Day three could almost be the definition of success. What started as a grey, wet day where the Bay was highlighted only in grey and grey-white has turned into an afternoon of fruit cake and hot chocolate as we returned to the ship. The ship awoke at the usual 7AM, but the grey skies and wrung-out clouds gave the morning a much later atmosphere. Every cloud has a silver lining they say, and today it was the benevolence of the Captain. His usually stony heart has shown signs of softening as he pardoned the usual morning swim. Dry, warm and waking at a less shocking pace the trainees set about their morning duties. Sparkling from head to helm, we motored on out from Omakiwi Cove after a recap of yesterdays VHF lessons.
The waters were restless, but not overly-miserable and the Easterly winds were hard at work bright and early. On a tallship you’ll find that if the winds are hard at work then on the majority of occasions, the sailors must be too. The foresail went up and was promptly worn to our portside and soon after the rigging was being scaled and our topsails were unfurled. Our climbers descended to a rolling and listing deck and an already-set topsail. Long beach blew past and we rounded Tapeka and sailed on past Waitangi before pulling in smoothly to Russell. Lunch was served soon after we docked and from there the youth were taken for a brief tour of a place they would soon all come to appreciate.
We came off the wharf and onto Russell’s waterfront where the trainees gladly and ‘officially’ set foot on dry land again. Heading towards Pompallier Mission House we stopped in at Russell Radio to introduce our youth to our land-based guardian angels. We left the company of Stuart and soon arrived at Pompallier. Kate soon had us splashing in her pools of knowledge and the real depths of the early history of the Bay of Islands. Trading routes, how Captain Cook came to find himself in the Bay and the story of the felling of the flagpole by the famously infamous Hone Heke. All this and we hadn’t even set foot in the mission house yet. Upon entering one of our last remaining buildings of such prominence in the development of New Zealand we were shown just how much of a mission these French missionairies were on.
The printing presses they used and assembled filled rooms and the tanning process for the leather that bound and protected their so-valued scripts. The printing and proofreading process is meticulous, delicate and pre
cise whereas the tanning process is physically demanding, repetitive and not a quick task at all. We were told that depending on the skins used it could take between eight and ten months to tan a hide. The museum had us observing archeological finds, the inner workings of the printing press and even mummified rats from generations past. With our perceptions on the Treaty and Bay given a peripheral view we began our trek back to Opua.
We marched down Matauwhi Road and up Florence Ave. before we joined the walking track to Okiato on Constitution Hill. We boardwalked down the valley and through the marshes before following farmland boundaries to the main road. A roadside footpath took us past the oyster farm and onto the mangrove boardwalk over Orongo Bay. The leg of our journey from the Rawhiti/Russell/Okiato turnoff was a strange combination of slippery wet grass, boardwalks over the mud and marshes and a set of stairs worthy of the Sky Tower.
Emerging at Te Wahapu we descended into the shadows and valleys of the forests where we slipped and slid, got coated in mud and soaked by the passing rain. At 5PM, slighty later than our planned return time, we were below decks in the warmth of the belly of the ship. Hot chocolate and tea warmed our stomachs and Kylie’s fruit cake quashed our hunger for the moment. We motored away from Opua and came to anchor just south of the Russell wharf. Roast chicken, gravy, potato, sweet potato, peas and beans were soon being speared relentlessly by the forks of our hungry teenagers. Plates were eaten clean and leftovers escaped nobody. The dinner dishes were rinsed, washed, dried and stacked to a soundtrack of laughter and almost overly-competitive games of speed. The night is nearly over as log books are being filled out and soon we are about to share the highs and lows of our day. Exhausted from our three hour trek sleep sits on the shoulders of everybody aboard. Check back tomorrow for more as we come to the halfway point of our voyage.