Situation suitable shipping for remote island communities


Remote Pacific villages are serviced by diesel powered ships which are too deep to enter lagoons and require large payloads to justify a journey.  3 months between visits is not unusual.  The alternative is open skiffs with outboards, which cost a heap to run and sometimes make it, but frequently don't.
Early last year I was in the Marshall Islands, teaching the locals how to build these  for cross lagoon (up to 30 miles) transport.  The consensus is that they are pretty good and a couple more have since been built.  While there, I discussed what was needed for inter island travel.  Regular visits, ~10 tons payload, shallow draft, cheap and easy to build and operate, minimal maintenance and zero emissions were the requirements.  I figured these could be met with a 24m/80' version of the little proa.
I got 3 breaks:  
1) Queensland University Composites Engineering Department offered me a shed and overheads in return for giving their students some 'real work' experience.   
2) Rob Rassy wanted to see what was involved in Intelligent Infusion, came for a day, stayed for the duration of the build.  
3) A group of switched on Fijian business people and academics offered to organise 50-100 kms trial routes between Suva and local islands; Groceries, generator fuel and building supplies out, copra and landfill rubbish back.  They asked to assemble and launch the boat there for publicity reasons.  We are waiting for the 2 containers to arrive, for shipping mid January.   
The building was pretty straightforward.  Everything except the rudder blades was infused on a 12m/40' x 2.4m/8' mdf table, then glued or glassed together.  
Total weight is 1,880 kgs/4,140 lbs, with paint, deck gear, safety and nav equipment to add.  Maybe under 3 tonnes/6,650 lbs ready to sail.  
Cost of materials, $AUS50,000/$US33,000, including hulls, beams, carbon telescoping masts, wing rigs, toybox and 8m/28' tender.   
Build time is 15 months of 40 hour weeks for 2 old guys with occasional student help.  At least 3 months was enjoyably spent making samples (panels, composite truss beams, joints, fittings, etc) and testing/breaking them.   And, less enjoyably,  fixing short cuts and 'good ideas at the time'.  There will be another month or so of putting it together and painting in Fiji.  
There are several novel ideas that will need to be tested/altered/broken/fixed, but it should be in service mid 2022.  
The background, routes and description of the prototype:
The build story:
As always, I wish the best for this project and hope that it succeeds.

Despite my opinions about Harrys which have swing wildly one way or the other over the last couple of years, I do think that they are the best possible choice for an application such as this. Being able to utilize all of that untapped carrying capacity in the long and empty lee hull for cargo and completely separate the passengers/crew from the goods/rigs/anything that moves are advantages to this design. I still have reservations about that lee hull, but I guess I'll have to wait until it's floating to see. 

Hopefully it'll create a bit of a splash in the media when it launches and maybe draw more public attention to the proa concept, even if only a little. Good luck. 



The build shed site was shut over Xmas, so I spent some time on cargo proa paper work. Among it was how the project fits in with the 17 UN Goals for Sustainability. The goals are a bit wishy washy, but their intention is good.  More importantly, the people the cargo proa has to impress to be successful consider them essential.  

1) No poverty: 
i) Once proven, a yard will be set up to build more of them, with changes learnt on the test route. This yard will be on land already set aside on the outskirts of Suva. It will provide jobs for the locals building cargo proas, cargo/ferries, mini cargo proas and low cost fishing canoes, none of which will require fossil fuels. Importantly, there will be a program dedicated to building, sailing and navigating traditional boats, with all the cultural benefits this supplies.  
ii) A reliable service to remote villages will allow villagers to get products to market, access education, health and other big city facilities. It will supply fresh food, rather than food that needs to survive for 3 months or so. It will slow the exodus from the villages to the city, where there are limited opportunities.

2) Zero Hunger:
Reliable fresh food deliveries, the means to fish without spending money on petrol and outboard maintenance and low cost, reliable access to markets for fresh product will alleviate hunger.  

3) Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages:
see 1 and 2.

4) Quality Education:
i) Access to city based schools and the ability to move teachers and materials to small local schools will allow village kids to learn.
ii) The skills teaching at the boat yard will cover building, maintenance, administration and sailing.  

5) Gender Equality:
i) All the jobs created are for either men or women.
ii) The fishing canoe project in particular is aimed at empowering women. They can build the boat, launch it singlehanded and paddle it to the reef to fish. A co op approach allows surplus catch to be sold at the market without each of the fishers needing to buy a spot or spend half the day selling her product.  

