Setting sail for the hearts of the young
4:00AM Tuesday Dec 02, 2008
By Yvonne Tahana
Hec Busby says when young people sail on the waka they appear to gain an insight into the greatness of their ancestors. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Te Aurere may be the first double-hulled waka Hec Busby ever built, but after 16 years the boat still knows how to give him a few thrills, he reckons.
Mr Busby, 76, is circumnavigating the North Island in the waka to train the next generation of sailors, who will learn traditional sailing techniques such as navigating by the stars.
After a weekend pitstop at the Manukau Harbour a group of 10 left on the outgoing tide yesterday afternoon for the next leg of their journey. The crew started at Mangonui Harbour in the Far North last week, before picking up more members at Hokianga Harbour.
It was there where the 17 metre kauri vessel, which is lashed together using only traditional methods, gave the first sign she still liked the rough stuff, Mr Busby said.
"The bar decided to look white. There was hardly any swell all the way down but as soon as we hit Hokianga we see the white right across the bar. It was a thrill, the total opposite to what we've found there before."
The entrance into the Manukau Harbour was less eventful but still had its moments - huge numbers of dolphins followed the voyagers before they landed.
"I think they had bailed up a school of fish and they were just getting into them."
Mr Busby's contribution to reviving Maori ocean-going traditions, after they were nearly lost, can't be underestimated. He's sailed Te Aurere to Rarotonga, Hawaii, Tahiti, the Marquesas, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, clocking up more than 40,000km since 1992.
On this trip he hopes to dock in Wellington by mid-December, have a break and then bring Te Aurere back north for February 6 at Waitangi.
Along the way he plans to stop in at different marae for teaching wananga (sessions).
But sharing what he'd learned over the years wasn't only about passing on knowledge, it was also about keeping young Maori on the "straight and narrow", he said.
"There's something quite amazing to me about young people. When they hop on the waka it seems a little square is cut out and they're looking out on to the world of how brilliant our ancestors were.
"That's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing - to make sure the art is not lost."