Sunday 8 November 2015

New Zealand Adventures : 2. Dolphin Research, Workin' Girl as a 'Boatie' in Auckland's Boatyards and a Piece of Volcano Heaven on top Mt Eden...


Greetings from New Zealand! now a month on the North Island!

Ahoy! I have recently been working on a 135ft Boat under the name 'Destination' in Auckland City's North Wharf Boat Yards, as what I call a 'Boatie'.... pretty much as a day worker doing all the odd jobs the maintenance crew need help with in one of the boat yards, but first, before life on board, let me tell you about my Dolphin research trip out in the Hauraki Gulf....

Auckland Whale and Dolphin Research Trip

Through Blue Voluntours I got an opportunity to go onboard a 4.5 hour marine eco-safari on a purpose built marine research vessel 'Dolphin Explorer' with Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari out onto the Hauraki a marine assistant on the research programme to see what mammals were passing through in the vast stretches of water ahead.....

Spending the day as part of 'the crew' I got to sit in the warmest part of the 20 metre 'powercat' boat and get an insight into why daily marine biological research is needed and what goes on behind the research in the Hauraki Gulf.

Part of the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf itself covers an area of 4,000km sq and over 25 of the 37 southern hemisphere marine mammals have been identified in the area.

The vessel itself has been doing marine research for over 14 years to learn more about, understand and educate the public in protecting these marine species...including the common dolphin, bryde, humpback and orca 'killer', I would love to see one of those in the wild...

Leaving dry land of Auckland City

Icy wind speeds at sea!

Up front with Andy the Skipper, who's worked on these research trips for over 20 years

The on board Marine Biologist Sarah Lyn who has been an expert in the field for years, told me how research is important in determining why a certain species has declining numbers and how they record data and photography....for example; the freight ships from Auckland Port were instructed to decrease their speed when research showed there was a decline in the Bryde Whale and was concluded that they were being struck by the vessels, as the whales only dive 9 metres under water, they were not clearing the vessel bottom and getting killed.

We then thought we saw a whale and slowed down......but nothing showed, no blow, no nothing.

A big give away in knowing where there are pods of dolphins are the areas where gannets are lingering on the water, waiting for the dolphins to do the work and bring the schools of fish to the surface - if you see them diving bombing to catch the fish...100% there will be dolphins there.

Andy the skipper, who's been sinking deep into his seat glaring through his giant binoculars with the marine biologist either side of him then comes over the tannoy.....'we can see up here, about two thousand common dolphins swimming towards us!'

And low and behold, there they are.....

Wow, what an enormous pod!

The common dolphin is pretty much guaranteed to be seen about 45 minutes from the main shore and feels like the entire population had come to say hello. The data is then taken down by the marine biologists, species, number of species, time spotted, location, sea colour, depth of water (they have a funky machine which reads the depth of the water, the echolocation sound waves of the dolphins and if there are any schools of fish directly below the boat) quite a lot of data entered per sighting!

The common dolphins can live up tot 22 years and have a distinctive criss-cross or hour-glass type pattern on their flanks (sides) and would dive for about 10 seconds before surfacing again.

My job with assisting was having a crack at research photography, meaning I would try and get onto a 90 degree angle to the dolphins in the water and attempt to photograph the markings on their dorsal fins to help identify them individually or as a new group...

So after many attempts, of clicking away, I realised timing was everything, and it was quite a skill to get a clear shot of their dorsal fins whilst they speed through the water and you're on a moving boat yourself!

Came up with a few good ones I hope they can use...or I can pretend they will use them....but still no easy task! 

Apparently, dolphins are the most dangerous predators in the ocean who need to eat regularly, so are aggressive when it comes to hunting and are deemed much more intelligent and ferocious in hunting than sharks - fancy that Flipper!

So.....on my research trip I didn't get to see my Orca this time (5% of research trips encounter Orcas) but you never know what will surface in the waters of New Zealand.

Still, cool to be a marine assistant for the day

Workin' Girl as a 'Boatie' in Auckland's Boatyards

Wahey Anchor! since I was visiting New Zealand, I thought I would get a visa to legally work in the country as its nice to have an opportunity to earn some money to do some cool things during my stay here. When I travel, I always like to make the most of opportunities to learn and try my hand at different things. Since building houses in Cambodia, I decided I would like to make some money doing something fresh, hands on and in an outside environment. I like boats and what they represent and thought Auckland the 'city of sails' would be an ideal place to find I decided to set the challenge to find myself a job at one of Auckland's boatyards in the North Wharf to work as a 'day worker' someone to valey and clean them up for the summer charter season ahead...

After a couple of weary afternoons asking lots of boat-going people in boat yards near the Auckland Fish Market, bouncing back and forth between boats 'dock walking' following potential job leads, handing my phone number over and showing my keenness - I got a 2-week job starting in my third week in New Zealand on board this beauty in Wynyard Quarter on Auckland's North Wharf......patience and perseverance pays off.

Meet Multi million 135ft DuBois Boat 'Destination'!

That's my boat...

'Destination' is a multi million boat that belongs to a Canadian Millionaire who mainly uses her for his own personal sailing trips or to charter out. The boat has been sailing since January 2015 from Barbabos - Dominican Republic - Panama Canal - Costa Rica - Galapogas - Tahita - Tonga - Bora Bora and now is ported in Auckland for a $1.2 million refit maintenance project where I've come aboard to help with it - timed it just right! 