6) Clean water and Sanitation:
Not applicable

7) Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy
Sail power is not 'modern', but using it on a cargo proa is. Affordable and reliable were 2 of the key design objectives. The former has been achieved, the latter will be proven during the test period. 

8) Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all:
See 1-5 and 7

9) Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation:
i) The build yard will be solar powered, cyclone proof and as clean as possible. The building of the prototype used 2 litres of acetone, 6 litres of vinegar, several litres of water and no other solvents. Dust was minimal as there is little or no grinding or fairing required. Plastic waste was significant (in volume, not in weight) from the infusion process.  
One of the test routes involves collecting rubbish from village dumps. Plastic will be recycled, metal sorted and sold and biodegradable waste turned into fertiliser. The build waste will be incorporated in this. Down the track, the plan is to set up plastic shred, melt, extrude/press facilities at village level.  
ii) Due to the collegial approach to designing and building it the cargo proa is one of the most innovative solutions to remote village transportation. The different perspectives of users and sailors will result in further improvements.  

10) Reduce inequality within and among countries:
i) Enabling villages to thrive will encourage the best and brightest to stay and build a better community.
ii) Building the boats in the countries they will be used in adds industry, cash flow and jobs.
iii) Reducing the amount of imported fuel provides money for development.

11) Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable:
This is a secondary benefit of giving remote villagers a purpose and a decent standard of living, slowing the urban rush from remote villages of unskilled, unhappy, unemployable people.

12) Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns:
i) Removing fossil fuels from sea transport.
ii) Using situation suitable vessels rather than large, often derelict ships which are too big to enter lagoons and/or outboard powered skiffs which are unsuitable on open water.
iii) Sustainable boat building materials are being developed at a great rate, but the biggest gain is using less. A 24m cargo boat weighing 4 tonnes is significantly less material than any similar capacity boat.

13) Combat climate change and its impacts:
i) There are many ways to dissect the cost/impact/usage of the boats, but 9 cargo ferrys might each average 6 tonnes per voyage, sail 80 miles a day and be in service 360 days a year. 1.5 million tonne miles per year.  
Capital cost: $2,000,000.
Fuel used and emissions: zero.
One of the ships servicing the Marshall islands (Kwajalein) makes 7 trips per year, 13,500 miles carrying 110 tonnes of cargo per trip: 1.5 million tonne miles.  
Capital cost: $5,000,000.
Diesel used: 157,000 kgs, CO2 emissions: 392,000 kgs.
ii) built locally to reduce transport costs.
iii) shipwreck is much less likely (shallow draft, unsinkable), results in no environmental damage and reduces the fleet by 11% rather than totally.
iii) The boats will be an indication that the countries most concerned with the effects of climate change are doing their best to limit it. This will not have a direct impact on climate change, it is hoped it will encourage the big emitters to cut back and consumers to pay more attention to the source of their purchases.  

14) Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
i) Village scale fisheries can exclude factory scale vessels, resulting in a balanced, sustainable resource. 

ii) Eliminating diesel and petrol exhaust and spillage keeps the air and sea clean.

15) Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss:

16) Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
see above

17) Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development:
The cargo proa project is interacting with local and national Governments (Fiji, Australia, Germany, RMI), donors, shipping companies, NGO's, traditional sailing organizations, universities, venture capitalists, businesses, volunteer organisations, development agencies (World Bank, UN, etc) and enthusiasts/volunteers. This network will grow as the project proceeds.



Sweet! If I may suggest something it would be to put many of the images from this page in the first post here. It might make it more interesting for readers than just a block of text.

The whole tender set up and use is a nice evolution of this type of idea.

What's your official YouTube channel? It would be interesting to see this sailing and operating with cargo in the future.


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Sweet! If I may suggest something it would be to put many of the images from this page in the first post here. It might make it more interesting for readers than just a block of text.

The whole tender set up and use is a nice evolution of this type of idea.

What's your official YouTube channel? It would be interesting to see this sailing and operating with cargo in the future.
Glad you like it.   It's too late to add pics to the first post, a sketch of the prototype is attached, along with a pic of the assembled components.

The tender is the same idea as used on all Harryproas.  The pics are of the T60, a 7.5m/25' tender for the C60.  It sits between the beams and the stern can be lowered into the water to enable the outboard to be used.  A big tender, with a powerful outboard is more useful than the opposite. 

The cargo proa will have an EPropulsion 6 kw outboard.  The boat is meant to sail so It is only intended for use (to propel the mothership) when it is becalmed and if it has to manoeuvre in tight spaces (unlikely with the proposed routes).  If more grunt is needed, a second one will be added on a liftable tube near the helmsman.  This will be steerable through 360 degrees for push in any direction.  Charging is via solar panels and regen.

