In the afternoon sun of Sunday 12th January, 2014, the Uto Ni Yalo Trust (formerly Fiji Islands Voyaging Society) officially took ownership of the beautiful canoe named Uto Ni Yalo ‘Heart of Spirit’ although the general translation is best described as the spiritual state of original being.
A fusion of traditional design and modern boat building technologies resulted in the Uto ni Yalo and six other canoes being built in Auckland at Salthouse Boatbuilders with generous funding from Okeanos. She was finally given as a gift to the people of Fiji by German philanthropist Dieter Paulmann.
These newly designed sailing canoes (referred to as vaka moana in the Pacific) are all constructed of e-glass and foam using advanced infusion processes, yet traditional ingenuity and knowledge remain clearly visible with the twin hulls cunningly connected by wooden beams, lashed only with rope. Each vaka is finished with intricate traditional designs, carved and painted using colours and insignia representative of each island nation.
Much effort has gone into creating a truly eco-friendly vaka that harnesses the wind and current to travel. To aid manoeuvring in tight modern berthing stations or making harbour entries, a solar powered system serves as an auxiliary propulsion option. This merging of past and the present ideas, serves as a useful metaphor for solutions to our planet’s energy and climate change issues.
Through preservation of traditional arts such as song, dance and craftsmanship (such as canoe carving), the Trust is proud to be a part of a ‘Pacific Renaissance’ seeking to recapture knowledge, traditions and values of our rich maritime history.
With a goal to both revive and sustain traditional Fijian canoe building, sailing and navigational knowledge, skills and customs, the vessel has undertaken open-ocean voyages along ancient Pacific migratory routes to help re-establish historical ties and significant cultural links with people all over the Pacific.
At the same time, the crew are strong advocates for sustainable development and preservation of Fiji and Rotuma’s marine and land environment.
Uto Ni Yalo Trust president Manoa Rasigatale, who was part of the inaugural voyage in 2010, said at the ceremony, “As we receive the official deed of gifting and the vessel’s registration certificate, we look forward to continuing to celebrate this unique Fijian spirit in reverence and preservation of our cultural and natural heritage.”
Later this year, a feature documentary on the voyage of the Uto Ni Yalo entitled ‘Our Blue Canoe’ will hit the big screen. Watch the trailer here: