12 Aug 2016

Group wants to bring back traditional boat making in CNMI

5:50 am on 12 August 2016

Hundreds of traditional boats could be sailing again in Northern Marianas waters.

Traditional boat in the Marianas

Traditional boat in the Marianas Photo: RNZI Mark Rabago

The group 500 Sails is planning to to help with the building of 500 "flying proas" - native inter-island boats that people of the Marianas used to sail before the Spaniards colonised the islands.

The plan is to match the number of proas that met the Spanish galleon San Pedro when it arrived in Guam in 1565 before the Spanish suppressed the practice of building and sailing the boats.

The skills have been largely lost since then but the hope is to have the 500 boats sailing by 2030.

500 Sails executive director Peter Perez said a skilled team of Sakman leaders would help participants build their own proas.

The boats will be built in a fully provisioned and tooled guma sakman or canoe house.

Participants will pay only for the cost of the materials and many will be provided with financial assistance.

Mr Perez said the project would not only benefit the CNMI and Guam culturally but will also be a boon to the tourism industry.