An Unpretentious Utopia
The wee lad could just see over the side of the boat and with a lightweight rod and reel he would drop his coloured jigging lure to the seabed and start the slow lift of the rod and then between each lift reel in seven times before dropping the lure back to the bottom again. If he hadn’t caught a fish within about five minutes with a sigh he’d ask the skipper, “Nick can you change my lure to another colour please?’ Yet as soon as he hooked a snapper he would start reeling in the line from 40m down, his tiny frame holding onto that rod with all his might, sending him red in the face until Nick lifted the fish over the gunnel. He’d then look at his dad and say, “See I told you it was a big ‘un.”
We were in the Hauraki Gulf, halfway between Kawau Island and Little Barrier Island fishing from Nick’s appropriately named charter boat, Playin’ Hooky. The weather was overcast and warm with just a slight swell. There were six of us on board; Chris and Meg and their young son Kelly from Auckland, Neil from England who now lives in Auckland, and his visiting father-in-law Mike from Yorkshire, who at one point stated, “Flippin’ beats fishing in’t North Sea does this.” Inside three hours we had caught our quota of fish, mainly big snapper, a large trevally, a good-sized kahawai, a small jack mackerel and even a red gurnard.
The weekend had started on a Friday as I made my way to Auckland Seaplanes on Wynyard Wharf for a flight on their 1961 De Havilland Beaver floatplane. However, when I arrived I was told the wind had picked up and it would be too dangerous to land in open seas. The alternative was to take a boat journey with Auckland Sea Shuttles but they were already booked out for the afternoon. The decision was quickly made to drive me 45 minutes north to Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth to catch the 4 pm ferry across to my final destination, Kawau Island – named after the Maori name for the shag (cormorant) bird.
Clamouring to get on board the ferry at the wharf were about 30 school kids from Takapuna who were heading to Camp Bentzon (the island’s only youth campground) with a host of schoolteachers, mothers and fathers. They were only going for two days but there was enough equipment and banana boxes of food to last weeks it seemed. There was so much to load, the ferry was 20 minutes late departing, enough time to have a glass of wine.