7AM was a loud, jangling bell wielded merrily by Captain Steve. Moans and groans ensued when our trainees realised the stories were true and the crew weren’t lying when they said 7AM was swim time. Unable to beg or plead their way out of the swim, it was into the bay, back up the ladder and under the warm shower for the trainees. Having made it through the worst of the daily grind our duty groups were formed, sent to their stations amongst the ship and introduced to buckets, brooms, mops and Brass-o. The fog refused to relinquish its hold on the land to our south, but the galley and cook were kind enough to share a breakfast of fruit salad, toast and mince on toast. With our stomachs full and fueled for the day breakfast chores were completed and our trainees settled in the saloon for another lesson on VHF radio.
With time to spare during the morning lessons, Steve and Kylie leaped into their wetsuits and jumped at the opportunity for a morning dive. Our eleven young apprentices earned themselves a quick break that consisted of a short sunbake accompanied by hot chocolate and marshmallows. With their mugs empty and workbooks yet to be filled, it was back to the saloon for our youngsters. Pens scratched onwards as the morning swells rocked gently and soon enough our earlybird divers returned to a curios crowd. The tender was brought abreast and the mornings catch was revealed. Captain Steve clambered aboard, pleased with the crayfish that accompanied him, closely followed by Kylie who proudly brought home her first crayfish. With our catch stowed safely and the tender hoisted into place we prepared to set sail for the first time this voyage.
Our Port and Starboard teams were briefed and quizzed on the proper line handling techniques before they were formally introduced with our many lines and sails. The foresail, mainsail and headsails were hauled into their upright positions as we turned our bow to the Cape. The helm was shared between Kailash, Odette, Bryn and Tonilee, who along with Kelsey made herself well acquainted with the views from the shrouds. We rounded the Hole in the Rock and came to a rest on it’s eastern side. The tender descended carefully and was loaded up with sightseers. The Hole provided us with the opportunity to look down at the various aquatic wildlife that make the esteemed landmark of the Bay even more amazing than the large chunk of rock missing from its core. With our sightseers safely back on board and the tender following happily in tow, we set off for Outu Bay.
We arrived in Outu’s shelter mid-lesson, just before lunchtime. With fishing regulations and VHF jargon bursting from their ears, the trainees were sent to the helm for lunch. Sophie’s soup made its way from the pot, to the bowls and finally from spoon to tongue. Steve, our Captain of many talents had taken Bryn and Raymond under his wing for a 5AM introduction to baking. The results, three beautifully baked loaves of fresh bread were sliced, buttered and lost forever to the almighty teenage appetite. Time was allowed for stomachs to settle and dishes to wash themselves before the tender and voluntary divers were called to action.
Rickie, Bryn, Katarina, Billy and Mereana wandered the kina fields and rocks with Tyrone whilst Steve slipped quietly around the corner to inspect his ‘secret spot’. Those who stayed aboard the ship fished in the afternoon sun, iced banana cake and immersed themselves in the ship’s library. The tender returned, with divers accounted for along with two full kina sacks and a very impressive crayfish brought home by a battle-scared Captain. With our dive gear, catches, tender and passengers stowed safely on board, it was decided that we would ‘duck around the corner’ to Whangamumu Harbour.
Safe and sound at Whangamumu, the activity on board reflected that of the setting sun. The days final lessons were delivered and our trainees lapped up their free time. Roast chicken accompanied by steamed and roasted vegetables was served up by Sophie and the entire ship hoed in. Dinner dishes were scrubbed hard and grumbled at before the deck was alive with gargling and foamy mouths. Clean teeth were spreading like the rabies. We shared our highs and lows for the day and were soon after serenaded to sleep by a jovial Captain. Tomorrow we look forward to a day of fishing and hopefully an afternoon hike on shore at Whangamumu. Check back tomorrow to check out our catches and callouses!!
Sunshine and a fresh, crisp breeze brought fresh trainees aboard the ship for this weeks voyage destined for Marsden Cove. Our ever-trustworthy Board of Trustees joined parents, friends and family in a smooth, airy farewell. Anticipant, excited and curious trainees were corralled at the helm by Captain Steve, who joins us again after a brief break in his duties. The name game introduced strangers to sailors and back again whilst the scent of soup wafting from the galley to the deck created a decadent ambience that had us all sniffing curiously as we wandered past the open hatches. Our traditional Port and Starboard teams had their rosters refreshed and the new members were taken on their own detailed tour of the ship.
