THE Uto ni Yalo has breached another barrier in its record-breaking voyage - taking on board a man living with disabilities as a crew.
Manasa Narita, 24, from Jerusalemi in Savusavu, joins the Pacific Voyagers for their final two legs to Vanuatu and the Solomons .
Captain Jonathan Smith said the Uto ni Yalo was an inspiration for all of Fiji's citizens.
"This vaka is not only for women, men, the youthful and children. It is also for people like Manasa," he said.
"The Uto ni Yalo is meant to inspire, revive traditional sailing and our traditions and give hope.
"We aim to reach out to all people."
Captain Smith said they would use Mr Narita's sign language skills to pass on the Uto ni Yalo's message to people living with disabilities.
"He is a good speaker and very good physically. He is a step ahead of the rest of the crew because he has a sixth sense," he said.
"We had tried to get him to join us on the first voyage but his family could not part with him because he is their sole breadwinner."
A qualified welder, Mr Narita - who has hearing and speech impairment - does odd jobs to help put food on the table for his family.
Replying to The Fiji Times' written questions, Mr Narita said he was honoured to part of the te Mana o te Moana voyage.
He said he had never sailed long distances before and looked forward to doing his part on deck. He is one of two new crew on this leg. The other is Teddy Fong, a marine specialist.
Mr Narita said people living with disabilities lived in hope that they be given such opportunities to prove themselves in life.
"I'm privileged to be part of this voyage, to be able to learn more about our cultures and traditions and come home to share them," he wrote.
"This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I'll do my best to prove that even though we may be lacking in some areas, we can be equally good or even better at doing things."
The Pacific Voyagers - who have been taking part in the week-long World Oceans Day celebrations -sail out of Suva tomorrow.