Vaka Motu visits Arno

Crew and passengers aboard the Vaka Motu after arriving at Arno Atoll recently. Photo: Isaac Marty.
Crew and passengers aboard the Vaka Motu after arriving at Arno Atoll recently. Photo: Isaac Marty.


The first service to the outer islands for the Okeanos Foundation’s Vaka Motu started last week with a visit to Arno. It departed Uliga Dock Thursday evening and arrived Arno the next morning.

School supplies, medical supplies, and few passengers were delivered successfully to Malel Island. Some things were taken to Ul en to Iroij Jibor’s residence to be distributed to nearby islands since no one was aware and prepared to meet the service.

Prior to departing Uliga Dock, waiver forms were signed by passengers and safety briefings were provided. Since it was nighttime lifejackets were worn. Crew member Archie Horiuchi, who has been in and out of Majuro channel on Marshall Islands Shipping Company (MISC) boats for over two years, guided Vaka Motu’s exit out of Majuro. Horiuchi is expected to be Vaka Motu’s new captain after he gets his maritime license in the near future.

Captain Alexandre Sanchez and crew member Ivanancy Vunikura from the Okeanos Foundation, who stayed on island since Vaka Motu’s arrival from Hawaii last month, continue to train the local crew and prepare them to take full charge after three months.

The only Marshallese female crew member Kathrilla Rikeo is not a rookie when it comes to knots, steering, and work onboard. Ejnar Aerok and new crew member Elmi Juonraan are also no amateurs. Both were crew members of Waan Aelon in Majel’s (WAM’s) Jitdam Kapeel walap on the voyage to Aur led by WAM Director Alson Kelen in June 2015. “It was an extreme experience,” recalls Juonraan.

“Steering was very hard because there was no support like on the Vaka Motu,” said Aerok.

Everyone was separated into groups. Each group took turn to “juummemej” — to watch on deck and steer. It was fun and educationally practical. We were like a family, teaching and looking out for one another.

Vaka Motu’s next trip is scheduled for Aur this week. She’s charted to deliver various supplies assigned by RMI President Hilda Heine.

Read more about this in the August 18, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.