Friday 15 January 2016

New Zealand Adventures : 6. Happy New Year, Farewell Auckland!, Adios Athos!, Volcano Lava Cave Exploring, a Maori Christmas and Overnight Waka Voyage with the Flu!


Happy New Year 2016!

Well...this is what I would have seen if I could have got out of bed but unfortunately I was suffering from a bad flu I caught whilst sailing out at sea on an overnight Waka trip earlier that week...more on that later....

Adios Athos!

So my time working on board SY Athos has come to an end and I needed to get moving to start seeing the North Island and the rest of New Zealand now that summer is here. My time on both yachts 'Destination' and 'Athos' in the Boatyards of Auckland was a great working holiday job and thank the crew and my Kiwi Engineer Mentor Craig 'Kelly Slater' for the patience, tutoring and interesting Kiwi conversations that this Pommie girl couldn't actually work out what you were saying half the time!

I feel extremely lucky to have been welcomed into a pretty exclusive world of 'Yachties' and experience what it was like to be onboard a multi million super yacht and to be part of the engineering assistance of one with the nicest yacht crew I'd ever met.....Viva Athos! Bon Voyage on your sail to New Caledonia in the Autumn....

Volcano Lava Cave Exploring

 Well of course, I'm a Geography graduate and I just loved my first time trip to the Volcano Rangitoto on an isolated island 20 minutes off the coast of Auckland - so I decided to go revisit it and walk to the centre of the Island (yes walk and you far underestimate the distance!) to go venture underground and explore the lava caves formed by the flowing lava as a result of Rangitoto erupting 600 years ago under the sea and were spotted my Maori's living on neighbouring Island Motutapu.

Rangitoto itself towering again in the background there reached 850ft of layered lava over 600 years surrounded by black charcoal coloured igneous rock - just got to get to it.....   

Into the wild and searching for the centre of the Island...

Stopping off to take a peek at the Islands 'Bachs' dotted along the coastline, what I'd give to have one of these little beach houses to chill in!

Funky Oyster Catcher bird with gorgeous red eyes

Rangitoto Lava Caves


Going under.....

Meanwhile deep inside the lava caves....

Of course...a lava caving adventure isn't complete without a near broken toe! 

A Maori Christmas.

On Christmas Eve I got a surprise invitation to go join a Maori skipper of the Waka Voyaging Family for Christmas in a town called Hamilton about 3 hours South of Auckland where he and his family and friends live and train for Waka Ama, a big canoeing sport amongst Maoris.

Maori's say a 'Karakia', which is a prayer before eating 'Kai' which is 'food' and there's plenty of it in a Maori household! Maori families tend to have an open house so there were many family members coming from other parts of New Zealand and Hawaii to join in with games in the very elaborately decorated house - Africa, Malaysia, China, UK, New Zealand, Hawaii all in one house.

Family is very important to Maori's and they are kind enough to extend that out to outsiders and foreigners like me to invite me to join them in celebrating Christmas.

Plus, this cute little birdie I helped rescue on Christmas Eve from being killed by a cat - sadly it passed away Christmas Day after keeping it alive for 24 hours but I guess the world is not a wish-granting factory, even at Christmas so the little fella was laid to rest in the earth with a Maori Karakia to wish it well. The family home in a small area of Hamilton called 'Whata Whata' is a beautiful region of the North Island as I saw when we took a Christmas Day country walk in the sun..

A New Zealand Pukeko Bird

I spent four full days with the Maori family who took us all down to the well known attraction 'Hamilton Gardens' a Gypsy Festival in 'Raglan' and went cockle shell picking at the beach before watching the surfers tackle the festive waves down at the main beach further up, known as one of the best surf spots in New Zealand.

 An adorned Maori Pataka (storehouse) in Hamilton Gardens, where chiefs would store food, weapons and treasured possessions

Cockleshell collecting in the mud of Raglan

Raglan Beach!

