A two-year, once-in-a-lifetime voyage came to an end for a Hastings man when the sailing waka Te Matau A Maui pulled into port at Ahuriri yesterday morning.
Tawhana Chadwick was one of just two crew members who sailed the entire return journey from New Zealand, through the Pacific to the west coast of North and South America.
The waka hourua, or double-hull vessel, was one of seven which completed the trip to raise awareness of the marine environment. There were several legs of the journey, and each offered a chance for people to be part of the crew, but Mr Chadwick and skipper Frank Kawe, from Tauranga, were the mainstay throughout the journey.
"We arrived here midnight [Wednesday] and we were felling pretty good about coming into port. We celebrated and it was just a big buzz, especially for myself and Frank; we've been on board the waka for the past two years and finally have come home."
Mr Chadwick initially planned to be part of the waka voyage for the only first leg but after three months became hooked on sailing and learning about celestial navigation.
"I wanted to stay because it was just an amazing experience and something that I hope I can share with other people."
There were three themes he wanted to pass on to others looking to be part of the waka, now that it will be permanently based in Hawke's Bay.
"The first is the connection with traditional sailing. The second is the connection we made with the Pacific Islands and other communities we met, and the third would be the connection with the ocean, the problems facing it and what we can do to mitigate those problems."
The fleet visited various Pacific Islands, meeting with scientists and indigenous communities to learn about the factors impacting on the ocean in their part of the world.
"It was interesting just to listen to each community to learn about what's going on with the ocean, stuff you never hear about on the news. For example we learnt there's 80 million sharks perishing because of fishing for shark fins and then when we were around Hawaii, we saw all of the rubbish that's in the ocean there."
Mr Chadwick said his weight "went up and down" depending on where the waka was sailing during the two year voyage.
"Going through the Pacific, I lost weight. I weighed myself in Hawaii and I was 77kg and then by the time we left San Diego I was 95kg, probably because of the American diet we were on."
Along the way, there were plenty of opportunities for wananga, or workshops, to learn karakia, haka and waiata of each Pacific nation the crew visited.
"Each place we stopped, the people just really looked after us. We would be running low on water and food and we'd have the Pacific communities restocking our supplies again."
Mr Chadwick planned to continue being part of the waka which now offered up possibilities to be used for education and tourism programmes.
"We hope we can roll out programmes for people to learn about sailing, about navigation. Not all of the crew that sailed each leg of the journey were from Hawke's Bay but there was a good group of us from Kahungunu who want to be involved."