By Connor Smith | Posted: Monday May 9, 2016
A few months before I was getting on a plane to Auckland, my Dad told me about his time on the Spirit of Adventure (the ship before the Spirit of New Zealand) and told me what a cool and great experience it was. That's when I decided to go on a 10 day Spirit of New Zealand voyage.
Day 1: I had to make my way to Auckland airport, then to the wharf by bus. When I got to the ship I soon realised that I was the last trainee to board. After dinner we were put into our watches [or teams]. We did everything together from cleaning the ship in the morning, rafting to shore, challenges and doing the dishes (oops – hope my mum doesn't read that!). The groups were arranged in Port A and B to Starboard A and B, I was in Port B.
Day 2: After breakfast and cleaning we went on our first 'set sail' from Princes Wharf and started to exit Auckland Harbour under the ship motor. We saw 3 orcas swimming together in line with the boat doing flips. Once we exited the main harbour we were taught how to put up sails. I was on midships, which are the big square sails on the main mast. Our destination was Kawau Island. We paddled to shore in rafts and looked at the oldest and now non-functional copper mine in New Zealand. We then went tramping for a few hours then paddled all the way back to the ship.
Day 3: We woke up and were told that we had to jump in the water off the side of the boat for a quick swim. We did this every morning as showers were extremely rationed – only 2x 2 minute showers each, so the boys were starting to get a bit stinky. The water was warmer than Dunedin beaches, but still cold. We once again paddled ashore, helped to clean up a beach, played some beach games and we found some really cool paua shells and kauri gum. Then it was my groups turn to do night watch. We were briefed on how to watch the radar for incoming ships and keep an eye on the depth gauge so we didn't scrape on rocks. We did this in pairs for 2 hours during the night. Every 20 minutes we had to walk around the deck, check the anchor light and open the hatch to the engine room to check for flooding and fire.
Day 4: Day 4 was a big day, we sailed all the way to Great Barrier Island. My group was on foredeck and we had to set up the jib and flying jib (the 2 small triangle sails on the front of the boat). We sailed to Port Fitzroy and saw some beautiful scenery. On our way in to the port we went through a gap that seemed narrower than the ship is wide. We then had fun jumping off the boat on a swing.
Day 5: We sailed to Blind Bay. We paddled ashore and tramped into the beautiful Kanuka forests and headed towards Mount Hobson, named after the first governor of New Zealand. We hiked towards the Kaitoke hot springs through swamp forest and streams. The forest we passed through was once an ancient Kauri forest, but was destroyed in the late 1800s for timber. This was a long 5.5 hr hike but worth it for the scenery and a swim in the hot springs. We then returned to the ship and sailed to Whangaparapara. We saw a navy ship Te Kaha ('strength').
Day 6: We sailed back to Port Fitzroy and climbed the mast to its highest point of 31.3 metres. Sailors call this the Royals, and it was a little bit scary. We then sailed around the Port Fitzroy harbour in these yachts called Lugers. We sailed by ourselves and raced the other watch groups. Later on in the evening we paddled to shore and sang campfire songs.
Day 7: We left Great Barrier Island and did a lot of sailing down the Coromandel Peninsula. We did a lot of tacking and jibbing which is changing the direction of the sail when sailing into the wind. We also saw dolphins at Great Barrier Island jumping in a group of 5. This day was also the day we raised all of the sails.
Day 8: We left the Coromandel and headed to Waiheke Island. Today was also deep clean day which means we clean every little crevice and hidden spot on the ship. It was also training day where we had a go on every sailing station. Mizzen sail is the back sail and the second biggest sail. Foredecks sails are the smallest sails on the boat and we had to climb on the foredeck bowsprit to get the sail up while the boat is moving. Next was the four big square sails that you pull down rather than up because they hang from the mast. The mainsail is pretty much the same as the mizzen but bigger. In the evening we had an election to pick the captain, mates, engineers, cooks, navigators and watch leaders for the final day of sailing. Every position would be instructed by each respective crew member.
Day 9: Day 9 was the biggest day yet. We had to sail back to Auckland harbour from Waiheke Island. We had to run the ship pretty much by ourselves, but of course the crew were looking out for safety issues. The crew also helped out as extra hands pulling ropes because we were a little under handed with a lot of people doing jobs like cooking and engineering as well.
On this trip I learnt many new things about sailing, teamwork and myself. I felt that this was a great learning experience for me especially in time management and working independently. I also learnt that if you put your mind to it you can achieve a lot in a small amount of time. This trip challenged me in many different ways, especially when my group relied on me to lead them and get a task done like raising a sail or paddling straight in a raft or cleaning a toilet. I do encourage anyone who reads this to have a go at the Spirit of New Zealand program, it is a great opportunity to learn something new and meet great people. I have memories that will remain with me for the rest of my life.