Having conquered the world's oceans in her three-year adventure, the crew of the Uto ni Yalo discover the South Pacific Ocean is the most unpredictable and ferocious. She puts the Pacific Voyagers through their most challenging test. This is Part Three of a five-part series on Fiji's sailing icon that became the heart of an epic voyage and awakened millions of people across the globe to the plight of the world's greatest resource — the ocean. ILAITIA TURAGABECI, who joined the Uto ni Yalo as a crew, explains what she stands for, some of her adventures, her future and that of the brave men and women who defied the odds to sail the world using just the wind, waves, sun, stars and the moon to spread the gospel of sustainable sailing and ocean protection.
WHEN the Uto ni Yalo and the Pacific Voyagers go on the big screen in 2013, there'll be something the people of Fulaga in Lau can be proud of.
It's the handiwork of a son who has lived most of his life in Suva.
Setareki Laveti was only in Class Five when his woodcarver father, Paula Liga, asked him and his two older brothers to help him do the finishing on some tanoa that had been sent from the village.
That started a passion that has taken him halfway across the world and back and on the way back again.
When he entered secondary school at Saraswati College, Setareki started doing his own designs. Soon he joined his dad at his workplace at the University of the South Pacific's Oceania Centre where he worked on carving projects.
"I was always amazed by the deft touches my father used to put on to tanoa, war clubs and other objects. Sometimes I was given allowances when I stood in for him. I wanted to work and earn money and carving never paid well. But it was something I loved to do," he said.
In 2006, he was hired to do sinnet weaving at Laucala Island for two years, an art he mastered and brought on to the Uto ni Yalo when the Fiji Islands Voyaging Society was putting together a team to prepare for the inaugural voyage from Fiji to the world in 2010.
"I was preparing for the fire department recruit when Colin Philp of the FIVS looked for my father to do some work on the Uto," he said.
"I went along to help and I watched with envy the crew do their thing on board. Two weeks before that maiden voyage, skipper (Johnathan Smith) asked me if I wanted to join. I jumped at it. It was the chance of a lifetime.
"Everyone had done all the drills except me. It was lucky I was fit doing my fire training. This was something new. I had only sailed to Beqa on the Uto during test runs but never on a long voyage.
"During the voyage, I used to be afraid to sleep but my watch team used to encourage me, especially Moala To'ata'a, Colin and Manoa (Rasigatale)."
Setareki, Tuks as he is known on board, was inspired to modify his carving to include the story of the ocean and his work never ceased on the voyage, so too his sailing classes and understanding of the world beneath which he sailed.
When the Uto returned to Fiji after that first voyage to New Zealand and to Tahiti, Setareki flew to Tonga and joined the fleet leader, Hine Moana. He was commissioned to do some carving on the vaka after Admiral Magnus Danbolt saw the work the Lauan had done on the Uto.
He flew to San Diego and rejoined the Uto for the trip back home.
Along the way, he carved a star compass on the deck of the Cook Islands' Marumaru Atua, on which two of the fleet's leading star navigators — Tua Pittman and Captain Peaia Patai — sail.
That compass is now used to train sailors in the old ways.
A man with a lot of wit and humour, he became a favourite among the sailors who joined the voyage. He could mimic anyone and made them laugh.
For Setareki, the voyage was the best thing that ever happened to him. It taught him what he never knew.
"I felt pain when I saw the plight of the ocean. When I saw a turtle we saved, Ridley, struggling for life from a plastic he chewed on, I had tears in my eyes.
"Saving that turtle is one thing I'm very proud of. I used to eat turtles and sharks but after seeing the destruction of these animals on whom the ocean depends, I've changed. My wish is to see the Uto ni Yalo sail to Lau one day and take the message we took across the world for my people to understand the importance of ocean sustainability."
Setareki, who is now 29, jumped back on board the Hine Moana when it sailed out of Fiji with the Marumaru Atua last month.
He still has some work left on board before shooting for the movie — Our Blue Canoe — comes to an end.
The Te Mana o te Moana voyage may have come to an end but life has just started for this young man who has found love at sea.
When the voyage comes to life again on the big screen next year, look out for the passion of this young man on the canoes he put his hands on.
He has carved life into them.