Saturday, 24 October 2015

Auckland skippers - Hoturua Barclay-Kerr and 'Haunui'

The day I sailed with Hotu and his crew on Haunui, he had a party of school kids aboard, mainly Maori and Pacific Islanders. He spoke to them of the biology of ocean voyaging; astronomy, physics and the agriculture of the Polynesian peoples. He spoke of Captain Cook’s admiration for the masterly seamanship and vast distances Polynesians travelled in their waka as a matter of course. He pointed to the flag he was flying on the stern … the Confederated Tribes flag, and explained how in the 19th century Maori were active traders around the coasts and to Australia. The boat had become a classroom.

“I’m from the Tainui tribe, and my parents would often visit Turangawaewae where I saw the revival of the Waikato River canoes at Ngaruawahia. At the Auckland Anniversary regatta in 1970 a war canoe was used for the first time in years … I was young but it had a huge impact on me. In 1972 the Maori Queen commissioned a new war canoe, and this boosted the tradition.

             Skipper Hotu and Haunui waka                The Waikato Independent

"By the time I was 17 I was in charge of a big waka. Then in 1975 I saw a film about the launching of the Hawaiian waka, Hokule’a at the Maori Queen’s house … from that time I was fascinated by this ocean going craft and wanted to sail on her. After studying anthropology at Auckland University I went to Hawaii and hung out with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, who were relearning ancient celestial navigation techniques. They had brought in a Micronesian master navigator called Mau Piailug to teach them the old skills. He became navigator on a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.

"Until 1992 the Hawaiian canoe was the only double-hulled waka in Polynesia. Then Hec Busby built Te Aurere here in NZ and from then on I was involved in her ocean voyages … to Rarotonga and back, and there was a lot of knowledge exchange with Hawaiian crew …

"The German philanthropist Dieter Paulmann became interested in the impact of man on the world’s oceans, and saw a waka fleet in the Pacific as a way of publicising this. We agreed to build waka to teach sailing and navigation and to record the degradation of the oceans … First Peoples from every land were saying we had become deaf to the message of nature.

"Haunui was built in 2009, the second in the fleet of seven, which were all built at Salthouse Boats in Greenhithe. She’s made of modern materials, but based on drawings made by 18th century European explorers … meticulous naval drawings of Polynesian canoes. Each of Haunui’s twin hulls has its own name … I named the port hull after one of my aunties and the other hull after my Dad. He was pretty sceptical about my whole interest in waka revival.

"As different island groups acquired their waka they came to Aotearoa to learn to sail them home, and I helped teach the crews the skills they needed. In 2010 we shipped Haunui to Samoa and then sailed back on her maiden voyage … the first such voyage in 400 years. We had to learn everything along the way; points of sai;; how to use the steering paddles.

"We’re re-introducing the Maori and Polynesian kids on board to the greatness of their ancestors. Many of them aren’t aware of how astronomy, biology and sailing are part of their heritage.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Auckland skippers - Marguerite Delbet on 'Nomos'

I met Marguerite at a concert at the Auckland Town Hall - a string quartet playing works by Shostakovich. A Parisian lady whose family owns a 14th century castle in central France, Marguerite worked for the United Nations in South Africa and Cambodia, and learned to sail on the Mediterranean. She is Head of Democracy Services at Auckland City; and at the time was handling the fall-out from the infamous Ngati  Whatua Room Incident. She skippers ‘Nomos’, a Catalina 400. Her crew of nine is almost entirely men.
“Water is not my star sign, but it is my soul sign … I love the way my boat puts me in touch with the beauty of the Hauraki Gulf ... I have a responsible, high stress job, and sailing takes me back to nature, it grounds me.  I like to say ‘the world was discovered at five knots’ … that’s the speed Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas.
Marguerite Delbert
"I grew up in Paris in a family of art, classical music, and literature lovers who spent a lot of time at the theatre and opera. My father was a reconstructive surgeon specialising in burns, and my mother worked as a flying nurse repatriating injured French soldiers from the Vietnam War … I  was their little princess and learned to sail Optimists on the Cote D’Azure at the age of seven. I have memories of  free diving for sea urchins in the Mediterranean, spearing them with a trident, then eating them raw on fresh baguettes and butter …

