How to sail free from Fiji to Sydney

First Bundle of Ocean 50' Bamboo Raft

Raft built with 6' diameter, 50' long 7 of these bundles of bamboo with truck tires between the bundles to prevent chaffing.
Raft built with 6' diameter, 50' long 7 of these bundles of bamboo with truck tires between the bundles to prevent chaffing.
This is similar to the raft I built in Fiji.
This is similar to the raft I built in Fiji.
Rewa River near Suva, Fiji...
Rewa River near Suva, Fiji...
Fiji is the country of more than 300 Fiji islands situated in Southern Pacific Ocean. However, on the Fiji map, you can find the group of Fiji islands distributed sporadically in the Pacific Ocean far east of Australia. Some of the bigger islands are
Fiji is the country of more than 300 Fiji islands situated in Southern Pacific Ocean. However, on the Fiji map, you can find the group of Fiji islands distributed sporadically in the Pacific Ocean far east of Australia. Some of the bigger islands are
Simple: Sail six weeks due South from Fiji and hang a left turn into Sydney Harbor!!
Simple: Sail six weeks due South from Fiji and hang a left turn into Sydney Harbor!!
The great explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl's raft was composed of 9 two-foot thick Balsa logs, ranging in length from 30 to 45 feet, the longest in the middle, lashed to cross beams, covered by a bamboo deck on which is an open hut.
The great explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl's raft was composed of 9 two-foot thick Balsa logs, ranging in length from 30 to 45 feet, the longest in the middle, lashed to cross beams, covered by a bamboo deck on which is an open hut.

I did it, rather than wishing I had done it

I saw a notice at the Yacht Club in Nandi, Fiji for “deck-hand" needed to build and sail to Sydney, Australia on a bamboo raft with a hand-drawn sketch of large, ocean going bamboo raft. The raft had a name of "Kontinue" referring to the Thor Heyerdahl on his epic ocean voyage Kon-Tiki which was the raft used in his 1947 expedition across the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands.

Curious, I tracked down the owner of the notice. His name is Rob. His sister married the Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, who had led a bloodless coup and taken control of Fiji. Sitiveni Rabuka’s motivation was to prevent Fiji becoming like Hawaii with all of its traditional ways destroyed. The political environment at that time of Sitiveni Rabuka’s political take-over was the Indians, who had been brought to Fiji in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to work in the sugar cane fields was at a threshold to take over the government and land ownership. The Indians had accumulated most of the wealth and political power.

Given this state-of-affairs, Sitiveni Rabuka issued a decree that disenfranchised the Indians. They could not own land. There was a huge “brain drain” of Indians leaving Fiji at that time. Sitiveni Rabuka wanted to restore the “old ways” of Fiji.

Rob was/is a bona fide hippie. After he had met Mother Theresa, he decided his mission in life was to build a trust and give crutches and wheel chairs to children. At the same time, he was caught up in the zeal to assist in the focus of restoring the “old ways” of Fiji. Specifically in restoring the building of “bilibilis” (bamboo rafts) as a means to sail from and to the many islands. Native bark strips were used to tie the bundles together.

Given I felt my “alter ego,” Walter Mitty take charge, I volunteered to build the Kontinue bamboo raft. I know Walter Mitty would in his fictional character that is a meek, unassuming accountant who would daydream that he led an exciting, heroic life in order to escape his humdrum existence would immediately volunteer for this great adventure! - The fictional character appeared in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1941), written by the American humorist and artist James Thurber (1894-1961).

I was led down jungle paths to a village where there was no electricity. I was introduced to the chief and was told I would sleep in his wife’s bed. She would sleep on the floor. The “toilet” was outside. I quickly had to adjust to my “elevated status.” The chief would eat alone. Then I would eat alone, then his wife. We were always segregated. I was watch as if I was somebody special. Later I learned Rob told them I was a “rich American.” Every evening included the singing, drinking kava ceremonies for men only. The chief drank from his special polished coconut. The rest of us shared the single half coconut shell.

Rob kept disappearing to “save” some child. He always had cases of scabies, and etc. to report to the chief who gave Rob the authority to burn the bed sheets. I was told that a highland village was gathering a huge flotilla of bamboo to float down the Rewa River to the village where I was going to build the Kontinue bamboo raft. While I waited for the flotilla to arrive, I decided I must research how Thor Heyerdahl had built his two ocean going rafts. There was not a lot of material available. I read both of his books about his trips. That was the extent of my research. The huge risk began to sink in. I would have no navigational aids and must rely on Fijian sailors to guide by celestial navigation to Sydney, Australia. Rob wanted a statement made of comparing and contrasting the old ways with the new ways of ocean transportation in Fiji. Everything had to be authentic.

When the huge bamboo flotilla arrived, it was like herding cats to collect and pull out of the river the piles of 6-inch diameter and over 50-foot long bamboo and stack along the cove I had selected to begin construction of the 50’ ocean going bamboo raft.

I decided to “cheat” in the construction process and augment the strips of bark that was used to tie the bamboo bundles together with stainless steel straps. The same kind used to connect signs to telephone poles. It was determined that the trip to Sydney would take about six weeks. That is a l-o-n-g time in the ocean in a raft with many unknowns.

Since Rob could not be counted on, I accepted the reality; the raft was going to be built by myself. I began to sketch and experiment with different designs. I decided to hand tie a 30 bamboo bundle together with strips of bark and then place a truck tire between the bundles. The bundles were connected with the stainless steel straps. I used seven bundles for the deck. The mast was built like an oil derrick, a huge tri-pod.