There is nothing recent on our You Tube or Vimeo channels.  There are a few videos are on the respective harryproa web pages.  Cargo proa videos will be on along with the build photos, weights, costs, testing and explanations.


Thanks for posting the vid.  That is Blind Date, the first 15m/50'ter launched 12 years ago.  Lots of changes since then, including the rudders, hull shapes and rig.     It was/is used for taking blind and handicapped people sailing in Holland.  The helmswoman is blind, the rest of the crew impaired.  That was the first time any of them had been on a boat.  








I arrived in Fiji 2 weeks ago and  moved into a bure and office at the College of Appropriate Tech and Development (CATD) at Bau Landing, about 25 kms NE of Suva..  The staff and students are lovely and very keen to help.  They offered me use of their carpentry, plumbing and metal workshops and want input on how to include boatbuilding in the curriculum.  We may build a mini cargo proa (foam, not ply) on weekends and evenings.   They're also keen on swapping petrol outboard motor motors for electric. 
Had dinner with the SSTI guys.  They are enthusiastic and are making stuff happen.  Several high up Govt people are interested and a World Bank report on how the Govt should  instigate their sustainable agriculture agenda stated: "Key informants flagged domestic inter-island shipping as an area in need of development."  and  "There should be a push to work with the Sustainable Sea Transport Initiative, which is building a prototype of a sustainable inter-island vessel to provide services to more remote locations."
The first day here, I had a visit from the chief whose family owns a large chunk of Fiji, including the CATD site and several islands, one of which is Leleuvia which has a green resort on it.  He is very keen on the cargo proa, asked me to spend the weekend at the resort and give a talk to 50 students from the International School who are there for a week.  
Lelauvia is lovely. Had a fun talk with the kids, one of whom told me (nicely), I was wrong to advocate hydro power because of concrete dams, wiped out species etc.   We decided small scale would be viable.  
The barman collared me to tell me the cargo proa was just what was required for his village, when could we start?
I went for a sail/paddle, not much wind in a plywood outrigger, 70 of which were built for an Amazon TV show.  The guys who look after it are finishing their Env Eng degrees, offered to work on the Cargo proa over their holidays. 
The most common comment from pre teen students, hotel staff and taxi drivers all the way to high up in the public service and Government is that everyone is talking about green shipping, but only the cargo proa is doing anything.  Gratifying for me, not so much for the planet.
TAUTOKU!!!  Fijian for marvellous.  The first container arrived, an hour later it's unloaded and the contents in the shed, 100m down a dirt track.   Amusing comparing my efforts with the car, trailer and tractor with 30 enthusiastic strong Fijians.  Pick up the component, put it on their shoulders and take off down the track.   Video     The long hull is being joined in a shed over an old slipway.  Should be able to get the masts up and beams on to be sure everything fits, then remove them, launch it and reinsert them, then add the ww hull and the bits between the beams.  Not quite  a travel lift on a concrete ramp, but probably easier than the Pinjarra Creek scenario.  Plus there are 80 students available for lifting and carrying.  I am modifying the beam/mast attachment to enable the beams to be installed after the masts are up.  There is a sunk sand barge on the slip.  Removing it would make launching easier, but I am still trying to figure out how.
Yesterday was my birthday.  I walked into the food hall for breakfast and 80 students and several staff sang happy birthday Rob, with far more enthusiasm than it has ever been sung before.  The students are trades apprentices, but they sing wonderfully.  First thing in the mornings and pre dinner, they perform.  It's a great way to be woken in the morning.
The students and I have cleaned the small shed and got my stuff stowed.  The middle section of the lee hull is on the slip, one end is ready to join, once I get some epoxy.   
CATD owns a couple of 6m/20' pangas/banana boats/fibres which the students and I are going to repair and use for fishing.  Solid csm glass, about 400 kgs weight, these things are everywhere and are a brilliant bit of 'situation suitable' design.  Unfortunately, they require 40 hp outboards to get them planing and the fuel cost is prohibitive.  Electrifying them, including installing solar power,  is on the wish list.  
Just had a visit from a World Bank funded reef clean up project about shipping waste plastic (a big problem) from villages to the recycling place in Suva. They looked at the boat bits scattered around the place and wanted to know how many cargo proas we could supply and when!   The COO is a Swede with a lot of ocean sailing miles.  Reckons the cargo proa is the 'most functional sailboat' he has seen.   At the end of the meeting they asked how long I would be here.  I answered that it is a beautiful place, the people are exceptionally friendly, I get better care than in a hotel, up to 80 enthusiastic assistants at my beck and call and I spend all day playing with boat ideas.  I won't be leaving anytime soon.  
Ran out of space for photos.  There are some more at  or    

