A tale from one of the Aitutaki Clubs about paddling around Aitutaki. One day this too may become part of Motu2Motu....only time will tell...
55km, 5 hours and 20 minutes, 11 paddlers, 4 sharks, 2 whales and 1 flip.... a history making first ever, modern day Vaka, paddle around Aitutaki, our ancestors would have been proud.
At 0730 hours Toa Moana Vaka Club, with paddlers from Te Mana and Aitutaki Oe Vaka, set out to make history. The first crew consisting of Steve Schofield, Alan Maki, Steve Doherty, Tauraa Kareroa, Mike Henry and Paul Henry, together with the support paddlers Junior Maoate, Ron Henry, Ali Webb, Roxy and George, and our boat support crews, Quinton and Melo in Wet and Wild, Poppy and Rose aboard Ron Henry's Boat Miss Janice, headed out on a voyage to circumnavigate Aitutaki that most believe had not been done for over two thousand years since our ancestors first arrived.
Heading anti-clockwise around Aitutaki, a good easy paddle with a with a female hump backed whale and her calf accompanying us, in high spirits for our venture around the island, till we hit the Maina point. Turning head first into strong South Easterly winds bringing the ocean swells up to 3 metres as we headed along the southern side of the island towards the point at Motukitu. With 5 support paddlers with us we made change-overs at 20 minute intervals with all each crew member giving their all and seemingly not making any headway into never ending huge swells and strong winds.
Once we made Motukitu the lead boat advised not to make any crew changes due to sighting 3 meter pelagic sharks in the water…. Clearly good advice!!! As one local resident has commented “I stay out of their water they stay out of my bars, so far we have each lived up to our sides of the bargain!!!!” After rounding the point the seas got bigger with the swells now hitting the right side of our Canoe and at times breaking over the top of us.
Opposite Tekopua Island 'it' happened and totally without warning, we had just changed out steerer, and were powering ahead, one second we were breathing fresh air the next holding our breath as we had ‘flipped’ all in the matter of a few seconds. Once all crew were accounted for we righted the canoe, bailed water and headed off again, thank ‘somebody’ those sharks hadn’t followed us!!!!
From that point on it was all about the thrill of riding the big swells and ‘surfing’ the long waves, talk about an adrenalin rush, whoops and hollers of excitement as we continued on. Reaching familiar territory at Papau and then at Akitua we knew we were only 12 km away from making history for our little island of Aitutaki.
Around the last point at the Northern tip of the island, the feeling in the canoe changed and became more urgent and excited as we knew we were only a few kilometres away from home. With two more crew changes, Steve Schofield, Tauraa Kareroa (TK) Steve Doherty, Alan Maki, Junior Maoate and Paul Henry in our Battle Tank T12, headed home to the Arutanga Passage.
With cheers from the boat crews and supporters and the paddlers in the canoe, we arrived home after 5 hours and 20 minutes at our start point. History had been made….we did it!!!!
To have been part of an even such as this has bought our club closer together we now have crossed the final hurdle of challenging the ocean, though the respect is always there, there is no fear. To all who participated and to those who were not able to make it, but were with us out there, I personally thank you all, for one of the most incredible days in our clubs short history.