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.