Adapt or get off the boat

Sunday News - - WELLBEING - Dr Tom Mul­hol­land

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.

● kyn­dwell­;

● dr­tomon­amis­;

● healthy­think­

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.

Tom Mul­hol­land

A break in the weather al­lows for a hike around Ste­wart Is­land.

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