"I studied business at Lille University in Northern France and during that time I began sailing with some friends on the Brittany Coast  … In 1992 I went to work for the United Nations as a supervisor for the first elections after the overthrow of the Khymer Rouge … it was an intense and captivating experience for me, and a huge change for the better in the lives of  the Cambodian people. Then I went to South Africa as an observer in the 1994 elections when Nelson Mandela was elected. That felt very much like being part of history!
"I came to New Zealand in 1995 and had to learn sailing terms in English … I sailed a Warwick 10.6 on Wellington Harbour and in Cook Strait. I raced on Nomos  for several years in Wellington, before buying a half share of her in 2014 and when I moved to Auckland I sailed her part the way up the East Coast.
Nomos on the Waitemata
"I’ve always had a special feeling for the boat … She was built in California to the Catalina 400 design, so there’s nothing unique about her … but she’s really well designed and constructed.  Very spacious downstairs, well laid out, and comfortable to cruise on … my floating bach! My racing crew in Auckland consists of a Chilean doctor, a English video producer, a Dutch business partner and bunch of Kiwis … mainly guys!
Nomos means ‘the law’ in Greek, and when she sails in her sweet spot, particularly with the spinnaker up, it’s something special. If you can get a crew that gels you get a wonderful sense of elation … the combination of a great boat, a team of good people and a beautiful environment … it’s a unique feeling. We cruised around the Hauraki Gulf last summer, to Rakino, Waiheke, and Kawau Islands and had a magical time on Great Barrier … and a beautiful spinnaker run back to Auckland. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Auckland skippers - Henk Haazen on 'Tiama'

The cabin on 'Tiama' is a homely place, with packed bookshelves, hanging pewter wine goblets, a framed photo of a 19th century tea clipper, a fruit bowl and rocks and shells from expeditions to the deep south. Pride of place goes to an aerial photo of a flotilla of protest yachts ringing a deep sea oil platform off the North Island's west coast. An emblem of a life devoted to campaigning to conserve one of the most beautiful parts of the planet.

“I joined the Greenpeace boat ‘Rainbow Warrior’ in Jacksonville, Florida in 1984, and helped convert her to a sailing ship. Acting on a plea from Rongalap islanders in the Marshall Islands we relocated them to escape fallout from US nuclear testing which had made them very ill … Then I settled down in New Zealand and was Third Engineer on the ‘Rainbow Warrior’ when she was blown up by the French secret service on  Marsden Wharf 1985.
Henk Haazen
"I sailed up to Moruroa Atoll with Greenpeace in the 1990s to protest against French nuclear testing their, and then to Antarctica to establish a permanent base as part of our successful campaign to turn the continent into a protected World Park. 
"That gave me the idea of building ‘Tiama’… a smaller boat that would be a fraction of the cost of a big research vessel. It took me seven years to construct in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn, although I promised my wife it would only take two. She’s made of steel and has double bottom floors, and closely spaced frames to make her ice resistant. She also has a lifting keel and rudder for the ice. ‘Tiama’ means ‘standing clear’ in Tahitian Maori …
"My first job was a charter to the Kermadec Islands for the Auckland Museum gathering geological specimens and some underwater samples. Our next trip was around Cape Horn and to the Antarctic Peninsula  … taking some climbers who wanted to scale a virgin peak in Antarctic. Then we spent 2-3 months on the Great Barrier Reef in 1999 mobilising towns along the Queensland Coast to oppose shale oil development there. We were concerned about pollution run-off damaging the reef.