My research had determined “dagger boards” – boards lowered or raised to prevent raft side slipping front and back would be the best method of steering with the “Chinese Junk” style sail. It took three weeks of sun up to sun down tying knots to get the deck completed. My concerns were recruiting fellow “sailors” who had sailing skills, navigation, knowledge of ocean fish, how to fish and prepare, and be reliable. The reliable part was the most difficult part to obtain. Drinking Kava makes you sleepy. Most of the Fijians sleep in. They are not fully functional until around 10 o’clock in the morning.

No one had “papers,” or passports. They were all “stowaways,” except Rob, who had an Australian and American passport. It was not a concern. One “crew member” had been caught trying to go to Australia three times. They simply returned them.

Chapter Two:

Life in the village while constructing the Kontinue….


More Life Exploration Where I Did it, Rather Than Wishing I had Done it!

http://hubpages.com/hub/Sacramento-River-July-4th-Weekend-on-a-Raft-To-San-Francisco

http://hubpages.com/hub/I-slept-with-Electric-Eels

http://hubpages.com/hub/Why-the-fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall-had-an-Affect-on-Me

Cabin Cruiser 600 Mile Ocean Adventure:

http://dallas93444.hubpages.com/hub/cabin-cruiser-ocean-odyssey

http://hubpages.com/hub/Adversity-Does-Make-Us-Stronger




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Comments 18 comments

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

Interesting experience... great adventure. Certainly only for the most courageous. Thanks for an enjoyable read.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Life is an adventure. Living is what we do while we make plans..! Each of us march to our own drum beat!


World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 6 years ago from USA

What an incredible adventure! The raft looks great! Amazing that you were able to retain the photographs taken. There are so many ways adventure photographs can get lost or ruined during a high adventure pursuit. Thanks for sharing. Voted UP!


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

World-Traveler, Not to far from where you are... You too have a "world" traveling experience. Life is an adventure. I was born with nothing: I still have most of it!


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

How fantastic, I'd love to do something as adventurous as this one day. And I will! Thanks dallas for your inspiring stories.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

MPG Narratives, Release you "emergency brake" and today begin to live your imaginations... this ain't no rehearsal. Death is the end of life as we know it... I prefer to explore the possibility here and now and hope for the best after I die... Perhaps obtain "insurance" via philosophical frameworks (AKA Supreme Being).


Benjimester profile image

Benjimester 6 years ago from San Diego, California

Man, sounds like an amazing adventure. It would be really rewarding to not only sail the boat but also to have built it. That's some really interesting background on Fiji as well. Thanks very much for sharing your story.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Benjimester, Life is an adventure. I have licenses in California that authorize me to build anything from nuclear reactor plants, oil refineries, freeways, dams, high rises, shopping centers, and single family communities: General Engineering, and General Contractors license # 344256.

Notwithstanding this, there is no plans for ocean-going rafts, or body of knowledge to tell you how/what to do. It is a process... It was a challenge because my life depended on my success of design and construction... I tied each bamboo to the adjacent bamboo and then used stainless steel straps to tie the bundle together. A bonus was experiencing Fijian culture up close and personal...


surf traveler profile image

surf traveler 6 years ago

Dallas what an amazing adventure building a raft to sail from Fiji to Sydney. I love your attitude towards life.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

surf traveler, Fall down seven times, get up eight times: be resilient ...I was born with nothing, and I still have most of it! ....Yet I was born with everything I need...

I have learned to "dance in the rain..."

As you know most of us experience life with our "emergency brake" on. We limit ourselves. We all deserve the opportunity to fail, or succeed.

Life happens while we make plans, save money, restrain ourselves, procrastinate or plan for tomorrow, which often never comes..!

Just do it!


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

How exciting, I'm so hooked and living vicariously through you, looking forward to hearing about all your adventures. Thanks for sharing how to sail free from Fiji to Sydney... :)


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

katiem2, Thanks! Life is an adventure..then we die. The space/time between life and death is finite. I want to be dragged into the grave, worn out, kicking, fighting and resisting the death process...


surf traveler profile image

surf traveler 6 years ago

Dallas, now people can build their own raft and avoid airport pat downs. Perhaps they can rig it with a junk rigged sail and name the raft "Don't touch my junk".


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

Works for me....!

That is why they call them "junk yards..."


World-Traveler profile image

World-Traveler 5 years ago from USA

I am visiting this adventure once again because it is amazing. I hope for more photographs in the future. Voted Up fantastic, fantastic experience.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

World-Traveler,

Thanks! Whenever, I "settle-down" again (just moved) I will dig out my notes and photographs...


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

I can only imagine that thousands of years ago, these rafts were the cutting edge way to travel the ocean. They subsisted for weeks or even months by fishing or even consuming algae from the ocean along with maintaining a fresh water supply by various means. They would sometimes stop at small islands to restock and at times emergency provisions were left on these islands for later use. I got this info From the James Michener Hawaii book.-Regards-WBA


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA Author

wba108@yahoo.com,

I too read and studied as much as I could before I tried to sail from Fiji to Sydney on a 50 ft bamboo raft...

Thor Heyerdahl known for his famous voyages aboard the Kon-Tiki and the Ra II. By crossing both the Atlantic and the Pacific in simple native crafts, Heyerdahl showed that ancient peoples could have crossed much greater distances than was previously imagined and that trade and cultural exchange could have taken place between Africa and the Americas as well as between Pacific Islanders and South Americans.

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