As Tapeka and the Black Rocks sailed past, Port and Starboard were reunited in the saloon for their first lesson on VHF delivered by this weeks cook/radio whiz Sophie. Disappointed by their failure to escape completely from classes and bookwork, frowns were turned upside-down as they emerged into the sunlight of Whale Bay. A seal was spotted astern by Bryn’s keen eyes, but only a lucky few got a glimpse of it before it disappeared intently. Eyes turned from the coastline to the mood less waters and beckoning sunshine which brought swimmers to the seagate and the rope swing from the yards. Some swam in the bay whilst others took to the ‘sprit or bathed in the sunshine. Sophie’s pot of soup joined the party on deck and quickly turned it silent. Volunteers made short work of the dishes and Kylie taught our trainees about the recycling and waste procedures on board. A break in the days lessons that coincided somewhat conveniently with the days low tide saw the wetsuit locker ravaged and the tender was hoisted down and boarded by keen divers. Toni-lee, Bryn, Winter, Odette and Katarina hauled kina and mussells like pro’s whilst those left to Steve’s mercy learned knots and the subtle art of crafting baggywrinkles.
Our divers returned triumphant to a trophy of hot cocoa and the grand prize of a brief hot shower. The anchor, tender and Little Tuc were heaved to deck and we felt around to find that perfect patch of water for our routine man-overboard drill. Our drill veteran, Fred, was sent overboard and our trainees scrambled to their posts. The danbouy and life-ring joined Fred in the waters just off the Black Rocks while our would-be rescuers relayed chinese-whisper-like directions that eventually saw knots being used as a measurement of length. As hypothermia clawed at Fred, our rescuers mounted a second attempt that saw our ever-ready drill veteran back on board and safely in his locker. The danbouy and life-ring were retrieved and sheathed, marking a successful drill and our return back to Whale Bay for the night.
We returned to our anchorage and the trainees to the classroom for lessons on chart-reading and how to choose an anchorage and a good, close look at our good ship. Proudly able to both say and spell ‘Gaff-rigged Topsail Schooner’, free time was given and taken happily. Decks of cards came out and a guitar smuggled aboard was tuned-up and songs were played and requested all around. Daylight finally evaded us and plates of spaghetti preceded by karakia brought silence aboard once again. The spaghetti inevitably joined daylight in evading us and our first nights dishes were washed and dried.
The day’s final lesson had our trainees exhausted and wanting for their bunks, so highs and lows were shared, toothbrushes hopefully were not and as I write, the bunktime chatter fades slowly. With a fresh batch of trainees to mentor and a freshly refreshed crew ready to take on new mentees, we’re set to begin the first stretch of our journey to Whangarei. Keep posted and keep posting as our journey evolves, be sure to check back often!Read More
Sunrise today was borne over by foreboding grey skies that formed a palette in the sky of every grey shade imaginable. It was hardly 7AM and day six looked to be bleak. On deck bright and early, the crew were already being battered by bullet-like gusts of wind. Every cloud has a silver lining however, and despite the pounding winds the cold was offset by high spirits and hot chocolate. The trainees went about their morning routine of swimming, scrubbing, breakfast and a little more scrubbing. As the last of the breakfast dishes were stowed safely and the anchor rose almost unwillingly from its sea-bed the crew kitted themselves out with wet weather gear, ready to battle the day’s wind, rain and unruly Bay.
Tucker rocked and rolled her way out of Orokawa Bay and into the open waters with a game-faced Captain at the helm. The ocean seemed to come alive, like some bitter-cold, rolling, unruly creature. As the rock and roll waves turned to an oceanic, heavy-metal mosh-pit our on-board adrenaline junkies donned their waterproof battle-armor and headed straight for the bowsprit. As Lachlan, our adorable ‘Lil’ Rocker’ took up the lead role at the very tip of the ‘sprit, he was backed up by a steely Aidyn, farm-tough Andrew and the no-frills, self-proclaimed Ninja Aaron our four friendly neighbourhood tough-guys bore the full force of today’s weather. They rode high and swooped low as if riding some crazy combination of the mechanical bull, surfboard and carnival rollercoaster that most certainly left them with their feet wet and appetites fulfilled. Their crazed whooping and yahooing brought spectators from below decks, all of whom were colour-coordinated in the ships banana yellow wet-weather kit.