sunset 2.JPG

Bits along the track.jpg

End 1 ready to join.jpg

shed 1.jpg

shed 2.jpg

Simplest bamboo boat.jpg

Slipway high tide 1.jpg

slipway high tide 2.jpg

Slipway shed 2.jpg

Bau river.jpg

Build shed.jpg



Finally got 5 kgs of epoxy. The hardener was faster than the stuff we used in the Marshalls and just as much a challenge, especially working inside the 800mm/32" x 800mm/32" hull. I managed to get the first bottom joined and the mast step stringers in using 200g /7 oz mixes, but it was a near thing. I used bundles of tow instead of fillets on the stringers to increase the join strength. Worked well.

The 2nd end was more challenging as it was twisted (my fault, shouldn't install bulkheads on a gravel slope). A couple of judicious cuts and it all went together, but there was some unpleasant grinding to do inside once the hull was on it's side.

I glassed the outside of the joins from waterline to waterline over the deck and wrapped the top mast rings in tow. Looks OK and seems strong.

I spent the first couple of weeks here trying to figure out how to insert the masts. I finally looked up and saw the great big tree next to the slip. A student slung a line over a branch, I rigged a block and tackle and after a few adjustments ("one two three, slide" and 20 students move the hull ) the 1st mast was in. The second one won't be so easy, we may need to tip the boat on it's side, which is tricky as it will need to be in the water to get the mast step under the tree.. I was discussing this with the head gardner (CATD is almost self sufficient, the students do the gardening under supervision) who came up with a typically out of the box soultion. Pics next update.
I bit the bullet on the beams that Rassy and I had spent so much time and effort building and trimmed off the loop on the end and replaced it with multiple dyneema wraps. Means the mast can be raised and the beams installed afterwards, which makes everything (including the build of the next one), much easier.
After a hot day's work one of the students asks if I want a coconut drink. Sure, I say. He shinnys up the tree in no time flat and tosses down half a dozen nuts. One of the others holds a nut in his hand and hits it with 6 machete blows to de husk it and open the top. OHS's worst nightmare, but these guys do it all the time. The juice is lovely, as refreshing as a cold beer.

Apart from spending time mixing teaspoons of epoxy, why isn't work proceeding faster?
It rained for the first 2 weeks. The shed is fine unless a strong breeze blows rain from the east, which it did. The boat is designed to be built with limited infrastructure, so this and intermittent electricity (4 all day power cuts in the last 2 weeks) are good learning experiences.

It's also hot. A good morning's work followed by a siesta then back to work until dark is pleasant, but not very productive.

We have plenty of important visitors, wannabe partners and potential funders who get guided tours. There is a fair bit of other stuff on the agenda around MOU's, grants, teaching and the future which all needs to be discussed. Fortunately, we are an hours drive from Suva, so only the keen visit, but there are still a lot of them.
The Fijian PM was going to visit CATD to open a conference and had asked for a briefing on and a look at the boat. Unfortunately, the Chinese foreign minister was visiting on the same day and he carries more clout than us, so the PM has postponed the visit.

Last weekend we were invited to Leleuvia to fix a busted outrigger. Took 30 minutes, spent the rest of the time relaxing. Met some influential people, all of whom were interested in the project. Half a dozen of them visited the boat on their way home. I'm busting to drop some names, but have been told not to. ;-)
It looks like we are setting up a joint venture to replace the petrol part of outboard motors with electric. Some impressive Australian technology involved at a reasonable cost. Waterproof to 1m, droppable on concrete from waist high, all plug and play so any busted components can be replaced on the beach, motor and prop properly matched.

We got a request from the UNDP to attend a meeting to discuss a grant application. Seems they have money available, but no projects that tick the necessary boxes. The cargo proa does. We shall see in August when the money is allocated.

How serious are the Fijians about cargo proas and green shipping? I took someone down to the slip to see what could be done about cutting up and removing the sand barge. He glanced at it, said, "No problem", turned around and said "What I want to talk about is the production factory." There is ~100m x 75m of flat land (currently a flourishing taro patch and 2 cargo proa sheds) and he wanted to know what a cargo proa building factory, with class rooms to teach modern and traditional sailing, building and navigation, a full width slipway, offices, maritime museum and an innovation and testing space would look like. Fortunately, Steinar is good at this sort of stuff and came up with a preliminary sketch. Everybody is pretty excited. The sand barge is still there, but hopefully not for long.
The students continue to delight. Drum roll (hollowed out log and 2 sticks, beaten fast) at 5.30am. I get up, make a pot of coffee and watch the sun rise while they sing hymns: a lovely way to start the day. When I lend them my tools (I an pretty sure my little sledge hammer was instrumental in the demise of the pig we had for dinner last night), they are always returned, often in cleaner condition.

