Spirit of New Zealand

By Aidan Braid, Pippi Miller, Bruno Willis | Posted: Wednesday November 11, 2015

Students Aidan Braid, Pippi Miller and Bruno Willis got an amazing opportunity to go on the Spirit of New Zealand.

My second voyage on the Spirit of New Zealand was absolutely incredible and I loved every second of it. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have an experience of a lifetime and make friends all around the country. The Bay of Islands and the Coromandel are magical places. I have so many memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life, such as breaking the bilge pump systems in the luggers (smaller sailing boats) after taking a water fight to a whole new level; swimming every morning in the lovely warm water (compared to the harbour) and flipping on the rope swing; having a bonfire and barbecue on the beach whilst watching the sunset; hanging on the bowsprit (the front of the boat) watching dolphins play in the boats wake; setting all the sails and getting the boat up to full speed; climbing the mast above and sleeping in the 'ever so close to each other' bunks beneath. You can’t truly understand how amazing it all is until you do it, so why wait! The fun and adventures we had made the trip worth every cent. My advice, take every opportunity you have, you never know what you might get out of it and what you might learn.

 - Aidan Braid

I set off on the Spirit of New Zealand with the idea that it would be a challenge; an outdoor adventure with added people-fun. Having written several applications for grants, the benefactors of which I am forever indebted and without whom I would have no experience to write about here, I had created formulated ideas, expectations - goals even - about my voyage. So it was with a pre-planned experience that I arrived, half a day late, due to unfortunate clashes with the Dunedin (!!!!) weather system and my plane. Already spinning out of control, the remaining plans I had; what I was about to learn, and how I was going to handle it, were hit by a wave of water to the face as I greeted apprehensively the people who, alien now, were about to become the other 37 occupants of the bubble in which I would live for the next nine and a half days.

It is amazing how much time you have to reach out to people and push yourself to confront challenges and yet how little time it seems now. For instance, on the first morning - still known as the late girl - I woke up, a couple of inches away from the ceiling and looked out my porthole at the glassy, frigid water and thought why? Why do I have to jump in that? About ten minutes later I was climbing up the rope-ladder to stand dripping and shocked into awakening. What I would not have given at 7:15 in the morning as we disembarked, singing lustily, on that last day to leap into the freezing sea again. Life moves at an alarming pace and one must remember to stop thinking and simply live it. Looking ahead, as my cancelled flights and messy arrival proved, does nothing - actively just getting out there, talking to someone new, climbing up that mast, does.

As Simon, the razor-tongued First Mate aptly put it on the final day, once we leave, the ship is heartless. It is an - albeit beautiful - bit of floating wood. It is true that the people, as much as the sea, the dolphins and the islands hold fast in my memory as significant parts of my experience. It is Jack, suspended from school, singing to us by the dusky campfire the song he wrote in the Aft Cabin of the Spirit about himself and his regrets, that really made you stop and just listen, frightened even to blink, least you miss something. It is those people (you know who you are) who blew detergent foam in my face and sang musicals, and who somehow made the dishes some of the best bits of the voyage, something my parents wouldn’t believe when I told them.

So if you do get the opportunity to go - and you must go - your voyage, your experience, your people, will all be different from mine. What will be the same is the sense of companionship, of fun and joy. That sense of knowing that now, exactly like a moment ago, is utterly new. Just treasure it.


- Pippi Miller

The Spirit of New Zealand trip is a wonderful experience because unlike many extra curricular trips, you become actively involved in the land and sea on which you travel. When you drive around cities, or even through fields and forests, you only get a small part of the experience of being in that place. When flying up to Auckland the sea is just a patterned blue sheet but when you sail on it, it is something much more vast. On the Spirit of New Zealand I found myself properly experiencing the sea in a way I have never done before. It is just such a difference, looking out at the ocean from our coastal city and sailing in gale force winds across it.

One way we came to experience the sea was our early morning awakening ritual. You have probably heard of how the entire crew must jump into the sea each morning before the day can start. Truly, you cannot appreciate the coldness of our sea down in Dunedin until you have stood, in dread, awaiting jumping into ‘freezing water’ which is actually warmer than the hydro slide pool at Moana Pool. That's right, while the Auckland kids complained, Aidan and I found the winter seas of Auckland warm. Honestly, it was just lovely.

Being at sea for such an extended period also meant that there was a large likelihood of seeing interesting marine life, and we did. We were split into teams and the team I was in was rowing our inflatable dinghy to the shores of the Great Barrier to collect firewood. Unbeknownst to us, the rest of the crew were pointing and getting quite excited as a shark swam around the ship. We only found out about the shark when we got back and to be honest I was a little upset that we missed seeing it. On our trip back from Great Barrier we had our sails set and everyone was chilling in preparation for the enormous and delicious lunch when someone pointed out the dolphins surfing on our bow wave. It was pretty neat to see dolphins so close; they were riding the wave from our bow and they kept rising to the surface to breathe. There were three I think who stayed really close to the ship; others would often approach and one took several magnificent leaps out of the water. It was just incredible.

Our last day on the way into Auckland, we were sailing the ship ourselves. The crew had taught us how to raise and set sails and how to navigate and captain. We were heading into Auckland Harbour when our democratically voted captain decided we would stop and have one last dip in the sea before entering the harbour. We dropped anchor in a small bay and leaped over the rails. When a good half of the trainees were in the water a pod of whales came past. They rolled their backs out of the water as they passed. They were really big and it was just so strange to see them so casually pass. It was a truly singular experience.

You should all go on the Spirit of New Zealand trip. It is an incredible experience and you will learn all sorts of things about yourself as well as about the world which surrounds you. I would say the time spent on the Spirit of New Zealand feels like a different reality; one where you don’t worry about the outside world. Sailing and living on the ocean takes up all your mind and it is really all you need. For ten days you live totally in the moment, experiencing the world and living so fully which makes ten days feel like a lot longer. You should do do it. I promise you it will be great.

- Bruno Willis

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