R Tucker Thompson

Trip Start Oct 27, 2008
Trip End Dec 01, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The weather today is glorious, and breakfast is outside in the sunshine just a stone's throw from the beach and the ocean.  All yesterday's weather had died down and the sounds of water are now from the waves coming up the beach rather than the gales pounding the windows.  But we've had to earn our breakfast, which involved a trek up to the top of Flagstaff Hill to where Hone Heke cut down the British shipping flagpole in 1844 - I think it was cut down four times altogether before some sort of 'peace' was sorted out. 

We spent the day on the tall ship, R Tucker Thompson, sailing round the Bay of Islands  where there are about 144 island.  This was all very exciting, and because it was an 'interactive' trip you got to do things like pull up the sails,  wind up the ropes in anti-clockwise circles and take the helm (which is the steering wheel)!  I didn't climb up the rigging though, although two other 'crew' did.  It was quite a blustery day out at sea, so a lot of the time the ship was very up and down, as well as being very port and starboard (that's left and right, possibly).  They used the engine to get us out of Rusell, but after about 30 mins or so it got turned off, the sails were put up and the wind did its stuff and moved us along very nicely. 

Four dolphins came to play with us, and before lunch we anchored just off Cook's Cove where Captain Cook landed on 28 November 1769.  Some of us walked up to the top of yet another steep bush track to what was admittedly a very splendid viewing point - and then we felt that we'd really earned our lunch. 

There were lots of other types of sailing vessels around, including catamarans, cruisers, dolphin watchers and whenever we were near one, they all started photographing us - it was a bit like being on display at the zoo.

The toilet was something to be avoided, by the sound of things -behind a bush was much better, although they were few and far between on the ship!  The technology was all to do with vacuum pressure and involved ten full pulls of a lever once the loo lid was properly down to create a vacuum.  And then you had to wait five or six seconds before doing yet more pulls.  Like I say, definitely better to hang on and wait for a convenient bush if the muscles allow. 

It turned out that the skipper, slightly older than the rest of the crew who all looked about 13, used to work in Darlington as a joiner in a different life and has close friends in Helmsley - about 20 mins from where I live.  I've since met someone else who works in a shop in Russell, who equally has relatives/friends in Helmsley.  And I thought Coxwold and Helmsley were getting close to the back of beyond!

Once we'd found our land legs, we did a quick tour of Christ Church (Russell), built in 1836 and New Zealand's oldest surviving church (you can see by now that this part of NZ really is the historic part).  The pews all have these really interesting tapestry cushions, and there's a stone memorial commenorating the Battle of Kororareka on 11 March 1845. I got talking to an American guy there who had been sailing on one of the catamarans earlier in the day.  He  recknoned he's taken some 'awesome' photographs of us on the tall ship, so all being well he'll be emailing some of them to me. 

And then to end an already very full day, we took the ferry to Paihia and enjoyed an evening or Maori and European culture told in song, dance and story at Waitangi Treaty Grounds. 

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