Overnight Waka Voyage on the Hauraki Gulf 

28th - 30th December 2015


So, I had this very spontaneous unique opportunity that I said 'screw it, yes' joining the Maori Waka Voyaging Family on a 3 day summer sea voyage to Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf to the northeast of Auckland City. The trip was to be with the Waka Ama Maori Youth Teams that attended the weekend selection process at the Ko Te Mokai Marae at Kawhia.....we would be gone 3 days and spend 2 nights out at sea......                                                                                                                                 Loading the Waka 'Aotearoa One' the boat I sailed back to Auckland through the night from northern Gulf Harbour a couple of months ago and was helping to renovate, was going to be the vessel for the trip with 41 souls on board. The Maori youths were first to begin loading the Waka with luggage and food supplies at the Maritime Museum in the heart of Auckland - they had been selected as the first and second best team from the Marae weekend to experience the traditional overnight sail and learn more about sailing a waka as it was a significant aspect of their Maori ancestory.

We set sail out of Auckland and out onto the calm azure Aotearoa waters of the Hauraki Gulf and were split into teams to work together during the pre new year voyage (myself and Chinese girl Debbie, being the only 'Pakehas' on board with everyone else Polynesian!)                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Our team of 14 was named 'Takurua' or otherwise known as 'Sirius' and the 'Dog Star' after the brightest star in the night sky and were told onboard the swaying deck that its important to work as teams at sea, getting strict number codes and protocal when the team needed to muster together for instructions. As we cruised along the waters, we were shown the main rigging ropes of the halyard and outhaul that run up the main mast and boom and the nitty gritty task of affixing and hoisting the main sheet at the bow of the Waka, subsequently having to take it down again and again because twists kept appearing in the sail (can't say I'm a natural sailor!) so its a regimented and very arduous and fiddly task, but they have to get it right.

We were also told what you should do if one of the passengers were to fall off the Waka into the waters...involving alot of shouting, pointing, throwing life rings and pushing buttons in the whare control cabin.

We sailed through the afternoon to the otherside of the familiar Rangitoto Island to neighbouring Motutapu Island where we were to anchor off the coast at Hume Bay where some of the kids jumped in to swim to land and go paddle their Waka Ama canoes out onto the ocean......and use the toilet.

At sunset, guitars and ukuleles came out whilst each team had a rota of being on 'watch', observing the anchor, helping with the food preparation and serving, cleaning up with buckets of sea water etc. there seems to always be something that needs doing concerning being on water.

 Music by sunset and raising the anchor to sail

Before the summer sun went down at 9:00pm our teams were given a three hour window to be on 'night watch' between 9pm - 6am, my team having the 12am-3am shift but individually having to only do 1.5 hours worth of the watch. We were sleeping on the wooden deck of the Waka underneath the stars which was truly magically watching the ascending lights blinking back at us from the black blanket of the New Zealand night sky as the deck and mast gently rocked and creaked like a cradle.

This is when I started to feel the unsuspecting onset of flu like symptons coming on......and was due to be back up again at midnight for the night watch with a full blown flu! It was going to be a real challenge battling this whilst marooned at sea and facing the elements of nature.

Sleeping spot on deck for the next two nights....

Night Watch....things that go splash in the night.....

I get woken up at midnight and feel horrendous, groggy and cold under the clear chilly night sky, the only thing I want to do is get more sleep but I have a duty to do on the Waka with illness as no excuse. With nothing but painkillers to take and sleeping bodies all over the deck, we had to try and be as quiet as possible and the wind had picked up and was swaying the boat from side to side from a gusty southern wind. The trick I discovered with sleeping was to keep your back against the wind to give yourself the best protection and even a moderate ounce of sleep once lying down. 

There were a number of things to do during a night watch, watching the anchor at the bow of the Waka incase it starts to drag and we begin to drift further out to sea (if we didn't watch it, who knows where we could have drifted, maybe even to Antartica ha!). We had some of the guys on board doing some marine species sampling to help the University of Dunedin in the South Island, so help was needed collecting and sinking the bottles of sea water from the stern every hour of the night and data recording the species of crustaceans found inside if any (most are found at the surface early in the night as opposed to later, bit like a nightclub they attended and then are found much deeper underwater as the night goes on for them)   
Noone also seemed to be able to work out the system of the valves for flushing the on board manual toilets right so they constantly got refluxed and needed to shine lights down the ladders for people to get in and out and to go fix and flush them ahhhhh!! Water also needed to be checked down below and in the engine room in case of flooding or leaks that might occur during the night. Basically, there is never anyone not awake during the night on a Waka - the Maori's and Polynesians liken it to being Guardian Angels to the sleeping....In traditional times, the Polynesians would have used their knowledge of the stars and we were shown the Southern Cross and told how to find the South Celestial Point for navigation.

