Celestial navigator Jack Thatcher is well known as a master at voyaging waka using just the sun, moon, stars and horizon for guidance.
But it's looking back that gives him the strongest direction of all.
Thatcher, 60, has been made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. The honour recognises and rewards his services to Māori and education.
Thatcher is one of just a handful of people throughout the Pacific to voyage the ocean relying solely on celestial means. In Tauranga, he passes his knowledge on to eager young sailors and regularly leads them on voyages around the country.
Since the father of two co-founded the Te Puna Rangiriri Trust in the early 1990s - of which he is now chairman - hundreds of children and young people have learned about waka and other traditional Māori knowledge. In 2015, Thatcher established a navigation school where 30 students a year and gain NZQA qualifications.
While the honour is in Thatcher's name, it's representative of a line of people harking back generations and centuries, he said.
From the deck of his waka Ngahiraka-mai-tawhiti, berthed at Tauranga Bridge Marina, Thatcher explains: "You walk backwards into the future".
"Meaning, you learn from your mistakes. You learn scenarios that your tipuna left for you so you understand what they did as the example for you to do the same. Don't try to do something different because their success is you."
Thatcher's roots include Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga a Hauiti, Te Whānau a Tuwhakairiora, Ngāti Awa, Ngaiterangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pukenga and Waitaha. Such whakapapa was integral in his line of work and day-to-day life.
He has navigated the Mātaatua waka for the 150-year commemorations of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, captained the Waka Odyssey voyage for the 2018 New Zealand Festival of the Arts and in 2019 was flotilla kaitiaki for Tuia 250 commemorations. Earlier this year, he also led the four-day waka festival Te Hau Kōmaru in Tauranga Moana.
"The stuff we do on our waka is really important. It presents our heritage to young people who may not know who they are or may be coming to terms with who they might be," Thatcher said.
In addition to his work with waka and young people, Thatcher has been leading educational tours of Mount Maunganui and Mauao during Matariki over the past 27 years.
"You soon come to realise it's not about you. It's about the whole - knowing where you came from, who you are connected to, who these ancestors are, who decided this was a place they wanted to come to and for you to grown up in. Follow their example. Try to be courageous when you want to be but it's okay to be fearful," he said.
"That's the full crux of what I've been trying to achieve, trying to create a space of people being proud of who they are."
Thatcher's innate focus on others - past and present - perhaps explains why he was "a little bit shocked" when he first learned of the Queen's Birthday honour.
"It's not something I thought I would have the privilege to receive so I asked my wife and daughters and basically said 'it's up to you whether I accept it or not'.
Thatcher explains it's important to have whanau support on key decisions and references having once asked his older brother for permission to get a puhoro tattoo before his brother did - due to the sacred custom associated with such an act.
"I follow that type of tikanga because it's important to do that and my family understands what it is that's happening," Thatcher said.
So it was with some reluctance, but also gratitude and some gentle pride, that Thatcher has embraced his Queen's Birthday honour.
"Because it doesn't belong to just me."