Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr
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In 1966 the waka Haunui was a picture in Hotu’s mind. He envisioned himself traversing the oceans following the sailing prowess of the ancestors. It was a forty year forecast with no endpoint. He had been seasoned from childhood through mentoring relationships with elders. When he was five years old he saw tribal waka in the shed by the river and used to sit on them imagining the ancestors sailing the ocean, and he would day dream about traversing the ocean too. In the 1970’s, when waka traditions were being revived, Hotu’s father took him to an Auckland Anniversary regatta. It was there he saw the mighty Tainui tribal waka Te Winika being paddled into Auckland’s Waitemata harbour. Hotu recalls driving through the night and being part of the karakia prayers as the waka was put in the sea. This was a time of a big resurgence of waka traditions across the country. Hotu through himself into the kaupapa and set up competitive and cultural-recreational waka ama clubs which were intehgral part of building his skills for one day becoming a fully-fledged traditional navigator. Hotu’s aunty, Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu commissioned the building of another waka. Hotu started hanging out even more with the “old guys” and jumping in the canoes with them. By the time he was 17 he was in charge of his own waka taua (full scale war canoe). Always in the back of his mind was the thought of voyaging across Te Moananui a Kiwa.
A watershed moment occured when he was taken to Hawaii and met Pinky and Roa Thompson. Their son Nainoa was leading the resurgence of Hawaiian voyaging traditions and Hotu spent time with him learning the arts of traditional navigation. Along the way he met and married his Hawaiian wife Kim and always his aim was to sail the oceans in a waka horua. When finally the time arrived and he took possession of the Waka Haunui he was ready, prepared and knew what was involved in not only traditional navigation but in maintaining and managing an ocean-going waka.
Haunui has been well and truly tested as has Hotu and his crew. The waka is now under his constant stewardship and along with training wayfinders he undertake educational programmes for schools. The demand for educational trips and for guest appearances has grown hugely and there is increasing demand for the waka to be made available to the visitor industry. This is where the thread of Hotu’s story comes together with that of John Panoho and the two have joined forces to create Waka Quest and develop tourism and leadership training as a business enterprise.