The Saipan Fishermen’s Association knows how to put on a fishing tournament. They, along with sponsors, government and private sector partners, and peskadot (fishermen) of the Marianas are to be congratulated for a historic and overwhelmingly successful 37th Saipan International Fishing Tournament. I was magas (captain) on one of four traditional 500 Sails CHamorro flying proas that brought the total to 90 boats that participated this year.
It was a historic event because this was probably the first time traditional sailing canoes were part of an international fishing derby. Chamorro canoe culture and seafaring traditions of the Marianas is what 500 Sails is trying to revive. Our teachers, Carolinian master navigators Cecilio Raikiulipy and Mario Benito and Tony Piaulug are helping us revive those traditions.
The SFA worked hard to ensure that we felt welcomed and supported. They coordinated for Atkins Kroll Saipan to sponsor our registration in the tournament. When we arrived to register our canoes, Aunty Oba, Neni, Richard Seman, and Anaguan, SFA members led us through the entire process, which for most of us lalåyak (sailors), it was our first fishing tournament.
The tournament swag bag was quite impressive. Budweiser, Exxon-Mobil, Herman’s Bakery, and Roil Soil Clothing were just a few of those sponsors who brought cheers of delight from our crew. The strong sponsorship was also on impressive display at the tournament banquet. And what a banquet and awards presentation it was. All of us commented on how much fun we had.
My crew on the Aunty Oba were Sophia Perez and Jeremiah Benavente. It was a proud moment for our all-Chamorro crew as the three of us were one of Cecilio’s first students in the 500 Sails Lalåyak program. Jeremiah taught us how to fish, and we each took turns fishing and manning the poksai (paddle) and gigehi (sheet line).
We had so much fun zig-zagging between the prepositioned ships anchored offshore. At the end of nearly 10 hours fishing, all we had a chance of winning was the marine debris raffle of the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance. Jeremiah caught a thin piece of plastic packing strap on his squid lure. We were excited to enter our catch, until one of the motor boats came in towing a giant ocean marker behind their boat.
We have already started talking about how we can elevate our fishing and sailing game for next year. I hope SFA invites us back again. Dangkulu na si yu’us ma’asi yan olomwaay to Saipan Fishermen’s Association and the entire CNMI for the inafa’maolek display of Chamorro hospitality to us lalåyak, the international peskadot, and fellow anglers to the south in Guahan.
Arthur De Oro, MPA
Training director, Marianas Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations