nikki wynn on traditional polynesian navigating sailboat in cook islands

This Sailboat Will Blow Your Mind! The Not-So-Lost Art of Polynesian Navigation

I’ve often wondered about sailors of the past.

What did ports look like before the invention of break walls?  How did they keep themselves entertained without podcasts and how did they manage to navigate the world without GPS and radar?

Could I have survived a week in their soggy, salty shoes at sea?  Undoubtedly, the answer is NO.

To say our ancestors have paved the way for us techno reliant sailors would be a gross understatement. But long before Ferdinand Magellan, sextants and magnetic compasses, there were Polynesian Navigators.

Little did we know, we were about to get an intimate introduction to not only the Cook Islands, but to the not-so-lost art of Polynesian Sailing.

After spending time with the Marumaru Atua crew, hearing stories from their 19 day passage and seeing the intense bond that was formed between them on that passage…well, it’s infectious!  Each crew member had some sort of connection to the Cook Islands or Māori ancestry that drew them to the vaka.  The ages were varied as was their sailing experience.  For some, this was their first passage.

traditional polynesian vaka sailing in south pacific

traditional polynesian vaka cook islands welcome home

vaka crew cook islands welcome celebration

We’ve seen the traditional Polynesian Vaka before but had no idea just how powerful they are both symbolically and performance wise (24 knots!).

I came across this quote from the Cook Islands Voyaging Society secretary Cecile Marten.  It’s a beautiful explanation of the societies mission and one we deeply relate to.

“We have shared the culture of traditional sailing and navigation with so many people and we volunteer our time because we are passionate about the vaka and what it represents. The vaka is a metaphor for our earth; if we look after our vaka, the vaka will look after us.

The same goes for our ocean and our lands, if we look after it, it will in turn look after us. The vaka reminds us to look to the past at our ancestor’s traditional practices which are self-sustaining, they co-existed with nature, not exploited their resources.

Every second breath we take comes from ocean. Not only that, our people are at the front line of climate change, and without a healthy ocean, humanity can’t survive. We are the guardians of our living ocean.

Our identity is anchored in a vast sea where our ancestors voyaged to find new homes, our home, and now your home. It is our responsibility to protect these resources for our future generations.”

From the welcome home ceremony to sharing a beer with the crew, it was one helluva start to our time in the Cook Islands.

Now, I can’t get the idea of volunteering to one of the organizations out of my head.  So, its officially on the bucket list.  I can’t pass up the opportunity to learn, contribute and be a part of such an ancient art.  Even if it’s just scrubbing the bottom in the harbor.  😉

Nikki Wynn on the bow of traditional polynesian sailing vessel in cook islands south pacific

cook islands female polynesian dancer

cook islands polynesian dancers performing at ceremony

The next generation of navigators

Want more information about the vakas and the organizations who keep them floating and educating?  Here ya go!



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🎶AWESOME tunes:

  • Local Cook Island Music from:  Taakoka, Tara Kauvai, & Engara Gosselin


To see our full map with interactive pins, click here:

  • Anchorage: Avarua Harbour, Rarotonga, Cook Islands
  • Date:  June 2019

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (24)

  • Pam McClure

    Loved this. When I was a young girl (10-13) we lived in Hawaii. I took hula lessons but really wanted to take Tahitian dancing which is what the women in the video did (probably different versions but I don’t know). I think I know why young girls didn’t dance Tahitian now. Very sexy. Thank you for this

  • Julie Pollock

    Life is magnificent. You caught it with this video. Thanks you two!

  • Yvan Dion

    I just love to see your interactions with people half a world away – how they live, dance, share their culture… It all seems so genuine and real… Thank you for sharing.

  • Joan Paucek

    Jason & Nikki, that was a “wicked” good video. Keep them coming.

  • Suzy Shepard

    Your videos and ideas have changed my life so very much. In these wearying political times, your message is a bright spot that gives my heart great joy. You have done for me what the song from “Wicked” (Broadway musical) says, “Because I knew you, my life has changed for good.” Thank you so very, very much.

    Oh how I love following you all. I’m a land “yacht” owner — my Thoreau cabin on wheels — an Airstream B van (Sprinter/Dodge/Mercedes Diesel 20 foot camper van) and I travel the country and write. I just started doing fun (but very early in the learning process) videos called Grannies on the Grow. I’m a mother of four and grandmother of eight children. You are my teachers, mentors and promise for a bright future — a message that there are others out in the world that simply love to love and do what they love. Thank you again.

    With great love to you all. Suzy

  • Martine

    Have to agree with a lot of folks. Best video!!! (Besides the fishishys) hahaha. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. That was amazing!!!! Sailing gods are smiling are you too. Can’t wait for more.

    • Martine

      Need to edit that. Should say on you two. Ughhhhh

  • Steve Nicholls

    This Kiwi says Custard Squares are Really Yum! Try one. Or two, once you’ve tried one.

  • Michael Magill

    That was the best party and you brought me along too. What a beautiful area to be in and to discover. Also enjoyed your drone pictures high above the area , and the shots of the Mountains . A place that I would love to see and explore , and I get to do that by tuning in to this video every week. Can complain about that. In three months we will have snow and cold winds blowing snow all over the place, and I will be dreaming about you and Jason sailing around the world , having a blast and letting a very select few join them each week to see what adventures they got into. A perfect time I can have , and I thank you both for allowing us to come along….!!

  • Alan Solomon

    This video was all in Roratonga, right? That was so fun to watch. It seems like it was meant to be. Roratonga has a lot to offer. From one positive extreme to the other. Watching this I can’t get enough.


  • Roger B

    WOW! You were sure having a great party time riding in the back of that truck. You made some great friends that like to share their fun times with other sailors. Love the drone videos also.

  • Greg Prince

    Oh Boy!!!! What fun that was! Great times, great people and fantastic memories! Please please please post the next day recuperation video!! Those kids were having a blast as were you two!
    Fantastic memories guys! So much to see so little time, stay safe!

  • Angela O'Hearn

    Ya know it’s going to be a great vid when Jason is fizzing at the bum hole excited in the intro 😂 absolutely loved this one! Your back of the ute ride with the cuzzies bro’s having a sing-a-long was just gold! You’re getting closer and closer to my home, New Zealand. Can’t wait for next Sunday’s vid (actually Monday for us here in NZ).

  • Denise

    You guys have the most fun wherever you go!!! On a different subject, I just realized that Singa is an Ocicat! You got so lucky to find him/her as a rescue! Safe travels you two…my favorite Youtubers!!

  • Mike Laudenslager

    Truly one of the best videos I have seen. You guys put us right there with you! I gotta hand it to you Mr and Mrs W….you guys ROCK!

  • Ward

    What an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • tom tordel jr

    over the top BEST ever!! i predict a”slight” increase in tourism there!!

  • BrendaB Jones-Schneeberg

    I was overwhelmed by your video. Brought tears to my eyes because of these beautiful people and their connection to their culture and the sea and then with you! Thanks

  • Edwin Lancaster

    Just when I think I’ve seen you best video yet you post something that fills my heart with joy as you capture the sprite of being a sailor from such a great crew, well done Nikki and Jason well done😃

  • Marjorie Nehlsen

    I was surprised at all the traffic on the highway. EXCELLENT video. Love when you go exploring. Too bad the brewery tours were over and the custard bakery was closed.


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