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Yesterday’s goodwill and high spirits brought us a cheery morning song delivered by none other than our marine one-man band, Captain Steve himself. The trainees changed from cozy pyjamas to salt-crusted swimwear and threw themselves – and others – into the steely waters of Whale Bay. The greyish morning was lit up by youthful cheer, big grins and a sprinkle of hard yakka deck scrubbing and brass polishing. Breakfast was no worse for wear as the ever-heated debate of sauce superiority saw baked beans, plums, cream and barbecue sauce all piled onto the same piece of toast in a bid to outdo the tenacious Trident and his self-titled sweet chilli sauce.

Flavour seemed to be the theme of the day as we had it in all shapes and forms. The south-west winds rolled over the hills this morning and it gave Uncle Steve the opportunity to show off some of his skippers know-how. We mostly abandoned the conventional motor-over method of hauling the anchor and instead we set our sails and let canvas, wind and hydraulic winch do our bidding this morning. Given a little taste of the old ways, our trainees were thoroughly impressed. Rob busied himself with baiting and preparing our drop line whilst an eager Jesse watched over his shoulder with wide eyes and an arsenal of queries and requests. So we set out into the Bay with our sights set on another jam-packed day.

Our sail out of Whale Bay took us North toward the Nine Pin where we practiced maneuvers and earned fresh blisters and disturbed old callouses. The sun defied forecasts for the second day running and warmed our skin, dried our deck and chased the damp from our washing with it’s righteous, ultra-violet warmth. After tacking and wearing we made way for what was described as a top-secret fishing spot. Turns out it’s the first time our poker-faced skipper had ever been.

Arriving at an undisclosed location otherwise known as Te Pahi Island we dropped sails, anchor and handlines whilst the tech-savvy Dalton showed off his fishing rod. We fished quietly and somewhat therapeutically to the gentle swells and light rain as well as gourmet pizzas prepared by Kylie and Lana. Morning tea was a chocolatey affair of cocoa and afghans baked proudly by Gabrielle. Morning turned to afternoon and soothing quiet turned to the hectic hauling of fishing lines. Gabrielle netted her first two fish ever, a well-sized kahawai and a pouting porae. Jesse pulled in a sizable snapper and the rest of us sat on our hands checking vacated hooks and lines snapped in battle. The afternoon raced on ahead of us and soon it was time to practice our man overboard drill. Trident, Tyrone and Jessie managed to rescue Fred after take three. Or thirteen? I forget, but I think it might be a good idea to let the efficient team two of Dalton, Bobby and Gabrielle recover you from an unexpected dip in the Bay. With Shelby managing to keep a hysteric, panic-stricken Tyrone from having an attack we motored off to Whale Bay accompanied by a pod of curious dolphins. The blew misted sea water and slapped steel-grey tails to see us off on our journey and we carried on happily.

Another quick sail was slotted in before the winds turned and our motor took charge as our driving force. Jessie and Bobby were sent up the rigging to furl the tops’ils and Jessie proved adamantly that girl power was the way to go. We cruised back in to Whale Bay and set up shop for the night. The anchor light was raised and Kylie’s never-ending galley duties saw her begin to prepare what appears to be a meal involving numerous meatballs. Our youth are settled in for an evening lesson or two and the odd yawn has been caught escaping tired airways. We’ve come nearly to the end of our fifth day at sea and it seems that eagerness to return home has been almost matched by a new-found love of the windward life. Strangers have become close friends and Otamatea classmates are closer than ever. With little over a day and a half to go before our final return to Opua it will be a praised return for sure. As we settle in for the night, think of us as you take a warm shower, settle in for the 8PM news and boil the jug for your two minute noodles because by the time your young’uns get home there’ll be no hot water, no more mi-goreng and Shortland Street will be on repeat for weeks on end.