The name "500 Sails" was inspired by the arrival of the Spanish galleon San Pedro at Guam in 1565, when it was met by the Chamorros in their sailing canoes:
We were no more than two leagues from [the island] when fifty or sixty proas under sail surrounded the fleet. These proas were furnished with lateen sails of palm mats and were as light as the wind...The day had scarcely begun when a great number of these proas appeared about us...more than four or five hundred around the ships..." — Legazpi aboard the San Pedro, 1565
The 500 Sails Project aims to reclaim the maritime tradition in the Marianas by getting 500 traditional Chamorro and Carolilnians proas on the water in the Marianas again. By matching the number of proas seen on the water in 1565, we will have restored our maritime traditions. The target date to accomplish this is 2030.
500 Sails will open a canoe house on Saipan where local participants will be assisted by skilled "sakman leaders" in building their own ocean-going Chamorro or Carolinian proas. To keep the costs down and speed the building time, both the hull and outrigger will be made of fiberglass, using modern boat-building processes. Participants will pay only the costs of materials and may receive financial assistance based on need. Learning programs conducted at the canoe house will support and encourage safe sailing. These include open-water swimming, boating safety, sailing, navigation, maritime history and language.
The canoe house, called "Guma Sakman" in Chamorro, will open in the first quarter of 2017. It will be located in Susupe, Saipan, on the beach across from Marianas High School.