We watched from the bow, somehow as thrilled as our ‘sprit surfers at the rawness and unpredictability of the sea. Yesterday was all blue skies, sun-tans and bushwalks whilst barely twenty-four hours later we were standing at the bow being pelted by wind and sea-spray tucking our cold little fingers and toesies into socks, pockets and gloves. Thoroughly soaked, salted and thrilled our adventurous four youngsters were brought back to the stern as we continued to batter our way through the constant barrage of cold, hard surf.
With loose cargo strapped-down or holding on to their pants and hats, the rain decided to join Tucker and the ocean in today’s cozy little sea-party. The somewhat light shower teamed up with the barreling winds to sting at even the smallest area exposed to the elements. As Tucker and our iron-cored Captain trudged on we set our eyes on our destination for the first time. Whale Bay reached for the grey skies like a beacon signalling refuge. The sight warmed the ship and its occupants and the relief nibbled away gently at the cold dreary day we’d battled through so far. As we drew within reach of Whale Bay’s calm and wind buffing hills, a sigh of relief was breathed by the entire ship, some even say they heard Tucker herself wipe her brow and utter a quiet ‘whew’. Sitting pretty in our breezy little haven, the anchor was dropped and the billy put to boil.
Hot chocolate, ginger slice and banana cake warmed our cores as dry attire set to work warming arms, hands, ears and heads that supported sleeping bags wrapped around torsos. With our little ship full of trainees that resembled giant caterpillars we went about our rainy day activities. Warm bunks beckoned offering soft, refreshing naps whilst decks of cards and our selection of books kept our conscious minds occupied in lieu of the DVDs and computers they longed for.
Hours crept by without so much as a creaking floorboard and before we knew it we’d devoured our lunch of hotdogs, exhausted our arsenal of card games and worn our focused attention-spans thin with hard-cover and paperback novels. The waters of Whale Bay seemed to be warmed by the day’s rain and right on cue fishing lines were being cast over both port and starboardside. A slow start to the days fishing expedition saw our anglers ready to call it a day when the Kahawai stuck, waking the ship. Our first catch of the day, hauled aboard proudly by Lachlan signaled the start of a fishing frenzy. With our anglers heaving plenty of bait-fish on-board and having had a mighty chunk of fun in the process they packed their lines away and headed below decks for a little rest and a handful of soap to offset the smell of squid and fish, which, when commented on was instead referred to as ‘the smell of a hard days work’.
With the entire ship having mixed emotions about the impending conclusion to our voyage, it’s no question that we all feel battered and tired after a rough day. A roast dinner is in progress in the galley and spoons, laughter and smarted fingers occupy the saloon. Looking at the tired faces of this weeks trainees they look back happily. Proudly sporting a week at sea under their belts, they discuss their plans for their arrival at home. A long, hot shower seems to be in popular demand whilst favourite foods, TV shows and pets should all be ready for a right shock when our youth return. It seems that once again, a week aboard the R. Tucker Thompson has been a great success. Sheep have been sheared and turned into aspiring shepherds whereas introverts have become vivid social butterflies.
With another week of memories and callouses added to our collection we’re all looking forward to our return to Opua tomorrow afternoon. The crew look forward to some R&R and the trainees look forward to their friends and family. Be ready for a pleasant surprise tomorrow afternoon as well as stories, gossip and jokes throughout the week and further on. Signing out for the week is the R. Tucker Thompson and eleven new chapters in her vast communal history.
