A 47-foot replica of a “flying proa,” or sakman in Chamorro, built by a group of Chamorros in California will retrace the route sailed by Spanish galleons during the Spanish Acapulco-Manila trade from the 1600s to 1800s.
Master carver Mario Reyes Borja made this announcement during the Rotary Club of Saipan’s weekly meeting yesterday at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.
Borja, who was born in Chalan Kanoa and has degrees in aerospace engineering and astrodynamics, said his nine-man crew originally planned a sea route that would take them from San Diego to Hawaii first, then Hawaii to the Marianas. However, after some careful thought, the Sakman Project decided to retrace the Acapulco-Manila route of the Spanish galleon, which made the Marianas the pit stop of the long journey.
Borja said this route is more appropriate because of the islands’ cultural and historical ties to Spain. Like Acapulco and Mexico in general, Saipan and Guam were former Spanish colonies.
He said the more southern route has the added bonus of the flying proa being in sight of land during its first couple of days sailing to Acapulco.
Using the northern equatorial current will bring the sakman and its crew first to Marshall Islands and from there they will proceed to Guam where they will finish their 7,600-nautical mile ocean journey.
Borja shared that the idea of building a sakman based on the detailed drawings of a flying proa by the HMS Centurion, a British warship captained by Lord George Anson, in 1742 was planted in him by his mentor, Carlos P. Taitano.
After graduating from 2- and 8-foot models, the Sakman Project finally got hold of a giant redwood tree from the forests of Mendocino, California in 2009 and a year later construction of the flying proa began.
With the use of traditional tools and some power tools courtesy of Home Depot, Borja and company labored for a year and finally in 2010 the replica of the flying proa made its initial sea trials at San Diego Bay.
Borja said the Sakman Project not only owes to Lord Anson the preservation of the design for the flying proa, but his words recorded in the Centurion’s log also served as an inspiration to Borja and his crew.
"These Indians are no ways defective in understanding, for their flying proas in particular, which during ages past have been the only vessels employed by them, are so singular and extraordinary an invention that it would do honour to any nation, however dexterous and acute, since, if we consider the aptitude of this proa to the navigation of these islands, which lying all of them nearly under the same meridian, and with the limits of the trade wind, require the vessels made use of in passing from one to the other to be particularly fitted for sailing with the wind upon the beam; or if we examine the uncommon simplicity and ingenuity of its fabric and contrivance, or the extraordinary velocity with which it moves, we shall in each of these articles, find it worthy of our admiration, and deserving a place amongst the mechanical productions of the most civilised nations where arts and sciences have most eminently flourished..." reads a passage from Lord Anson’s “Voyage Around The World.”
Borja said that Lord Anson’s words have served as the Sakman Project’s “fuel in our blood, fire within our hearts” in their effort to revive the flying proa.
He said everyone in the Marianas should take pride in the flying proa because during its time it was the fastest seagoing vessel, with top speeds of as much as 20 knots.