Adapt or get off the boat
Being at sea for six months circumnavigating New Zealand is not for the fainthearted, impatient or claustrophobic. From stunning cloudless days, golden beaches with no one on them, amazing wildlife and azure seas to scary seas, gloomy skies and howling winds, we have experienced the full gamut of Tangaroa’s moods.
Two fuel pump failures have left us stranded in Rakiura, unable to move, and with a crew fogged in by oppressive weather. The Southern Ocean is throwing up 7-9 metre swells, which makes passage unsafe and unwise.
Like in any home or workplace, you can sniff a drop of malcontent from a mile away and a normally tight and happy crew can be affected by the gloom of being trapped in a cabin with no wi-fi, no sun and no rest from the Roaring Forties. You have only two choices in life, you change what you think, or you change what you do. So, you either adapt to a digital detox and find ways to exercise body and mind in a confined space, or you get off the boat.
Fortunately, Stewart Island is a jewel in the New Zealand crown, and there is plenty of treasure to be found. My daughter remarked on a hike that when she was a child she used to believe in magic, now as an adult she believes that you have to find the magic. Even though the weather emoticons show a week of rain and the day dawns drizzly and dark, we head to shore to seek the shelter of the ancient rainforest.
The canopy protects from rain and wind, ra¯ ta¯ and rimu are abundant with ka¯ ka¯ and tu¯ ı¯. Cramped muscles are stretched and minds expanded as dopamine and endorphins flow and our strides keep rhythm with the contours of the land rather than ocean swells. The weather gods defy the meteorological sages, the clouds clear and southern sun pierces the clear water and the reefs below.
One of the advantages of being this far south at the 47th parallel means that it doesn’t get dark until 11pm. An evening walk at 8pm encounters four whitetail deer with more spots than Bambi in a Disney movie.
When the rain arrives as we return to the boat, splashing noises reveal a pod of bottlenose dolphins fishing hard. It’s easy to put on raincoats and row silently into the bay to be surrounded by inquisitive cetaceans and their young.
There are silver linings to these clouds and another is the great southern hospitality that surrounds our stricken vessel. A marine mechanic named Andrew does an emergency call to a remote bay with his obliging wife and enthusiastic dog to help us out.
Suppliers who are friends are trying to hustle us up a fuel pump from Singapore. I would have to say Port William on Stewart Island is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. Family stay on the boat in Oban to charge the batteries while we venture north to find replacement parts. A change is as good as a rest and the solitude of Stewart Island is replaced by the hum of Auckland, bustling restaurants and a neon skyline.
Recharging our urban batteries with friends, family and work is just as important as escaping it at times. The convenience of city life is
refreshing and relaxing. The uncertainty of spare part delivery and sailing date means we have an opportunity to find the magic in the city, if we want to look for it.
Dr Tom Mulholland is a GP with 30 years’ experience in New Zealand. He’s currently on a mission, tackling health issues around New Zealand.
A break in the weather allows for a hike around Stewart Island.