Yesterday’s improvised hike and good, hard sailing saw the entire ship heavy-eyed and yawning well before Kylie dished up a feast of lamb chops and vegetables. A sleepy, yet content silence drifted casually from bow to stern and was interrupted only by cheers in acknowledgement of the pot of custard that appeared somewhat magically after dinner. As the custard and plums exhausted themselves rapidly, Captain Miss Sophie tuned an expert ear in to the weather forecast. Day Five was predicted to be our last day of sunshine and buttercups before the wind and rain are due to turn them to gales and thistles. A benevolent Captain gave the trainees the opportunity to plan their last day of smooth sailing, which they took upon themselves with gusto, which brings us to today’s blog:
Deepwater Cove and Cape Brett instantly became destinations in demand, but the journey to tonight’s safe anchorage required time that would possibly be spent elsewhere. Compromise saw the morning swim delayed until Deepwater Cove under the condition that morning duties were done top-notch and in good time. With the days plan set in ink and paper, the ship fell silent aside from snores and the occasional ‘mooing’.
Up at the crack of dawn and down the hatches gathering buckets, brooms and brass polish, the trainees jumped straight from their bunks and into their duties. Below decks drowsy, determined hands gripped mops, brooms and scrubbers whilst the top-deck chill was offset by the burning pace set by the mornings deck-swabbers and affectionately dubbed ‘Bucket Boys’. The ships pristine sparkle was matched only by the jealous sunrise that revived numb fingertips and furrowed brows as breakfast pots arrived in the saloon, sent back empty without hesitation.
With breakfast dishes a thing of the past, Leah was handed the helm and we made way for Deepwater Cove. Arriving to a cloudless morning sky, the trainees donned their wetsuits, as well as the odd pair of footy shorts and set off on what I would have to say could well and truly be the best morning swim yet. Guided by Rob and Kylie, the youth were taken for a brief glimpse at the world of underwater spelunking. They snorkelled through a short tunnel that not only made the all-important funny gurgling sounds they love so much, but also made a haven for the local fish and assorted marine wildlife. Pufferfish, lobster, snapper and trevally swam unfazed by the thirteen foreigners who goggled and snapped photos in amazement. They returned bursting with stories, a kina sack and the need for a warm shower, so we set our main sail and continued on for Cape Brett.
Greeted at the Cape by fishing boats of various descriptions and the wake from Mack Attack, lifejackets were donned and the tender pawed its way cautiously into the caves and through the famous Hole in the Rock, described by Mariah as being the ‘Whole Bay of Islands experience’. Anglers waved cheerily and the hidden ‘face in the cliff-face’ watched over Tucker, her tender and her angling friends as we shared the sights, the shine and the odd tangled line and propeller blade. With the Bay’s newest eleven tourists having had their ‘whole Bay of Islands experience’, the tender was hoisted to it’s station and a fresh, crisp breeze pushed us happily on our way. With our voyage’s in-house vocalist Georgia at the helm we made way for Palm Bay, the home of this afternoons activities. Having found herself at home behind the wheel, she left her post only when seals were spotted loitering on a rocky outcrop not far from Deepwater Cove. At first it was thought there was only a solitary seal, but the others, cleverly camouflaged on the rock face were soon spotted out by keen eyes on board. With many of us on board having witnessed the spectacle for the first time, we sailed on thoroughly pleased with the days events so far.
Lunch was initially a smoked chicken pasta bake, soon combined and mashed together with yesterday’s strangely tantalising ‘pumpkin, curry, whatever soup’, thirteen satisfied appetites were dropped ashore at Palm Bay for an afternoon hike around Moturoa Island. The hours between our landfall and return to Palm Bay were filled with scenic vistas, flourishing birdsongs, good company and even better conversation. With time to kill before our return back to the ship, sunbathers sunbathed and those with energy to burn kicked up a game of Bullrush. Back on deck, but soon in the water a mid-afternoon swim cooled the burn of Moturua’s valleys and bush trails. Refreshed and relaxed, we set off to rest our sleepy heads at Orokawa Bay.
Soggy swimwear hung on the lines and salted seamen dealt cards in the saloon. The galley was busy producing a mammoth banana cake With the cake in the oven and chicken marinating soon after, the card games spread into the galley and nav-station as a crimson sunset streaked provokingly through cirrus clouds that are said to signal an impending change in the weather. With their minds and noses paying more attention to the dinner that draws closer, the table was cleared of cards and soon adorned with cutlery, condiments and china bearing satay chicken, rice and steamed vegetables.
