The Taumako Canoe, Lata
Here are some recent images of the 38-foot Taumako canoe:
(Below) Finally! Fully rigged with sails up outside the shop! Lata is finished on 1-14-2023.
(Below) This is what “a 38-foot canoe in a 30-foot boatshop” looks like! Progress on Lata as of 10-3-2022. The engine and prop shaft are in; see this YouTube video for an explanation of how the swing-up propellor shaft works.
(Below) Next to the ama (outrigger) you can see the iako (curved cross-arms) on sawhorses. But that’s Hawaiian, the Taumako word for cross-arms is te tuna.
These are just two images; there are way too many images and videos from this project to fit on this page.
To download ALL the photos and videos we’ve taken from Lata’s construction to date, click here to go to our DropBox folder “Taumako Images and Videos”.
To see ALL the videos of all the proas we’ve built, both under construction and sailing, click here to go to our YouTube channel.
What is Taumako? Taumako is a small island in the middle of the ocean, part of the Santa Cruz islands group, and is home to 592 souls. These people make up one of the last traditional voyaging societies on the planet.
They navigate wooden canoes no different than those their ancestors built and used a thousand years ago, over hundreds of miles of open ocean, using only the stars, the waves, the wind and the sea birds as their guides. No modern navigational instruments such as compass, sextant, or GPS are ever used. If you talk to any knowledgeable 21st century sailor about the vessels and navigational methods they use, you’ll understand that this is a near superhuman feat.
(Below): Taumakoans on one of their voyaging canoes, made and navigated the same way it was a thousand years ago. Their name for this type of canoe is “TeAlo Lili”.
To see a 6-minute video of The Vaka Taumako Project’s 1997 Stone-Age proa sailing, watch this:
It shows a traditional “Te Puke” canoe built with stone-age technology in 1996 by the Taumako islanders.
And we’ve been chosen for the honor of building a boat for these folks. We didn’t invent proas, the Taumakoans and other Pacific Islanders did, around 4,000 years ago, according to the archaeologists and anthropologists who study Pacific island history. But we knew a good boat design when we saw one; we’ve built two for our own family, and are now building this one for Taumako.
This of course begs the question: “Why do they need us to build a boat for them if they’re perfectly capable of building voyaging canoes and navigating them by the stars?”
They have little to no connection to the rest of the world, no economy, and no way to buy the things they need for everyday life: fish hooks and line, tools, clothing, tobacco, medicines, and so on. Also, they have been forbidden to voyage their traditional canoes by their local Solomon Islands authorities unless there is an escort motorboat along. This is expensive and prohibitive, and puts their voyaging traditions at risk.
The proa we’re building them is as true as possible to their traditional designs, while including some improvements: marine plywood, wood preservative, and fiberglass and epoxy make it last years longer, with far less maintenance. The same goes for the aluminum mast and boom, the stainless steel wire rigging, and the Dacron sails it will be equipped with.
It has a motor as well as sails, and so qualifies as a motorboat and an escort vessel! The Taumakoans will be able to legally take their traditional canoes on voyages, and keep the voyaging art alive, if their new proa comes along on the trip.
This new proa will also earn them the money they need for those things, because it’s a commercial fishing boat with a refrigerated fish hold. In addition, it will give them autonomy in the area of transportation.
To make a picture of this in your mind: imagine a bus that loads 15 people and all their luggage, then deposits them 12 hours later on an island 100 miles away. It’s also a fishing boat that’s also a 1-1/2 ton refrigerated delivery truck. The Taumakoans catch fish from the boat, put them in the refrigerated fish hold, then when it’s full, they sail away and unload them 12 hours later at an island 100 miles away where they’ve got plenty of money but not enough fish.
What’s next? We’ll be working with many others to create a boatbuilding school (Hale Vaka) to build more of these for themselves, and earn money by selling finished boats in their part of the world. Once they have built one, they’ll be able to train other islanders how to build them too.
This Taumakoan canoe is a 38-foot long proa similar to our 24-foot Coconut here. The boat already has a name: “Lata”, the legendary first Taumakoan canoe builder and navigator, who apparently was also an island trickster.
We began building Lata in August of 2020, to download the photos and videos we’ve taken from Lata’s construction to date, click here to go to our DropBox folder “Taumako Images and Videos”.
Here are a few photos from that DropBox folder to whet your interest:
(Below): Jack installing the 3-inch wide piece of 1/4″ steel bar that protects the bottom of the skeg from groundings and sitting on coral rock beaches.
(Below): The finished steel bar that protects the bottom of the skeg, ready for bottom paint. Rose in the background, with respirator and protective gear on for epoxying upside down inside the hull.
(Below): Looking into the bow compartment through a bulkhead opening that will have a watertight cover when the boat is launched. The stem is a pre-manufactured fiberglass-and-epoxy molded member that attaches to the hull planking with 3 layers of 18-oz triaxial fiberglass tape. Although as strong as a 4×4, it’s only three-eighths of an inch thick, that’s why you can see light through it.
(Below): From floor-level in the shop, looking at the deck side of Lata, the 38-foot proa for Taumako; you can see (from the right going left), forward bouyancy compartment, wet hatch, half the crew bunk (the other half is under the wet hatch), and cockpit with engine compartment, fish hold, 2 cargo holds, and seating.
(Below): From the second-floor shop lanai, looking at the “pod side” of Lata, the 38-foot proa for Taumako.
(Below): Lata with her bow decks installed and glassed, and Lucky working inside the wet hatch compartment.
(Below): This is how the finished fiberglass stem looks on the boat; nicely-faired and sleek. This is our 18-foot “Pocket Rocket”, NOT the 38-foot Taumako proa, but the stem looks the same on the 38-footer.
(Below): Lata is almost twice the size of this 24-foot proa, with six times the carrying capacity:
We’d be happy to build you one. She can be configured differently than the Taumako boat; that is, we can customize the layout for your needs. If you have to ask how much, you probably can’t afford her.