I have built a lot of boats in the garage of various houses I've lived in, often upsetting the neighbours in the process. Here, when I start work, my neighbors turn up to see what is going on and offer to help. Refreshing.
A couple of days after my birthday, I was asked to visit the carpentry workshop. The guys had built me a tool box, turned it into a great big birthday card. The art and sign writing is all free hand with a texta. The artist is going to go to work on the cargo proa if/when I stop grinding bits off it.

Next update (mid July) should be a PR ripper.

Ran out of space for photos. There are some more at or (soon)

Big birthday card 2.jpg

Wing leading edge.jpg

tool box 2.jpg

tool box 3.jpg

Tree crane.jpg

Coconut palm climbing.jpg

twisted join.jpg

ready to join.jpg

One piece.jpg

mnimum boat.jpg


I used to think "island time" was similar to manana in Spain. ie It'll happen sometime, maybe, perhaps. Not any more. I'm now a firm believer in "If you want a job done quickly and well, give it to a Fijian".
Early June, the Prime Minister couldn't attend a function here, but was keen to know about the boat. We sent him a briefing note. It was suggested that he launch the project at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in mid July. By mid June this had morphed into all 18 Pacific Island leaders launching it as a Pacific wide initiative. We shall see who turns up.

We decided the easiest way to make it happen was to move the boat out of the shed onto the large flat space next door. The 'large flat space' was actually a small vegetation covered hill with a pig pen in the middle of it.
A couple of days later, it was more or less level, the vegetation, pig pen and pigs are gone and we are waiting for the rain to stop.
In less than 2 weeks we had a huge level area and a 10m wide ramp into the river. We decided against concreting it as the mud/clay is pretty inconsistent and there is a lot of buried vegetable matter to rot. Instead, we have moved the boat up there for assembly and, once launched, will erect a scaffolding and plywood (200 sheets) stage for the dignitaries. The sparky is installing 3 phase power, the drains have been dug (pretty impressive bit of eye ball sloping) and the stage materials ordered. Also in June, the carpentry students built most of a 6m x 6m bakehouse so they can make their own bread and save a small fortune in gas bills using firewood (plenty on site and nearby) to boil the large amounts of taro and cassava consumed by 80 hard working youths. And the welding students are well on the way to chopping the sand dredge into movable pieces when the tide is out.

The boat moving was a lot of fun. 30 students picked up the 550 kg lee hull, put it on their shoulders and carried it 50m to the assembly area, tipped it on it's side, put the masts in, pushed it upright and put the beams in place. Then 20 students carried the ww hull down and put the beams in place. Took an hour or so, including a fair bit of chat, congratulations, instructions and adjustments. The hull moving video is too big to attach.

The following day they started to turn the 90m of dirt track into an access road. 40 cu m of concrete, hand mixed and wheel barrowed 50m in 4 days. If you want a job done quickly and well, give it to a Fijian!

The new beam ends are on so it is possible to easily remove/install them without taking the masts out. I had some time waiting for epoxy to cure so experimented with another rudder system. I'm nowhere near confident enough to grind off the original, but curiosity made it worth a look. Relies a lot on water forces to keep everything in place, so testing will be when it is in the water.

I am trying to make the boat look presentable from 20m as it will be anchored in the river and the party will be in the evening, under lights (edit: maybe not, meeting with the PM's office today). Also figuring out the launch process, which will be 80 students carrying it down the ramp. The lee hull is joined, painted and the copper/epoxy applied, the toybox exterior and tender interior are painted and the president of the Fijian Artists Association visited to see the space available for decorating the hulls. Interesting guy, has done some serious miles on traditional boats. He did not seem too phased when I told him it was a certainty that bits of it would be ground off for changes and improvements. He reckons the boat is the art, not the paint job. Polite as well as interesting,

The rest of my time is spent in meetings. Everyone wants a piece of the project. I explain what it is all about and anyone who currently relies on shipping has 2 questions: "How much?" and "When can we have one?" Some very interesting possibilities, it is going to be a lot of fun if the boat works.

