Young women strive to become top navigators

By Heeni Brown

Two young women are about to enter a male dominant arena. Teira Tohu and Hinerapa Rupuha are aiming to become one of New Zealand's fewest female master navigators. 

Among the 150 kaihoe and kaumoana at Waitangi this year two young girls have their eyes set on a new horizon. 

20-year-old Teira Tohu and 19-year-old Hinerapa Rupuha aspire to become celestial navigators.   

Hinerapa Rupuha of Te Whānau a Apanui says, "It's kind of like that feeling you get when you sit at a Marae and you're amongst your kuia and your koroua and they're talking in an old language and they're talking about the stories and everything and that's the feeling that I get when we come on here and Jacko's telling us about traditional navigation."

Their mentor is Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti skipper Jack Thatcher. For the past year he's taught them non-instrumental methods of sea navigation. 
He says he only needs to look at historical accounts to see that men weren't the only ones at the helm of waka voyaging.

Thatcher says, "When Kupe arrived here and saw this land it wasn't him that called out "Look it's a white cloud, it's a white cloud - it's the land of the White Cloud" it was his wife Kuramarotini." 

There has never been an official appointment of a female Master Navigator. While Teira Tohu is keen to gain the title, she's take one step at a time. 

Teira Tohu of Te Ihutai and Te Orewai says, "It just has so much knowledge and when I started I figured out that knowledge is power and I think this is probably the strongest you could ever get to be honest, because if the world was to ever tomorrow and the land was covered what are we gonna do, just float and drift."

From Waitangi, the young sailors will set sail to the Hawkes Bay in time for Te Matatini festival.