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500 Sails launches ‘Dee Dee’

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 “DEE DEE” is the first sailing canoe made entirely by Chamorro and Carolinian hands, 500 Sails Inc. secretary-treasurer Emma Perez said on Sunday.

Her husband, Pete Perez, who is also the executive director of 500 Sails, said Dee Dee is a 15-foot Chamorro sailing canoe.

“This is a canoe, which we knew nothing about except that it existed,” Mr. Perez told the crowd that gathered  Sunday for the  official launch of the canoe at the Guma Sakman in Susupe.

“It’s smaller than a Sakman sailing canoe, which is 40 feet long,” Mr. Perez said, referring to Dee Dee. “You can take off its mast and paddle, but it is a sailing canoe.”

He said Dee Dee was built based on the Anson drawing that was made on Tinian in 1742.

“Dee Dee,” a traditional canoe, was officially launched on Sunday.

 

 

Emma and Pete Perez, founders of 500 Sails Inc., pose for Variety. Photos by Bryan Manabat

Mr. Perez said he named the sailing canoe after his mother who passed away recently. His mother’s name was Dolores but she was fondly called Dee Dee by his father.

Mr. Perez’ mother was of Swedish descent, but his father was a Chamorro from Guam and Saipan.

“I hope that some of you who enjoy building these canoes will name the canoes after someone who had passed and honor that tradition and help rebuild our awareness that our ancestors are around us and they guide us — they taught us what we know so that we can thrive. We don’t want to forget them,” he said.

He also acknowledged the seafaring skills of master navigators Cecilio Raiukiulipiy and Mario Benito who have shared their knowledge with 500 Sails and local community members.

“Birds in the morning fly out to the sea to get their breakfast and then they fly back home,” Mr. Perez said. “And when you are at sea and wondering where you are and you  see these birds flying in a pattern, in the morning, go where they come from; and in the evening, go where they are going. This is just some of the thousands of things these [traditional] seafarers notice and we are really lucky to have them.”

Mr. Perez likewise recognized and thanked the support of the Indigenous Affairs Office, the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, and IT&E.

Emma and Pete Perez established 500 Sails,  a non-profit organization that aims to reclaim the islands’ maritime tradition  by getting 500 traditional Chamorro and Carolinian proas on the water in the Marianas again.

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