We are helping CATD set up a course for building cargo proas similar to the Marshall Islands project but using recycled PET (soda bottles) foam instead of plywood. The difference in attitudes towards plywood between people who live in warm wet countries and leave their boats on the beach and western ply boat owners is stark. Recycling soda bottles also gets a big smile. One of the things we are looking at getting is a shredder and plastic press to make the cargo boxes and deck slats for the mini cargo proa. Had a meeting with the industrial scale plastic recyclers here who want to be involved and are looking at what is involved in PET foam. $US3 per sq m for 6mm/quarter inch recycled PET foam is a high value add to recycled plastic.

We have also had some discussions with the Women in Fisheries Network Fiji. The biggest problem women fishers face is no boats. So we are setting up a course to train trainers to go to the villages and teach the women to build outrigger paddling canoes. Once again from PET. Along with this may be a microbank to lend money for the materials, which will be repaid from fish sales. Looks like the single beam outrigger boats will weigh ~15 kgs, light enough to carry with a shoulder strap. A big advantage over needing 3 friends to help drag a dugout down the beach. The prototype in the picture weighs a tad under 10 kgs. The outrigger will be longer, with a narrower hull.

CATD and the people here are delightful. Anything I need, they arrange. The food is great (huge servings, I skip lunch), the accommodation basic but far better than sleeping in a container which was one of the early proposals, the students are incredibly friendly, the location is sublime and the people who fish in the river paddle over for a chat and a check on progress. I don't close the door to my buree, office or work shed and nothing has gone walkabout. Borrowed tools are returned and there is always someone handy when I want a lift or something held. It rains a bit, but is warm enough for T shirt and shorts. Only thing missing is a sandy beach, but the Bau River will come into it's own when cyclone season starts. If there is 'nothing quite as enjoyable as messing around in boats', there are not many places quite as pleasant to do it as CATD.
Before 2.jpg
Before 3.jpg
Before 2.jpg
Before 3.jpg

Launch ramp 1.jpg

Launch ramp 2.jpg

Assembled 1.jpg

prototype canoe paddling.jpg


The cargo proa is in the water, thanks to a bunch of CATD students who did the heavy lifting and put it on some tyres on the ramp at low tide. The slope of the rampwas a bit more than the buoyancy at the end of the hull and the deck vents were going to go under. 20 students picked it up and put a couple more tyres under it. When the water got to the deck, we pushed it into the water, an advantage of muddy ramps! No leaks, but the beam attachment is a bit peculiar, nothing that can't be fixed. I managed to twist my ankle in the mud, could barely walk by the end of the day. One of the trainers wrapped it in Vau leaves. An hour later I could limp, the next morning was fine. Vau Wow! The photo shows what an 'island suitable' boat designer/builder looks like. That's mud, not boots.

Lots of prep for the Pacific Island leaders. The CATD staff and students did an amazing job, way beyond the call of duty. Another 15 cu m of concrete hand mixed and laid, grass and trees trimmed, edges painted, drains cleared, big marquee erected with raised plywood/carpet floor, decorated and catered. Big screen with video about the boat and lots of coconut fronds hiding the mud. Haircut, shave, shoes, new sulu and matching shirt for yours truly.

Due to lack of notice and prior commitments 'only' 2 PM's (Fiji and Tonga) could make it, along with a bunch of High Commissioners, ambassadors, other diplomats, sundry NGO's, donors, representatives from several green projects, the press and a bunch of others I didn't get to meet.

That is near enough 2 PM's (Fiji and Tonga), a bunch of High Commissioners, ambassadors, other diplomats, sundry NGO's, donors, representatives from several green projects and the press more than have attended any other boat I have launched.

The program was brief; a meet and greet while we waited for the dignitaries to arrive, a welcome by students in traditional dress, an MC with a cool sense of humour, students draping garlands around the guests of honour, PM's speech, cutting of the ribbon (specially printed with Harryproa images on it), closing speech mentioning the Govts intention to make this area the "Silicon Valley" of green shipping in the Pacific, photos with the PMs, interviews and chats with interesting people, lunch, more mingling, kava and some r&r for the people who had been working hard at the PIF all week.

The event was about the future of green shipping, effects of climate change, acknowledgement of the historical impact of the Pacific on sailing, what could be done and what was being done. The cargo proa was simply evidence of doing something rather than talking about it.

I stressed how the prototype was just that. We are still learning what is required and how we can address it, a process that will continue in earnest when it is sailing.

