After 72 days, around 2.000 nm, 2 ex-cyclones, several tropical storms, 1 destroyed autopilot, 1 new battery, 1 damaged mobile phone, 1 soaked laptop, 1 lost bucket lid and
2 destroyed buckets, 1 Coastguard-tow up, 1 police rescue mission, 1 blown up exhaust pump, 1 ripped off UV strip of our foresail, thousands of hours binge-watching movies, tv-series and listening to podcasts, 5 marinas, 30+ anchorages, 3 days heaved over in the open ocean, 4 rescues of our lost or flipped over dinghy, 5 albacores, 4 kahawai, 3kingfish and 4 blue cods on the rod, one bonfire, 3 hammock sessions, 1 fight every 3rd day, 4 break ups, 5 days of silence … our “Nomad ocean”-journey has come to an end.
It was an epic experience with heaps of learnings I want to share with you.
But let´s start at the beginning. Initially, our intention was to sail around both North and South Island while engaging with communities, giving talks and workshops about marine restoration. We had about 5 – 6 months to do so, depending on the weather.
Very soon we found out how ambitious this task was…
Especially in a 26ft boat. Even though it has been done before us and Raven26 even went on trips from New Zealand to the Pacific Islands. So, yes, it can be done but it takes a lot of effort. Despite Kahu’s robust and sturdy nature, fighting 2- to 4-meter swell and 55 knots gusts offshore is not pleasant. Moreover, every nautical mile is hard work and legs of distances of 600 nm or more take weeks. Yes, Kahu is a great boat for day trips and for cruising – but not for extended trips like the circumnavigation.
Being always the smallest amongst all the other cruising vessels was not the only challenge. Due to T.A.s engagement in the court case fighting to implement a new form of marine protection area around the island of Motiti in the Bay of Plenty where he is coming from, we already postponed our starting date. Moreover, T.A. got the opportunity to technically advise an NGO and create its ocean strategy – a great job, but it came with a prize: We had to be in Auckland beginning of March. So, in the end, we only got 3 months for our Nomad ocean project. It was soon clear that we would never make it around both of the islands within this limited time frame – not if we also wanted to spend time in the bays and areas, to go for kayaking trips, to dive, to talk with communities and really experience what New Zealand´s marine space has to offer.
Another challenge was internet coverage. We knew from our previous sailing trips that coverage would be a scarcity, but it was even harder than expected and to set updates and communicate was impossible for days in a row.
Last but not least though, it was the weather that came in our way several times. Planning a leg was challenging in itself – not to mention arranging dates for talks or meetups weeks ahead of time. We were too busy not only with duties such as repair runs and other maintaining jobs but with keeping track of the storms and ex-tropical cyclones such as “Fehi” and “Gita” and other weather challenges. We had to change course several times, wait till storms passed by and ended up in the middle of bad weather anyways:
“Morena – this was almost you guys . . .”, T.A.s father, who virtually was our third crew member sending us weather reports, checking anchorages as if he was on board with us, emailed us the other day:
Yes, this couple could have been us: During the long leg between Mana/ Wellington and Bay of Islands, we got caught in a severe, un-announced weather system off Aupōuri peninsula shortly before Cape Reinga and had to heave to for three days while waves crashed above our little Kahu. (That the famous explorer Captain Cook got in troubles at the exact same spot could only comfort us a bit.) Other than the couple in the article, we were not able to call anyone, we did not have VHS radio reception and when we finally had coverage again, we found out that the police was already informed.
We were lucky: Apart from Kahu being quite beaten up, our UV strip of the foresail being damaged and both our berth and clothes being wet, we were safe and healthy. I hope, the couple up in Northland will soon be able to say the same.
(Update from T.A.s father via text message this minute:
Thank you, Hugh!)
Nature versus us 10:0
All this said whereas T.A. is good in “going with the flow”, I struggled with these challenges and my expectations, with the promises I had made in the beginning and with the conversations all around New Zealand I had already started. I tried to force it, to make our project happen, to stay true to my word – but in the end, the force of nature was just too strong and all we could do was adapt. Sailors amongst you know what I am talking about.
Would we have undergone this journey if we had known all of these challenges in the beginning? I am not sure. So maybe, our naivety was good after all …
…otherwise, we would not have observed, researched and experienced the marine environment around the North Island, Abel Tasman and Marlborough Sounds on the South Island the way we did. And even though we did not manage to give talks and workshops in communities, we still took every opportunity to engage with local fishermen, fellow sailors and everyone we met on this trip. What we found out most of the time was shocking: apart from the upper part of the East Coast and a bit around East Cape, we saw surprisingly few commercials (and even recreational) fishing vessels out there. Are there no fish anymore to take out of the ocean? We could not get rid of this thought – and not only the barren state of the ocean especially in the Sounds and Abel Tasman, the scarcity of kelp, the lack of predators such as crayfish and the general amount of jellyfish confirmed this assumption. Even more so, whenever we did dive or snorkel or tried to Spearfish, this observation became even more apparent.
Despite the degrading state of the marine space, there is space for hope as communities all around trying to find solutions for preserving what´s left of their blue backyard. Like the firefighter and passionate fisherman Tran Lawrence who invented “Keepa” a pretty sweet and simple device to make “catch-and-release” easier; or like the guardians of Kapiti island marine reserve. As a member of the latter, Ben Joshua Knight – uber guardian himself – had just previously discovered a mysterious fish and invited us to check it out. Even though the sight was pretty average due to the approach of ex-cyclone Gita and the fish did not show itself, it was a great experience to see how marine reserves provide for a more abundant ocean.
Having met these people and having made the first-hand experience of the marine space in several parts of the country is something we would not want to miss. We are even more determined now in our engagement for an abundant, vibrant and resilient ocean.
“I want the ocean to be noisy again”, Lorna of EMR (Experience Marine Reserves, check this organisation out it´s doing a great job showing kids the marine world) told us yesterday. We really liked her vision.
What about you? How would you like the ocean to be in 10 years? What do you want to see, hear, feel? And if you could do one thing to make this vision come true, what would it be?
Yes, our journey is over, but it has just begun…