A Voyaging Canoe for Tikopia

Home News A Voyaging Canoe for Tikopia
By James Wharram
A voyaging canoe for Tikopia. Tikopia is a tiny remote Polynesian island in the Western Pacific, which has maintained self-sufficiency for 3000 years. The island has a canoe building culture, but is now unable to make seagoing canoes large enough to make longer passages. This canoe will be the only autonomous transport to and from the island.

All my life people have been helping me with advice, physical work and in providing me with hospitality. Then there are the people whom I have never met, but have provided me with inspiration; sometimes I think it will take several lifetimes to discharge the debts I owe.

One group of people who have provided me inspiration during my whole sailing life are the seafarers of the past, in particular the Polynesians. In my design work, I have always honoured them. Now, 50 years since my first voyage on a double canoe inspired by the Polynesians, the 23'6" Tangaroa, there is an opportunity to discharge my debt to the people of the Pacific.

In January of last year, Hanneke had a heart-valve replacement operation. After a tense 32 hours under anaesthetic (due to some complication), she very quickly started to recover. A week later, sleeping/resting in our studio and reading a new book, 'Collapse, How Societies choose to Fail or Survive', by Jared Diamond, who discusses the unique surviving self-sufficiency of the tiny, remote Polynesian island of Tikopia, Hanneke had a 'Vision'. We should build 2 Tikopian Double Canoes (by Andy Smith, our builder in the Philippines) and give them to the islands of Tikopia and Anuta (it's sister island), so they can continue to be self-sufficient and take pride in their ancient sailing heritage. The two canoes would then be sailed the 3000 miles to Tikopia along the ancient Polynesian migration route for handing over to the islanders.

Double canoe sailing
Child of the sea arriving at the beach.
Hanneke at the helm
Hanneke steering the first Child of the Sea in the Philippines, 7 weeks after her operation.

There seems to be some power in Tikopia that reaches out to enlist needed help. People like Klaus Hympendahl, a yachtsman who spent time on the island, raised money two years ago and provided Tikopia with a much-needed medical centre. Dr. David Martin, another yachtsman, is presently seeking help and advice to repair the Tikopian fresh water lagoon, breached by the sea during the disastrous cyclone Zoë in January 2003.

The Tikopian double canoe design we intend to build for Tikopia and Anuta is the Child of the Sea (Tama Moana in Polynesian The Philippines - May 2005), which when designed 3 years ago, was inspired by the unique hull shape of the original Tikopian canoes. In 1916, when Tikopia officially adopted the Christian church (Church of England), the Great Grandfather of one of the Tikopian Chiefs donated the island's 9m Sacred Canoe to the Bishop of Auckland. She is now displayed in the Auckland Museum and gave inspiration to the Child of the Sea design. Now 90 years later we can reciprocate this gift.

To make Hanneke's Vision a reality we need to raise money, as unfortunately we cannot fund this Project ourselves. The first £200 was donated at a fund raising lecture at the local C of E church and £72 by the school children of Devoran, who in 1997, after our visit to Tikopia, helped the island's school children by sending books. More cheques are already coming in from friends.

What is needed is around £28,000 - $US 50,000 per boat, plus more for organisational needs and making the voyage; a minimum total of around £80,000. Every multihull enthusiast, who like us, feels that he/she has benefited from the knowledge of the ancient seafarers of the Pacific now has a chance to give something back, by making a donation. Klaus Hympendahl is an active partner in the project and will try to raise money for one of the boats through contacts in Germany. Dr. David Martin is also joining the project as he feels we all need to work together to make the islands strong again.

Children of Tikopia on the beach
Tikopia children.
Bow of canoe
Tikopian canoe.

We will be giving regular updates on the money raised and the building progress of the canoes, which will start as soon as there is enough finance to start building. Andy Smith and the Filipino workers at his yard are very keen to build these canoes and will be doing this at minimum cost.

Anyone with ideas and offers of help to make the project succeed contact us.

For full details, see the project website at www.lapitavoyage.org.

Donations can be made through our online shop, through the project website, or you can send a cheque made out to 'Tikopia Canoe Project' to James Wharram Designs, Greenbank Road, Devoran, Truro, Cornwall, TR3 6PJ, UK.

- James Wharram