I had a fine time, chatted to both PM's and the ambassadors, was interviewed for a documentary, and established contacts with a lot of people and projects. I quit in the evening, the party was still going on early the next morning. All going well, it will all be cleared away on Tuesday so we can pull the boat out and start finishing it off, interrupted by a heap of meetings. The first of which is with plastic recyclers about making PET foam here, maybe.

All told, a wonderful day, my thanks to the CATD staff and students and my good friends Arbo (CATD Director) and Dovi (not sure exactly what he does, but everything he says will happen, does).

With a bit of luck, and following a lot of hard graft by my wife (the short person in the middle of the group photo, with the PM of Tonga on her right, me on her left and the PM of Fiji on my left), the next update should have some marvellous news.

Big screen video at
Ministers speech at
More boat details at
and the story of the build so far at



Moving the ww hull.jpg

ready to launch.jpg


Bau river in the morning.jpg

Build shed:kitchen.jpg

Fijian and Tongan PM's launch the project.jpg

Launch brochure 1.jpg

launch brochure 2.jpg

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It's amazing how much has happened in the 4 months since I arrived in Fiji. CATD and my involvement with them has extended way beyond the cargo proa.

Already happening or in the planning stages are: a biogas reactor program running off food scraps and sewage and producing enough methane to cook for 100+ students. CATD got the first of them at a hand over ceremony with the Israeli ambassador last week; A cassava flour mill for the bread we are cooking in the student built bakehouse; a "village/school appropriate" recyclables collection site organised with Recyclers Fiji and help from the local high school; installing a low cost solar hot water system; producing mud bricks; turning unsorted, uncleaned plastic waste into tiles to cover the mud on the boat ramp and turning scrap glass into sand sized pieces using a locally built kava crusher. Initial use of this will be to substitute for sand in the mud bricks, play with non slip, hard and reflective coatings on the boat and cover some of the mud around it. Sand is $60 /cubic metre, so we're not going to get rich, but keeping Fiji's beaches out of concrete is definitely a feel good project.

It is wonderful working with people whose first reaction to an idea or suggestion is "Yes, let's do it".

Thanks to Sue (my wife)'s grant writing skills, we have been awarded significant UNDP funding to get the cargo proa finished and tested, set up boat building classes for the Women in Fisheries outrigger canoe and the Mini Cargo Proa (incl sailmaking and spar building), get us started on recycling plastic for the MCP deck slats, the cargo boxes and core material for all 3 boats and fund some analysis of routes and production costs.

I was chatting with one of the CATD teachers, who told me his family was the 'sailor' clan in his village and he would very much like to help teach the building classes, and that his grandfather was a traditional navigator, keen to pass on his knowledge. Exciting stuff, as the general consensus is that all the old Fijian master navigators had died, taking their knowledge with them. More on this soon, I hope.

Despite my preference for doing rather than talking, I am spending a lot of time talking due to the interest the cargo proa has generated, particularly the launch by the PM's. We had a 2 day session with the Minister for Rural and Maritime Affairs and a gathering of 300 dignitaries from Korea, the UN, Fiji Govt, NGO's, donors, green groups and sundry others I didn't get to meet. The Minister had a look at the boat, then sought me out to apologise for not being at the launch and to discuss problems and solutions. Cargo proa feedback from everyone was overwhelmingly positive.

The Private Secretary of the Solomon Islands Environment Minister dropped in for a look at the boat. The highest ranking person to climb all over it to see what it was about. Nice guy, very knowledgable about problems and lack of solutions. We discussed the diesel powered solution being mooted for the Solomons, and agreed it is probably the hardest place in the Pacific to service due to strong winds and big distances. He will send over a group of students for the boat building classes.

Had a visit from the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji, a necessary first step in writing the safety rules for cargo proas. It will be a bit of a process, but they (and us) are keen to get it happening. They suggested a local naval architect who I had a long chat with. Fun guy, very practical and knowledgable about boats, how things work here and what is required. He explained what is required, both for the prototype and the production boats, and assured me he could do all the necessary engineering, drawing and paperwork. Big load off my plate. He and the recently retired ex boss of MSAF visited for a look, were suitably impressed. They said the PM has asked for me to do a cargo proa presentation at World Maritime Day at the end of the month.

I was interviewed for a prime time documentary on climate change by Estonian TV. Cargo proas are going to be big news in Tallinn! Sue and I spent 2 days running a booth on cargo proas and sustainability at a PIDF conference in Nadi. Nice drive there and back, Fiji has some stunning scenery. While there we met with an old mate of mine who is doing some amazing stuff with uncleaned, unsorted plastic waste. More on this in the next update.