Not a scrap was left as eleven hungry youth licked their lips and rubbed their bellies satisfied not only with the demolished cuisine, but the success of what was planned as and soon made to be, their day. The finishing touches are currently being applied to our monstrous banana cake and I fear that if I don’t pull myself away from the computer screen it will be gone before I even set my eyes on it! All-in-all, Day Five seems to have been a hit for all on board. Hopefully the foul weather will hold off for the remainder of our trip, but all we can do is hope. Ah well… Should the weather turn foul, at least we’ll have cake to cheer us up!!
Until tomorrow!Read More
This morning’s serene Waipiro Bay waters were marred only by the waves that broke the surface of the glassy water and the splashes, squeals and laughter that broke through the somewhat sleepy silence of sunrise. Refreshed and showered, the trainees broke into their duty groups and knuckled down like the seamen and women they almost are. Buckets were being hauled up and down, the deck was being scrubbed from bow to stern and the mop and broom were being re-acquainted with the floorboards below decks. Having well and truly earned their hot cocoa and breakfast the trainees settled in the saloon and filled their bellies.
After breakfast and its dishes were finished, everybody was hustled on deck to prepare our sails for well, a sail. Volunteers were conscripted to heave, sweat and tail whilst our high-flying adrenaline-junkie Aidyn, accompanied by faithful sidekick Aaron, shot up to the lower top’sil without hesitation to unfurl our sails. With the ship scrubbed, unfurled and ready to go we said goodbye to Waipiro Bay and set off to start our day.
A fresh gust of wind saw the sails taut and Tucker back in action within minutes. Just as soon as we were in full swing, the galley was coated in a thin layer of flour and custard powder as Georgia and Summer mucked in to help bake yo-yos. Halfway through preparing the second batch there was a brief pause as shouts were heard above deck. In an instant the galley’s occupants were ducking flying tupperware and pepper-grinders. There were impressive displays of reflexes and catches as we looked at each other, puzzled and slightly worried. Almost on cue, William bolted downstairs with rescued washing and the Captain popped her head through the companionway, “Just thought I’d warn you guys, we’ll be wearing again any minute now.” she said with a relieving air of cheeriness trailing her voice. We sighed, relieved and carried on with our cookies.
With the Yo-yos iced and in the fridge, and the winds settled to power us on at a leisurely pace, the galley was handed back to Kylie as she began preparing today’s lunch. The previous scenes of mild chaos, ropeburn and ever-shifting winds seemed almost never to have occurred. The lines were coiled and stored neatly and our young sailors were enjoying the gentle swell and uninterrupted sunshine. Lachlan and Aidyn were found napping on the bowsprit and Rob was happily preparing his drop-line with it’s brand-new shiny sinker.
After hunting for the perfect spot to drop our line, we made way for Oke Bay. We arrived just after one o’clock to a light breeze and even lighter swell. With the anchor away and our swimming enthusiasts eagerly waiting by the sea-gate the all-clear was given and the calm waters erupted into splashes, belly-flops and water-fights. With a hot, fresh pot of soup appearing on deck with a plate of bread, the scenes of shouting and play turned quickly into a banquet of silence.
After lunch, the trainees were sent ashore for a hike through the bush. We had barely left Tucker when excitement arose around us. Dolphins played lazily in the bay and many of youth watched, stunned by the sight. We cruised slowly into shore watching the playful sea-creatures from our craft. With the dolphins having left our line of sight we began our trek through the bush of Oke Bay. A stream caught Rob’s attention and it was decided that we would launch an expedition to find it’s source. This was no easy task at all!! Ridges were scaled, bushes were caught in hair and clothes and rocks tumbled to the flat ground below. Having come to a point where the stream divided into three smaller springs and our expeditioners split into groups of tired, more tired and far-too-energetic we doubled back and headed back to the dinghy.
Safely aboard, we are about to check our drop-line, but you’ll have to wait ’till tomorrow to hear about it. Oke Bay will see us again as our anchorage for tonight and we will be out of communications range. Wish us fish, leave a message and we’ll see you tomorrow!!
P.S. Photos for today and yesterday will be up early tomorrow afternoonRead More