Group sails Chamorro canoe prototype


The 500 Sails organization has successfully sailed its first prototype of a Chamorro canoe that was built based on the “Anson drawing” of 1742.

According to 500 Sails executive director Peter Perez, years of research led to the discovery of a blueprint of an original Chamorro canoe, referred to as the “Anson drawing.”

George Anson created the blueprint based on an original model of a Chamorro canoe found on Tinian in 1742 and taken apart by hand.

Perez and his group then built a canoe based on Anson’s drawing. The group has been working on it, perfecting the prototype, and building it exactly like the blueprint. The finished prototype was named Neni.

Neni was built within a couple of months and was recently taken out to the ocean to be sailed. Neni is one of only five Chamorro canoes worldwide that is built based on Anson’s drawing of the original Chamorro canoe.

According to Perez, Neni sailed perfectly. With its navigators having more practice, it could live up to its full potential and speed, he said.

Neni will be the basis for the canoes the organization is planning to build. The organization plans to build 60 Chamorro canoes in the next three years. The next canoe is already in the works at the 500 Sails workshop.

500 Sails has a vision of bringing back the forgotten culture of sailing the seas on canoes made by islanders.

According to 500 Sails board chair Emma Perez, the organization’s vision is to bring back the indigenous culture of sailing the seas, navigating the ocean, and bringing back what the ancient Chamorro lost during the Spanish era.

According to Perez, Chamorro canoes were burned by the Spaniards, leading to the loss of their way of life. The Spaniards forbade the ancient Chamorros from rebuilding their canoes and they no longer went back to that way of living.

The organization hopes to retrieve that aspect of the Chamorro culture—to have 500 Chamorro canoes by 2030 and to rekindle the culture of sailing in every Chamorro.

The organization holds swimming classes and offers the option for an individual to build their own canoe free of charge.

Interested individuals are required to take up swimming classes and must complete 120 hours of volunteer work with the organization before they are eligible to build their own canoes.

Swimming classes are free and are paid for by grants that fund the organization’s mission.

500 Sails urges everyone on the island to consider joining 500 Sails and to be a part of the group.

Kimberly A. Bautista

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