Canoes blessed, paddled, enjoyed

Members and friends of Majuro Ocean Sports Club stand by as Waan Aelon in Majel (Canoes of the Marshall Islands) Director Alson Kelen blesses the new paddling canoes on the beach in front of the University of the South Pacific campus in Majuro November 7. Photo: Anastasia Dujmovic.

Fifty-plus people turned out to witness the blessing and launch of the Majuro Ocean Sports Club outrigger canoes on Saturday at the University of the South Pacific’s lagoonside campus in Long Island.

“The ambience was so positive and everyone was really excited to be there for the launch and the paddling,” Club Captain Larry Hernandez said. “It was a perfect day: overcast and just a light breeze making the water very calm.”

Club President Grant Bilyard, Larry, and a team of muscle-men from Do It Best began the day at 8:30am by moving the canoes and paddles into a picture-perfect place on USP’s beach. When all was in position, and the crowd was swelling, WAM Director Alson Kelen performed the traditional Marshallese blessing of the canoes, a ceremony that includes the cutting of the symbolic ‘umbilical cord’ with an adze.  

“Alson was wearing his traditional grass skirt and his tattoos were on show … it was great,” Grant said. “After a chat about safety Larry took the first team of Marshallese and went out.” Over the next few hours, dozens of people tried their hand at paddling, with much laughter and smiles being shared out on the water.

MOSC’s next event will be a Captain’s Clinic on the morning of President’s Day, Tuesday, November 17, at USP. Club President Grant Bilyard said the plan is to train people to be captains. “These people will then be able to take the canoes out and help form teams.”

“Our goal is for them to be comfortable about being in control and also for them to have the necessary skills for everyone to be safe,” added Club Captain Larry Hernandez, who competed on his Hawaiian high school’s paddling team. “I started when I was 15. We used to go out of the Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki. I was in the number two spot on the canoe.”

The MOSC canoe project was made possible through a grant from the New Zealand Embassy in Honolulu and its North Pacific Development Fund.

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