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Last updateThu, 23 May 2019 12am







    Tuesday, May 21, 2019-5:13:00A.M.






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Boat Night with with 500 Sails

WEDNESDAY marked the first Boat Night with the 500 Sails organization.

Peter Perez

Boat Night is a three-hour session dedicated to teaching participants to build Chamorro and Carolinian proas or canoes based on authentic indigenous designs. Participant spots are now available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights.

500 Sails executive director Peter Perez said he also hopes to see Tuesday nights added in the next month.

Along with adding another weekly Boat Night, sailing lessons are now on the horizon for participants.

 “Our goal is to first teach 10 people how to teach sailing,” Perez said.

Perez said his goal is to make sailing classes available four days a week, similar to the foundation’s swimming lessons. The idea is to teach the indigenous styles of building canoes, to teach how to swim and sail the canoes, and in the future, to reward regular participants with canoes they helped to create.

The process began with a 26-foot-long prototype proa known as “Neni.” The canoe was constructed using a detailed, indigenous blueprint. A mold was then created with the prototype to expedite the creation of duplicates. As participants assist in creating those duplicates, their participating hours will be tracked, and once they reach the target 120 hours, they become qualified to receive one of the canoes as a gift.

With the help of the community, grants and donations, canoe-building instruction comes at a low material cost. Those with indigenous heritage qualify for free materials to build with.

"Those with Native American heritage qualify for free materials to build with, thanks to an Administration for Native Americans grant," Perez said. "This includes Chamorros, and CNMI Carolinians."

After Typhoon Soudelor, Perez said 500 Sails started off slow, but with gaining support, the group is on track to finishing their goal of 60 canoes over three years.

“It’s about the thrill of sailing,” Perez said. “And, [participants] will be out on the water in these fast canoes that they made with their own hands. It’s exciting to me.”

Not only is it exciting, but Perez also said this project will begin to provide the island with many benefits. He said after the Spanish banned the indigenous island dwellers of building and sailing their proas centuries ago, an important piece of the indigenous culture was lost, and with it, their traditional physical activity and healthy diet once obtained by sailing.

“Sailing is good for health, well-being, and happiness,” Perez said. “It’s also good for cultural appreciation and preservation of history.”

Perez said he believes 500 Sails is gaining momentum in the community because it addresses a fundamental need by teaching the community useful skills in a way that is safe, affordable and accessible.

Click to enlarge
A photo of Neni, the first, prototype canoe.  500 Sails photo

“Building is a good vocational skill,” Perez said. “It’s fun, interesting and, I think, it’s rewarding.”

500 Sails is here to stay, and it’s here for everyone, Perez added. Anyone who is interested in learning to build, swim, sail, or about the history of Saipan is welcome.

Boat Night participants do not need to reserve a spot; there’s no limit for now, Perez said. He urges interested individuals not to hesitate to participate.

More information can be found at