Gaualofa dry-docked for maintenance

The Gaualofa – a traditional canoe cum floating classroom – has been dry-docked in Faleula for a full maintenance overhaul and it’s expected that Samoa’s traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe, will be seaworthy by April.

Dionne Fonoti, spokesperson for Aiga Folau o Samoa, or the Samoa Voyaging Society, said when the work is done, the va’atele will be back “stronger and better than ever.”

The ship aims to reach and educate young children across Samoa to increase their environmental literacy.

“It’s a full maintenance overhaul," Fonoti told the Samoa Observer. 

"We are going to take down the masts. The masts are those two big poles that hold up the sails. Those have to come down and they will have to be reinforced and sanded and varnished again. There is lots of work that has to happen with those because that affects the sails and the integrity of the sails.

“Basically, we are going to clean the whole outside and the inside and repair as much as possible the whole boat. But we can’t do everything here because. There is certain technology that is not available here and certain materials that are not available here.”

The work that can be done locally will be carried out by the Gaualofa crew.

“Whatever we can do here we are going to try and do it over the next couple of months because we will dry-dock her throughout the rainy season,” said Fonoti.

“She probably won’t be back on water until April which gives us enough time to do as much of the repairs as we possibly can to make her seaworthy again.”

The Voyaging Society expressed their gratitude to Sala Leslie Silva for his kindness in offering to host the Gaualofa on a parcel of private land in Faleula owned by the Silva family.

In order to dry-dock the vessel, quotes for a heavy-duty crane were collected from various companies including Silva Transport.

When Sala discovered the Gaualofa needed a crane and a place to dry-dock, he contacted Gaualofa Captain Kalolo Steffany and offered their services and their land.

“We are dry-docking the Gaualofa in Faleula on the property of the Silva family right behind the Silva Gas Station. It’s their family land…a piece of land that is right on the water and we got really lucky because we were looking for a place to put her on land,” Fonoti said.

The Gaualofa is dry-docked every couple of years for maintenance, she explained.

“We were looking around for areas to put her and we were also looking around for quotes because we needed a really strong crane. We got quotes from everybody and we ended up going with Silva,” she said.

“The manager of Silva is Sala Leslie Silva and he called our captain and said they have the crane and also if we are interested he has some land where we can put the vaa. Very graciously, they offered the fanua, their family land in Faleula. It suits our purposes perfectly.”

The Gaualofa was sailed from Mulinuu to Faleula on Monday.

Crew members prepared the boat for its relocation from ocean to land and on Wednesday when the cranes were available, the vaa was moved onto land.

“We prepared everything for the crane and the crane was available yesterday so we were able to move her on Wednesday, yesterday,” Fonoti said.

“The Samoa Voyaging Society, we are very grateful and indebted to the Silva family, particularly Sala Leslie Silva who reached out to us. He is the person who allowed for this to happen.”

There are 10 to 11 crew members of the Gaualofa.

Crew members will carry out the necessary maintenance work.

“We are trying to work out public working days where members of the public can also come but we will make sure we let people know so they so they can come along and help with sanding. There is a lot of sanding and varnishing of the wood. There are a lot of things people can help with,” Fonoti said.

“When we get her back on the water then we will start operating again […] probably sail around Apia and not too far, just around Apia Harbour or to Faleula and back. The point of this whole thing is to bring her on land and fix her up so she can be ready to go back on the water and to be in better shape. We are excited about this. In a few months the Gaualofa will be back stronger and better than ever.”

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