On 26th October 2008 the two boats for the 4000Nm long Lapita Voyage, 'Lapita Tikopia' and 'Lapita Anuta', slipped into the water without a hitch.
Blessed with a few words and a splash of coconut milk from expedition leaders Klaus Hympendahl and myself they were heaved down a beautiful white-sand beach and into the Pacific. It was the culmination of almost 3 years of dreaming, designing and planning.
The boats now rest in the shallow, turquoise waters a short paddle from the lively bars and restaurants of Alona Beach, Panglao Island, Philippines.
Most of the crew are aboard and the last preparations and provisioning is being done.
The boats will set sail on 3rd November, winds permitting. This voyage (God willing) will establish finally the historic connection between the modern multihull and its Stone Age ancestors.
On October 28th the two Lapita Voyage canoes were given an official Farewell Ceremony attended by the Governor of Bohol, various other local dignitaries and press and the complete building team of Andy Smith Boatworks.
I was surrounded by the team of boatbuilders all wearing T-shirts with the James Wharram logo printed on the front, it was quite a proud moment for me.
The workers at Andy Smith Boatworks have been magnificent. The boats are beautiful and were completed on time and exactly as we wanted them. When Hanneke during her short speech praised their work and mentioned the bit of spirit ('Mana' in Polynesian) that every man who worked on the boats had put in, I was deeply touched.
Now three days later, I am sitting in my shore quarters listening to the rain lashing down. Soon we will 'cast off' for the 4000 Nm voyage to Tikopia and Anuta. I find myself as anxious before a voyage as I have ever been.
I am writing about this, because this 'anxious feeling' is a common, but not always discussed, feeling amongst first time voyagers on their new boats. You know your boat's history, you know it is built well, but deep down you wonder are 'you' up to the boat's abilities?
The best way to begin a long voyage (or start a summer cruise) is to take it easy for the first few days. Do not push, get away from the shore people, who are used to scheduled trains and air flights. Let the spirit of the boat and the voyage slowly seep into your system.
Of course this Lapita Voyage is following a scripted schedule with stops at fixed ports on fixed dates for crew changes, with TV crewmen with their own agenda aboard, articles for newspapers and magazines to be written. So the reality of what we are doing is not the same as the advice I have just given.
Hanneke and I came out a month ago to the Philippines, since then Hanneke has led a group of men in making all the sails, hand stitched from 'Canvacon' fabric and 'Liros' 'Natural Hemp' rope, both of which were donated to the project by the manufacturers.
Ten days after us Klaus, the German leader came to join us, with a great heap of world connecting electronic equipment, which he proceeded to fit with the help of the excellent yard electronics engineer. Then there came Matt, the British camera man who has been working hard to get all the final stores loaded, press releases written and publicity raised.
When we sail, weather permitting, on Monday 3rd November there will be a need for an immediate mental adjustment. We can no longer control objects – boat building, store loading etc. We have to work with the uncontrollable forces of wind and sea.
Next time I will write more on how we manage under these conditions, for the benefit of others. The adjustment to voyaging is one subject I will write about in the coming weeks and months.
Do check the Lapita Voyage website regularly, there will be voyage updates with GPS position. A lot of new material has been added to the site recently.
- James Wharram