The CATD "Skunk Works" department is playing with plastic foam from recycled PET bottles (soda, water, etc). Glassed each side, it will provide some alternatives to ply, mdf etc, may also have some applications for insulation and low cost boat cores. They are also working on island suitable lids for the cargo boxes which cool fruit and veges or freeze fish and meat.

Despite the above, work on the boat is progressing well.
We got 20 students to slip the boat after the Prime Minister's party. All went well until we removed the beams from the masts. One end of the hull was in the water, it floated sideways and the hull, with masts up, capsized. A bit of a bang as the masts hit the beams and a bruise on my finger, but otherwise no obvious problems. Removed the beams, carried them and the ww hull up, righted the lee hull and slid/lifted it up the ramp and onto the level. Most of the time it was on tyres, over which it slid nicely up the quite steep ramp. A village could disassemble it, get the pieces up the beach and prep it for a cyclone in a couple of hours if required. Three tyres (double as fenders) tied under the hulls extends the type of beaches it can dry out on to include the lumpy dead coral typical of the area between high and low water inside coral reefs.

The welding shop is making 3 rollers from 200 kg drums to make launching/recovery easier on the muddy ramp. Hopefully they can handle the load (about a tonne/ton each) without needing too much beefing up. We are applying for funding to extend the sea wall and build a floating jetty, which is starting to look like a marina, with the taro patch to become a car park until it becomes the floor of the proa building factory. We are also exploring some novel bio concrete options for the jetty construction.

One of the many drawbacks of using big jobs like the wings for experiments is that it takes forever, with a lot of small and repeat jobs followed by waiting overnight for epoxy to cure. Get something wrong, and it has to be corrected 20 times. Not helped by a small workspace, a lot of rain showers and occasional power cuts. 5 wing sections for the first mast and 4 for the second are now built, apart from the trailing edge covering which may be sail cloth sewn on, or peel ply and/or 200 gsm cloth glued on. Once I figured out the load paths and let gravity do it's thing, it became a lot simpler to set up, but the 1.25 high x 4m lengths are pretty floppy until they are in place, which makes solo handling frustrating. There are some fiddly string lengths to sort out, but each section is now independent of the rest so any adjustments required do not mean adjusting every panel which is a lot less frustrating for an impatient builder.

Other jobs off the to do list:
Replaced the tie down beams with tapered slots. One less thing to go wrong/be maintained and it makes assembly/disassembly much quicker.
Installed the toy box, not sure whether it will need beefing up, but so far so good. The fibreglass lids, hinges and catches work, but need some prettying up, along with much (almost everything) else on the boat. On the plus side, this makes it much easier to change things without having to worry about destroying or maintaining a showroom finish. I might replace the lids with netting, but at the moment, they are easier to walk on than the cockpit floor, which is supported by string lashed across underneath it to make it easy to walk on and catch anything dropped. It needs closer lashings, which I will do when the dyneema order arrives.
Redid the beam/mast attachments (again) to make them easier to tie on and more secure. Still not totally happy with it, I'll repeat the hull lifting test we did in Brisbane to ensure it is strong enough.
Used tow instead of metal bolts to attach the bilge pump, 4 carbon mooring cleats a winch and the 2 anchor rollers. Not as quick as metal fastenings, but no leaks, lighter, cheaper and a better load spread. More challenging too. There are no screws or bolts on the boat so far. No timber either apart from a bit of cork and the scrap ply the pump is on. The 2 x Sarca 25 kg anchors (thanks Rex) and the Ronstan supplied Anderson winches (1 x #34 and 1 x #40, thanks Tom) are the only metal on the boat so far.
Installed the tender davits using tow to attach them and carbon axles for the sheaves. Looks pretty good and one of them supported half the weight of the tender (double what it will take in use) so another good start.
Mounted one rudder case. Looks workable, I'll fine tune the kick up mechanism when the boat is floating. Still undecided about the other one.
I could not use much tow on the winch due to the bolt hole sizes, but initial tests look like there is plenty. Which makes some of the other carbon tow uses on the boat look like huge overkill. Next challenge is on the Ronstan cam cleats where resin intrusion is a worry, might have to get imaginative attaching those.
So, the boat is progressing nicely. Not as fast as I would like (never is), but fast enough to meet the upcoming deadlines.
Sue and I have just returned from a 2 day CATD staff retreat at Leleuvia to get everyone on the same page about the future direction of the place. Huge fun, lovely people and an exciting vision. We are humbled and grateful to be part of this wonderful community. The only downside was the team I was in carefully selected our hermit crab, then watched it finish a disappointing last in the race to the water. ;-)

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