Thursday, 10 June 2010

More on that tall ship

It was Captain James Cook who named many places in New Zealand on his tour of discovery, even if some names are rather obvious, as in the case of the Bay of Islands. But no one can deny it fits. A beloved travel destination for Kiwis and tourists alike, the area is located in the Far North--which means it is usually several degrees warmer than the whole country to the south.

The town of Russell was the nation's first capital, and Paihia across the bay is a similarly old settlement. Nearby Waitangi is held as the cradle of our country, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, establishing nationhood in 1840.

The thing to do in the Bay is to get on the water and get visiting those islands. One way to do so is on the tall ship R. Tucker Thompson, a replica of a schooner from the 1700's. It's not the cheapest of the boat trips on offer, but is definitely one of the most evocative, and worth it when one considers that the money paid by day-trippers helps finance life learning journeys for young people at other times.

There's nothing quite like zipping along on the waves under sail, no sound but the water lapping against the hull and the occasional flap of the canvas. No motor breaks the calm except when making close approaches to land. And land we do: depending on the direction of the wind, the crew select a sheltered cove in one of the islands to set us down for a romp before lunch.

The islands scattered across the Bay vary greatly in size and shape. The one we landed on offers a long grassy slope leading up to a summit with grand views of the mainland, the open sea, and of course, more islands. Returning to the beach, I entered the water and snorkelled for a time, searching for a glimpse of a fish or two--but found only a school of two-inchers in silver. I swam through them and let them tickle my fingers, keeping an eye on the strong currents around the rocks.

Back on the ship, lunch was served, an elegant affair of grilled chicken with salad and fresh bread. After that, I dived off the deck into the water a number of times before we had to hoist anchor.

On this ship, participation is desired: you can raise sails, climb the mast, and steer the ship. It's great to get your hands on the ropes and feel something like a sailor of three hundred years ago. The friendly crew and delectable scenery make this outing a memory for a lifetime.
Post a Comment