enjoyed a trip around the bay in a Laser, one of the smaller vessels.
“It was so much fun and definitely has encouraged me to start sailing,” she said, adding; “I hope to be able to sail one on my own one day.”
Commodore at the Apia Yacht Club, Paul Davies, originally from England, is responsible from the administrative side of the club.
He says that the open day is for young people exactly like Elizabeth, who can hope to progress through the various ‘discover sailing’ courses on offer.
However, sailing isn’t just about gaining technical skills, Paul spoke of the social aspect of the sport. “We do a lot of social activities,” the club is home to a licensed bar and restaurant, the profits of which contribute to the $24,000 tala land fee due each year.
Volunteer and Samoan sailing enthusiast, Tujumosairo Faataga, aged 23, is a crew member of Gaualofa.
“I got into sailing through my friends and colleagues. But the society isn’t just for sailing, we do workshops to promote the protection of the environment, especially the ocean, and climate change. We go out to communities, and have meetings with the school kids to talk about our reef and what’s going on.”
Tujumosairo expressed said she would have benefited greatly from environmentalism classes and school and is proud to be part of a group that are changing the future for the better.