'Tiama' near the Sub Antarctic islands                                              DOC
"From 2000  I worked 'Tiama' as a charter boat for the Department of Conservation, NIWA, and the University of Otago ferrying scientists and researchers to the Sub Antarctic islands. This has been her bread and butter work ever since,  and I spend about 100 days a year at sea. We proved you can safely do an expedition to Antarctic waters using a small purpose-built vessel like 'Tiama' …
"The trips to these Islands are helping conserve the wildlife, particularly seabirds … 75% of the world’s albatrosses breed on the NZ’s Sub Antarctic Islands. Two years ago 'Tiama' was part of a fleet of half a dozen boats that sailed to Raglan on the west coast, where they were doing exploratory drilling for oil. Our intention was to warn against the dangers of deep sea oil drilling.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Auckland skippers - Jim Mitchell on 'Koraki'

I first met Jim fifteen years ago when he was a trawler skipper, and ran into him regularly at the Tepid Baths spa pool, bleary-eyed and warming up after several days at sea. Now he's skipper on the tug 'Koraki' which is moored at Bledisloe Wharf. I clambered down a five metre steel ladder onto the heaving deck of the tug on a rainy winter day in a pair of black brogues. I hadn't quite prepared for the meeting.

“When the container shop 'Rina' wrecked on a reef off Mount Maunganui we were sent down to mop up the oil spill. We also tried to get as many containers off the ship as we could before they were washed into the sea. 

"Right now we're towing a big barge up to Whangarei twice a week to pick up 2000 tonnes of cement for the Auckland building industry. Tomorrow I’ll be up 3.30am for a 5am departure from Auckland. It's a twelve hour sail up the coast.

"I first went to sea at the age of 14 as a deck hand. I liked the life ... seeing whales and dolphins in summer between Little Barrier and Cape Rodney … I got my skipper's ticket when I was 19 and my first job was running a Danish Seiner. My Dad had been a Danish Seiner fisherman working out of Auckland before me. And now my son Nick is a First Mate on a tug in Darwin running supplies up to Aboriginal communities in the far north of Queensland.

'Koraki' mops up oil from the wreck of the 'Rina'

"On ‘Koraki’ we have a crew of five, First Mate, Engineer and two deck hands. If the wind is from the north-east it can be pretty uncomfortable … and above 25-30 knots we don’t sail.

"Recently on the Whangarei cement run we had a fire in the port engine at 2am just off Pakiri Beach, and had to abandon ship. Toxic fumes were coming off the engine and it was so out of control there was a risk of it exploding. We were in a 25 knot sou'wester with rain, so it wasn’t too comfortable in the life raft. We were picked up by the Coast Guard from Whangarei and the good old NZ Navy extinguished the flames … so we were back on board by 10am the next morning.

"Sometimes when we're out to sea, we get worse weather than is predicted … 40-50 knot wind behind you with a 2,000 tonne barge behind can be a trial. In the stronger weather we let out the tow line further to absorb the strain.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tango for Nepal

My dance partner Rea Jarai and I performed at a fund-raiser for the earthquake victims in Nepal recently. We chose two classic tango tracks ... 'Que Falta Que Me Haces' and 'Desde el Alma', plus a modern piece by the Gotan Project ... A hundred folks at the Grey Lynn Community Centre gave us a lovely reception ...

Tango was born in the waterfront slums of Buenos Aires at the turn of the 19th century ... and is a melancholic dance full of yearning, tales of lost love, and nostalgia for the home-land. It was developed by southern European settlers of Argentina and first danced by pairs of men, such was the shortage of women in the city at the time.

The audience was also treated to a Nepalese theatre troupe, modern folk singer Kiri, a Latin jazz combo, a whacky fashion show, and some wild clowns led by Bhadrakari, one of the leaders of the Auckland Buddhist Centre - who had organised the event. Scotty, an Aussie didgeridoo player was broken hearted on the night because his two metre wooden instrument split from one end to the next shortly before the event. Auckland weather conditions no doubt.

Half the $4000 raised went to the Auckland Buddhist Centre, who organised the evening, and who provided a ravishing vegetarian banquet and light-hearted and upbeat compering.