Fiji Time: 1:56 PM on Monday 26 February

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Navigating the seas

Matilda Simmons
Saturday, February 10, 2018

GROWING up, Setareki Ledua held the fascination for sailing boats. Even while residing at Lami, the Fulaga, Lau native would steal off to join his relatives as they carved and sailed the Fijian traditional canoe, the drua.

The 25-year-old is a traditional navigator, one of only two known navigators in the country who use the stars and the moon to navigate their way while sailing.

"My forefathers were known boat builders and they sailed their own canoes in the old days — it's something I'm really proud of," he said with a smile.

Mr Ledua is a core member of the famous Uto Ni Yalo traditional vessel.

"I grew up in the village. Sometimes when I go out fishing with my grandmother, she would tell me the names of the stars and the wind directions," he described.

Even when they moved to Lami, Ledua said he would sail with his uncle who owned a drua called the Tabu Soro around the Suva foreshore.

"We would sail from the Veisari coast, in Lami down to Suva, to buy food from Joji's then sail back."

Today, he is one of the important members of the Uto Ni Yalo, which still carry out trips from island to island to hold environmental awareness. It is something that is close to his heart.

"One thing that gets to me is the dumping of plastics on our beaches or at sea.

"While travelling to a village in Macuata, we saw batteries and plastics strewn all over the beaches.

"These were either washed up on shore or thrown by the villagers themselves.

"It's great that some of the villagers are heeding the dangers of this rubbish and have undertaken commitments to address it.

"One fact about the dumping of such rubbish is that you'll end up eating it.

"The fish swallow all these plastics and then people catch it and sell it in the markets and it ends up on our dinner table."

Setareki was recently involved in the maiden voyage of the Uto Ni Yalo back in 2010 when it travelled around the Pacific with several other vaka from the region.

He was only 17 years old at the time and the youngest crew member.

Over a three-month period, the fleet travelled from New Zealand to Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and back to New Zealand.

He was part of the pioneering group voyage to raise awareness about key environmental issues threatening the Pacific Ocean.

"We came from different Pacific backgrounds, with the aim of rebuilding our rebuild ancestral seafaring traditions and cultural links between the islands," Setareki said.

"I hope we don't lose what we have. Fiji is getting advanced with technology and moving with the times. But I hope we don't lose what makes us iTaukei people unique," he said with finality.

Setareki is currently employed with the Uto Ni Yalo Trust and continues to raise awareness about environmental sustainability.

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