Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Traditional Sailing in the Western Pacific

One of my great interests here on Guam is the traditional ways of sailing and navigating used by the ancient sailors and a handful of modern islanders to find their way among the far-flung islands. This is a photograph of me at the tiller of a traditional island canoe. As a sailor of fiberglass and aluminum sailboats, it's almost beyond my ability to imagine going to sea for days at a time in a vessel like this one. The Quest was built on the island of Puluwat in the Caroline Islands by a master canoe builder, and sailed the nearly 500 miles of open ocean to Guam.

And, as if the sailing of such a canoe in the open sea were not challenging enough, the way they navigate is utterly beyond belief for a western sailor who uses GPS. They carry no GPS, no sextant--not even a compass. They rely soley on the stars, the ocean swells, and sea life to steer across the vast expanses of sea. For food and drink, it is a mash of taro root, fishing, coconut milk, and rain water.

I'll never be a true traditional navigator. I'm too old to master that mystical art, but I do want to understand it as well as I can. I'm working on a book, an adventure novel, that will deal with this and the conflicting demands of maintaining traditional cultures while acknowledging those aspects of the modern world that cannot be avoided.

No comments:

Post a Comment