My job was to anchor watch at the bow of the Waka using bearings.....what was I supposed to be doing? 

The idea was (which I eventually got...I think..) was to pick a mark on the horizon or silhouette of land in the night and have an anchor point on the bow to which you have a margin of movement either side of it. I had to use the prow piece carving at the bow as my anchor point and allowed a some degree of movement either side of a central point on the horizon. Being a windy night, I had to stand at the bow and squint through the night to closely look at how much the bow was moving. The thing is, the stern can sway dramatically but not register at the bow so I had to use a margin of distance either side of the moon behind me at the stern end as a gauge. I also had to look at the distance between the other anchored boats in case they began to drift towards us - pretty important stuff really!

If you felt the gauge was being over exaggerated, I had to go check on the anchor by feeling the chain with my foot incase it was juttering or dragging and we'd be in trouble. 

Imagine trying to do this and concentrate whilst having a struggle to hear, can't always understand or make sense of instructions whilst intoxicated by infection - it was one of the most challenging experiences when your senses are all numbed but I soon was to be woken up.....

....During my watch, straining to look intently at the horizon and the swaying waters through my bleary and misty eyes...I suddenly hear an alarming loud cry coming from the stern behind me...

Man Over Board! Man Over Board! 


....and the sudden utter commotion and chaos of the whole deck springing up running around shouting whilst someone was screaming in the water as if they were having a bad dream. A small boy was on our Waka with his dad and had got up, forgetting he was on a Waka and had stepped off the stern onto the netting and rolled off into the water - it was scary, his dad quickly rescued him but was quite a drama in the middle of the windy night with the Waka rocking all over the place. Fortunately we had all been told what to do that very afternoon as we set sail from Auckland if one of us was to fall over board. My god....

Of course...the small boy was more than happy to tell the story of his incident to EVERYONE the next morning, bone dry and back on board ha!

Morning Breaks.....


Sunrise over the Hauraki Gulf....

6am and everyone rising...

The Waka youths had to jump overboard and swim to the Island to undergo their fitness training and marine research surveys, whilst I, now having to wear all the clothes I had with me to keep warm and dry from my illness, stayed on board to open cans of food for feeding time with pen knives and attempt to practice knots on tying the ladder and fenders to the side of the Waka...even at 12 noon, the hottest part of the day I was still feeling the chills....but when you're marooned at're marooned at sea. There's nothing you can do.

Data Sampling and Collecting  for Marine Species Research....I helped with this during my second night watch with plastic bottles and red and blue glow sticks at 3am to sunrise...

My second night watch took me to sunrise on Day Three of the voyage, and our watch team had to to take down the shaded canopy at 5am that most were still sleeping under so we could start motoring back to Auckland at 6am and then power on back to Gulf Harbour to finish our voyage...

Rugged up with Skipper Hotu, he was suffering from pneumonia would you believe!

So there you have it! A short summary of my memories at sea and highlights of other interesting explorations I was getting myself into at the end of 2015.

So now its a brand New Year 2016, and hopefully this new year will bring me joy, happiness and good memories, I can only hope...

So signing off now from my final blog post from the 'City of Sails', Auckland which has now been my home for the last 3 months and first 3 months of my travels here in New Zealand. It's time to hit the road and follow it North towards The Bay of Islands and more adventures...

I'll leave you with this great message I saw during my explorations of Rangitoto Island which I think is a great share for the New Year....

So Why Worry?

Happy New Folks, until we meet again....

Auckland, New Zealand 

With Lonely Planet Guide New Zealand

No comments:

Post a Comment

Scribble back!