OceanSoul Society’s Dino Manning joined one of the trips by traditional navigators from Satawal Island in Yap State more than 10 years ago and the experience remains fresh in his mind.
“I could not explain and I can’t give the exact words but it was truly a life-changing experience,” said Manning after Saturday’s public presentation by the group of traditional navigators at the Chamolinian Utt in Garapan.
Manning joined the voyage from Satawal to Saipan in 2000 with the legendary master navigator Pius Mau Piailug and his son Sesario Sewralur navigating the Micronesian style single-hull sailing and voyaging canoe or Waaserak in Satawalese.
“Just seeing them navigate the seas without the use of modern equipment is extraordinary. Watching the wind direction, studying the position of the stars, and knowing the ocean current are some of the skills,” said Manning.
Carolinians have been sailing the Pacific using the traditional method—that also include reading the weather condition, feeling the swells and ocean current, and watching the direction of birds and other ocean species—even before European explorers discovered their islands.
Sewralur and his crew used the same route that the Japanese used during their occupation of the islands in their voyage to Saipan. The route was reopened in the 1970s.
“Sailing the seas using the traditional method is one of a kind and their knowledge should be shared. That was what [Sewralur] wanted, to keep it going, pass the skill to the youth and preserve the tradition,” Manning said.
Sewralur has been teaching the skill at the Palau Community College and is also training two of his sons. He and his crew also taught the basics to elementary, middle, high school, and Northern Marianas College students last week since arriving on Saipan last May 7.
“It was a very animated discussion. [Sewralur] and his crew answered the questions of the students. The interest is there, many want to learn so I expect them to be back, maybe with a larger group,” said Manning.
Sewralur, the captain of the Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe Alingano Maisu, his crew along with two other Micronesian canoes that arrived last Tuesday are expected to leave Saipan at 5pm today to attend the 12th Festival of the Pacific Arts in Guam.
The final leg of their trip, from Saipan to Guam, will depend on the tides and wind conditions.