canoes

Photo shows Neni, Anaguan, Aunty Oba and Richard Seman are parked at Tachogna Beach with 500 Sails crew.

FROM Oct. 21 to 25, 2021, 500 Sails sailed four canoes to Tinian to participate in the 2021 Gineptin Ha’anen Taga Festival on Tinian. With oversight from 500 Sails Program Coordinator April Repeki, Master Navigator Mario Benito, and Master Navigator Antonio Piailug, this sail was also made possible by sixteen volunteers who donated their time and energy and/or have been graciously allowed by their offices to partake in this community event.

The sixteen volunteers who acted as crew aboard our sailing canoes include the following:

Neni: (M. Benito, A. Repeki) Lolobeyong Benito, & Dennis Jr. Ngirchongor

Aunty Oba: (A. Piailug) Stanley Piailug, Beouch Ngirchongor, Marjorie Atalig Daria

Richard Seman: Thompson Onopey, Joshua Onopey, Andrea Carr

Anaguan: Hernit Ikea, Timothy Onopey, & Mason Nukuto

Escort boat Weniol: Capt. Larry Sharry & Jay G. Erlet alongside 500 Sail volunteers: Joseph Torres, Nathy Ikea, and Rose Benito.

The offices and programs that 500 Sails would like to thank for allowing their staff to bring this sail about include the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., CNMI State Medicaid Agency, Saipan Ice & Water, and Karidat-Guma Esperansa.

“Your support allows us to keep our cultural traditions alive by providing a pool of qualified sailors who are teaching others to develop their maritime skillsets.”

The support from the Tinian community includes:

• Mayor Edwin P. Aldan & staff from the Office of the Mayor of Tinian & Aguiguan for their generous donation of ten cases of water bottles to the crew during their four-day camp at Tachogna Beach.

• Councilwoman Juanita Mendiola & the 18th Tinian Municipal Council for their generous donation of the thirty food vouchers that crew was able to use during their time at the grounds.

• Mr. & Mrs. Juan M. Atalig & family for time spent with the crew and the thrice home-cooked meals provided to crew upon arrival to Tinian and departure from Tinian, and lunch mid-camp.

• Keith K. Nabors & family for sharing the secrets of sling with the crew in the CNMI’s first-ever sling competition.

• Ray Pangelinan from Kana’s Rental for stopping by in the middle of the night during the storm to assist the crew in securing the campsite.

• Tinian Jr. Sr. High School: Vice Principal Nikita Mendiola & TJSHS staff and students for their assistance in the setup of our school presentation, their patience as we figured out technical difficulties, their curious and inquisitive minds during our Q&A, as well as their determination to sail with us on our canoes during our stay.

• Tinian visitors and residents who came out to the water to sail on our canoes, break bread with our Master Navigators and crew, and overall, share in our sacred journey.

• Thomas Manglona from KUAM News for documenting our sail to Tinian.

• Northern Marianas Humanities Council’s Andrew Roberto and photography/film crew: Tahj Salas and Ben Salas for highlighting the works of 500 Sails staff during our journey.

The crossing from the Guma Sakman, Saipan to Tachogna Beach, Tinian covered less than eight hours in clear conditions. The return sail to Saipan covered rough seas that reduced the sail time from an average of 10 hours to less than five hours. 

This visit to Tinian comprises 500 Sails’ fourth visit to its sister island with the mission to revive its maritime culture and history. Tinian played a crucial role in our ability to build authentic Chamorro canoes, because it was exactly off Tachogna Beach in 1742 that the design of the Chamorro canoe was captured by the English ship Centurion and was preserved across centuries. In fact, two of the Centurion’s anchors are still in the water off Tachogna Beach.

500 Sails is forever grateful to the Tinian & Saipan community, IAO, CCVI/Canoe Federation, and IT&E for their support in helping the nonprofit be where it is now.

As Mario Benito, master navigator, has said, “Man cannot discover the ocean if he doesn't have the courage to leave the shore.”

For more information on programs, call 670-323-7245(SAIL), email  info@500sails.org, follow 500 Sails at https://www.facebook.com/500SailsDolphinClubSaipan, or call 500 Sails executive director Peter Perez at 670-783-0890.

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