500 Sails, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the CNMI’s maritime traditions, has many plans in the works to expand the organization’s offerings and educational opportunities.
According to 500 Sails board secretary/treasurer and co-founder Emma Perez, these plans include more than doubling the organization’s fleet of canoes and collaborating with the Northern Marianas College and Public School System to expand its boat assembly yard into also becoming a maritime training center.
Currently, with the addition of the Auntie Oba that first set sail last Sunday, 500 Sails has a fleet of five boats—or proas— available for the public to ride on every Sunday from 10am to 2pm at the beachside near the Guma Sakman. Perez shared that the organization has seven proas “under some form of construction or repair,” with three of the seven being over 40 feet or longer.
The organization eyes sailing north, but for now will be setting sail for Tinian soon. “We want to go north [in the future]. We’re planning on sailing to Tinian in July with four of these canoes. …We’re getting excited about that,” said Perez.
She also shared the organization’s plans to collaborate with NMC and PSS to expand its boat yard into also serving as a maritime training center, where the organization can hold more formal classes.
Currently, 500 Sails does a co-op program where PSS students can get involved with the group’s many learning opportunities and receive elective credits in return. According to Perez, 500 Sails has had this program for four semesters now.
“We want to go north, we want to go to Pagan, we want to go to Tinian and Rota on a regular basis. …We want more and more voyages off the reef, but we’ve got to get our sailors stronger and our sailors taught. …We’ve almost got more canoes than sailors, so we’re really encouraging more and more people to come out,” said Perez.
For those interested in learning more about the org and its swimming, proa-building, and sailing classes, their website is http://500sails.org/.