HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The stars, the wind and the sea are just some of what Larry Raigetal uses as tools to help him navigate while on voyages out in open water.
“I’m a traditional/skilled cultural practitioner and by trade I am a master canoe carver and a master navigator,” Raigetal said. “You are basically a voyager. You have to know how to operate the canoe and how to take care of your crew and navigate by all the elements including the stars and the universe, and understand the ocean well.”
Raigetal is from Lamotrek, an island that is part of Yap State, and he has been on Guam since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. He said the borders back home remain closed.
So, he has been calling Guam home for the past year.
Aside from teaching students at the University of Guam how to navigate the traditional way, he also connects with local youth to share his skills.
Raigetal said he’s been voyaging for nearly 50 years, since he was 5 years old.
While safety and taking care of the crew is important, he said, master navigators also need to know how to build a canoe, build a hut to shelter the canoe, and read the weather and stars to determine the best times to go on a voyage.
He said he also knows how to make herbal medicine in the event any of his crew feel sick at sea.
“The techniques of riding the canoe are essential. The navigator must know how to do temporary repair at sea, how to flip the canoe back up if it capsizes, how to empty the water out if it’s taking in too much water. It’s a very complex and a lifetime of learning even for myself,” he said.
He’s also used his expertise to assist with multiple search and rescues.
“It’s a great feeling when you complete a voyage and it’s successful. But most important for me is to transfer the skills and to ensure the younger generations are not only appreciative of it but also learning and master the skills so they can voyage around,” he said.
Though he misses his island home, he is excited to once again be part of the Mes CHamoru celebration on Guam this year, as it has become his second home.
“Four thousand five hundred-some years of CHamoru history speaks for itself. People didn’t just show up on this island by accident. They were great voyagers and great seafarers,” he said. “I believe that for sustaining the traditions and the way they have been living life on this island is something that we should all be proud of.”
Raigetal said he has also received much of his support from Traditions Affirming Our Seafaring Ancestry Inc., as well as Humanities Guåhan.