IMAGINE using the stars to guide you while sailing out at sea.
This is the navigation method we do know was used by our ancestors when using computers and modern technology had not even been thought of.
But for Peia Patai, a Cook Islander who is the captain of the Marumaru Atua — a Polynesian voyaging canoe or vaka — reading the stars and using traditional navigation to sail the open ocean is not too difficult a task.
In fact, he is one of the 12 men trained to use traditional navigations by Naionoa Thomson, a native Hawaiian navigator and Mau Piailug, a Micronesian navigator.
Mr Thomson was taught by Mr Piailug from the Carolinian island of Satawal.
Captain Patai said the 12 men trained were the only ones who knew how to read traditional navigation in the world today, apart from their great teacher Mr Thomson who lives in Hawaii.
Mr Piailug passed away in 2010 at the age of 78.
On board the Marumaru Atua, the name means "under the protection of God", are two built-in chairs towards the rear of the canoe and is only meant for traditional navigators like Captain Patai.
"Only myself and my other colleague who also reads traditional navigation sit in those little chairs and look up to the sky to read the stars," Captain Patai said.
"I have been doing traditional navigation for more than 20 years since my training with the two well known masters of traditional voyaging ended in 1990 in Hawaii," he said.
"It takes experience to become better in the trade and reading the stars is knowing the different names and its position to guide your canoe while sailing out in the open ocean."
Some names of stars, he listed were planet series, venus series, four sets, north to south navigational stars, bowl of navigation and triangle navigation.
Captain Patai, who is also an expert in using modern day technology for navigation, said the stars had helped guide him in the past.
"You need to know the different roles of the stars and how to use them. There are about 200 to 350 stars I use for guidance while sailing and they all have names," he said.
"It takes experience to actually identify and know exactly the different stars and their functions," he added.
The most difficult days for sailing, Captain Patai said were nights when stars were invisible.
"That's the biggest problem. So we need to use the wind direction and the sea swells. It takes sailing for many years to know how to work with sea swells and to use it for direction."
Captain Patai who left for Tonga this week from Savusavu has taken with him three Fijian men as crew members.
The men — Setareki Laveti, Jim Tuimoce and William Peniata — who all started with the Uto ni Yalo for the Pacific Voyage have also learnt a lot from Captain Patai.