The full re-maintenance project on the boat had not happened in about over a decade so it was about time she got all her insides freshened up refitted, given a new paint job, cleaned and polished.....which was pretty much my job on board deck as a temporary 'day worker'.

All hands on deck....

View from on deck...not too bad hey!

 I learnt that working on a boat is not easy work, you are on deck early for a physical day of polishing, wiping, scraping, scrubbing or whatever mechanical work that needs doing to assist the crew in preparing the boat to be used for charter trips at New Year and needs to be fully finished by the time the owner wants to sail on here again in February 2016 - better than the gym hey!

The boat yard all things industrial

Initially the boat was held on a scaffolding in the boat yard where I was helping to polish the deck of the boat, meaning a lot of cotton buds, toothbrushes, dirty rags and a perfectionist attitude! but on days that the weather was bad or the crew needed me to help with other jobs that had priority on the boat at the time -  I found myself being like a school girl learning from scratch doing a mixture of tasks and making every mistake in the boat book ha! and doing a mixture of tasks. I had had experience sanding and painting previously, or if not I was willing to give it a go and learn something new and found myself donned in overalls and a respirator mask, helping to sand down a new gear box, clean and assist with paint work in the engine room or helping to do a full scrub on deck with all weather proof sailing gear! 

The Skipper Mike, is a Kiwi and two other crew members who are marine engineers working on the maintenance. The rest of the crew were made up from Irish and Canadian and me! The crew had been sailing on the ship for close to 10 months and live aboard to sail the boat and service the owners family and guests when he is using it for holidays and cruises.

Lets show you around the boat..

Ish, the Kiwi Marine Engineer working on an internal system in the Engine Room below deck - I can make no sense of it, looks like a space ship to me...but still interesting to see the internal systems of a boat

The Kitchen and crew living quarters when at sea

Door to the Engine Room

My daily cup of Milo during my day on the boat, really like this stuff in this part of the world

The Skipper Mike and the crew hoisting a new gearbox to be refitted in the engine room

Sometimes on the days I can't do polishing or there is a more important job to do, I can be zipped up in an overall and mask and be sanding a part needing to be refitted, painting, cleaning or whatever odd jobs there are to do....I suppose I get a nice variety.

Scraping paint off in the engine room

Respirator Mask on for real work!

Sanding and cleaning a gearbox for repainting using a solution actually banned in other parts of the world accept New Zealand - what?! 

Sanding internal paint off propeller blades - always lots to do

One interesting task I had to undertake was assisting the crew on deck whilst the yacht was being moved from the scaffolding on land into the water on the marina, holding 'fenders' which are basically huge inflatable buoys over board to protect the boat whilst we were towed out - had to learn a sailing knot or two there! 

But on the plus, when the Auckland weather was fantastic, I got to sit on deck all day on this beautiful yacht with sand coloured decks, admiring the view of Auckland Harbour Bridge, watch the shifting turquoise tide gently rock the surrounding boats and muse at the sunset slowly descend behind the Auckland City skyline - plus drink lots of Milo! 

Some of the crew on 'Destination'

Even got my very own crew hat too!

The commute to and from the wharf was an extra treat, the view of Mount Rangitoto and the turquoise water of the Aucklands Queens Wharf make it a really pleasant slow 30 minute walk to the North Wharf.

Funky little waterside public cabins with seats and free books to read

A Maori bridge frame to welcome me back to the city

Back in the City... Auckland's street scene is pretty interesting with some creative souls street side in the Spring days, here's a few you see.

I see this man everyday sitting along Queen St, making characters out of coloured paper and gives free paper flowers he's made out, welcoming donations

Funky musical installation in Aeora Square

Piece of Volcano Heaven at Mt. Eden

Auckland City has long been known as the Maori name Tamaki Makaurau - 'the spouse desired by a hundred lovers', all who saw it desired its fertile volcanic slopes, sheltered fishing sites and access to the Waikato River. I decided to take a sunny afternoon walk and climb to the summit of Aucklands highest volcanic cone of Mount Eden which stands at a mighty 196 metres, overlooking the city skyline and surrounding bays and Hanuraki Gulf of Auckland.

The mahoosive 50 metre crater right smack bang at the summit of Mount Eden is known as 'Te Ipu Kai a Mataaho (The Food Bowl of Mataaho, the god of things hidden in the ground) and would be quite a ride hill rolling down it (but you can't its highly tapu SACRED) there are little ones though where the kids were happily throwing themselves down which are pa terraces and food storage pits. 

'One Tree Hill' isn't there a TV show called that right? well that's it right there and was said to be the greatest fortress in the country on the 182 metre hill. The memorial on top was requested by John Logan Campbell to be built for the Maori people and you would wonder well....where's the tree then on One Tree Hill

A Monterey Pine Tree used to stand at the top of the hill as the 'one tree' up until 2000 to replace a sacred totara that was chopped down by the British (sigh) in 1852. Maori activists attacked the tree in 1994 and eventually felled it in 2000 when it went to tree heaven, or maybe ended up as a nice pine table or chair....I think there is still disagreements over it and the land claims but if another tree is to be planted it will be a nice native tree. 

Apparently U2 wrote a song about the hill in 1987 and called it of course 'One Tree Hill', I don't remember it being 5 years old at the time....but it went to #1 in the NZ charts as obviously of course the whole country bought it!

That's all from me for now from the City of Sails, Auckland City...see where the next weeks of the adventure take me....or if another boat wants to pick up this Pom....

Till next time, I'll update on any new discoveries and adventures.

Auckland, New Zealand

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide New Zealand

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