Guam – The traditional Micronesian open ocean outrigger sailing canoe known as the Lien Polowat arrived on Guam Tuesday night at nearly 8:30pm. Traditional star navigation was used to sail the canoe from Polowat in Chuuk state to the island of Guam.
PNC caught up with the nine member crew and their master navigator Chief Theo.
The canoe was built by the late Master Navigator Manny Sikau on the island of Polowat using only traditional tools and made with only traditional materials. The canoe hull is made from breadfruit trees, the ropes and lashing from coconut fibers and the sealant is made of the sap of breadfruit and other trees.
Even the paint on the canoe is made up of traditionally made pigments. The black color comes from ash and soot that is mixed with sap and water and the white is from a coral limestone paste.
It was commissioned by the Japanese government for placement in a Musuem in Okinawa. The crew of nine included a lady named Kiyoko from Japan who went along the trip to document the event on video. In fact she was a part of the inspiration for the name of the canoe which means Lady of Polowat. Master Navigator Chief Theo spoke via his nephew and translator Mark saying, “Mother back home is very important. Mother brought you to this world. You call a vessel she, like a mother and kiyoko-san is Lien Polowat. She brought the fortune to Polowat like mother give a birth to a new baby a new life so thank you Japan thank you kiyoko for bringing another life to Polowat that’s why the name Lien Polowat.”
A Japanese chase boat followed the Lien Polowat from Polowat to their first stop on the uninhabited island of Pik. They left Polowat on Thursday of last week and arrived on Pik Friday, the Japanese wanted to stay on Pik until Tuesday of the following week but Chief Theo chose to leave sooner because of the weather conditions. “He decided to leave the next day which is Saturday because your playing nature game and you never know and from his experience the weather is coming upon them and they have to leave that Saturday to make it to Guam on time to avoid the bad weather,” translated Mark adding, “This is a nature game you have to be part of the nature to avoid nature’s wrath that’s why they arrived here within three days.”
It’s a rather fast journey considering the canoe is traveling nearly 500 miles on nothing but wind power. It’s about 118 miles from Polowat to Pik, and another 358 miles from Pik to Guam a total of about 476 miles. “This trip is compared to previous trips it’s pretty much easy compared to previous trip because Lien Polowat in his experience is on track strong and fast and he believes the journey is pretty easy,” said Mark on behalf of Chief Theo.
Not only easy because of the master craftsmanship that went into the Lien Polowat but also easy because of what they believe was Manny Sikau’s guiding spirit. “Yes he believes Manny was with them because it falls within whatever they plan(ned) all their plot(s),” said Mark.
The route they took is a traditional route that these islanders have been taking for thousands of years guided only by the stars, waves, winds, and ocean currents. Although their voyages are less frequent Chief Theo has been to Guam before on a similar traditional canoe. He came up here in 1991 on a canoe that was commissioned by a local businessman and captained by his Uncle Master Navigator Ikafai. This trip however was the first time Chief Theo navigated a canoe to Guam on his own using only traditional navigation techniques. “It’s because of Manny. Late Manny Sikau, government of Japan, Polowat island and TASI of Guam. So he wanted to do it to honor the late Manny Sikau,” said Mark.
Master Navigator Chief Theo is the cousin of the late Manny Sikau. Sikau was supposed to sail the canoe but passed away at the age of fifty five before he could make the journey thus Chief Theo navigated the canoe in his place. The canoe will be disassembled and shipped to Japan where it will be placed in the oceanic culture museum in Okinawa.