Gift of boat building

Mr Rokotuira has built 10 boats so far, sold four to villagers at Nakini, three boats sold to villagers at Naganivatu and another three boats are being built to be taken again to Nakini. Picture: ATU RASEA

ANYTHING is possible if the heart is willing, is an adage that rings true for Josaia Rokotuira.

The 59-year-old Drekena villager in Rewa is probably the first itaukei boat builder.

Despite not belonging to a mataisau (traditional craftsmen) clan in his village, the gift of building wooden boats is something that came naturally for Mr Rokotuira.

“I took woodwork while I was a student at Ratu Kadavulevu School in Tailevu in the mid-1970s but what I learnt back in school did not come in handy until 2014 when I built my first boat.

“I only watched what my Indo-Fijian employers who built boats and I told myself I could also do it and I did. “I had initially purchased 10 boats and I was renting it out for $15 a week for villagers here in Drekena and nearby areas to use for fishing or diving excursions,” Mr Rokotuira said.

“All they had to do was supply me fish if they could not afford the weekly rent payment of the boat but as time went on, I was lost out.” It was for this reason he decided that he would start building boats and sell it at a lump sum.

“In 2016 I became registered as a boat builder and started to build my own boats.”

Mr Rokotuira sells the boats at $1000 each and he has had customers from Naitasiri, Tailevu and Rewa and the orders just keep piling up from villages around Fiji.

“Word is slowly getting out that I am a boat builder and even my fellow villagers here at Drekena some are surprised when visitors from other places come and ask for me — the boat builder. ”

A handful of villagers here at Drekena are aware of what I do while some are still in the dark.”

It takes a month for Mr Rokotuira to build a boat provided his machines such as the chainsaw, circular saw, jigsaw and clamp don’t give up on him as it is the case sometimes.

“When one of my machines break down, that’s when my work is delayed but at the moment I am in need of a bench saw because it would fast track my work and make things easier for me.”

So far, Mr Rokotuira has built 10 boats and sold four of it to villagers at Nakini, three boats sold to villagers at Naganivatu and another three boats are being built to be taken again to Nakini.

“For villagers like us here in Drekena who live beside the river or sea having a boat is a necessity because we often rely on the sea.”

Mr Rokotuira solely relies on his boat building skills as his main source of income as boat orders keep coming.

“I don’t have to go out fishing or farming as I just rely on my machines to do my work. I enjoy what I do and I intend to continue with it for as long as it takes.”

Mr Rokotuira said age was slowly catching up with him and he had started to impart his boat building skill to the youths at Drekena and nearby villages.

“I am always telling the youths that they need to learn the skills and I am teaching them free of charge — there is no pen and paper learning, its hands on or practical learning,” Mr Rokotuira said.

More Stories