I’ve been invited on a day out on The Flying Carpet, a two mast catamaran around twelve metres long and owned by a Waihekean called Bernard. It took him seven years to build beginning with the felling of Macrocarpa trees. It’s had a few adventures in it’s time, including sailing to Japan. There are ten of us on the trip, mainly from Rocky Bay, plus the Skipper and his two apprentices. The boys are learning boat-building and having grown up on a local house-boat have the sea in their bones. They are learning their trade by restoring a boat called Kate, which is conveniently located near the houseboats, so not far for them to travel to work. Our donations for the day are contributing to this restoration.
Christine from down the road collects me in a car-share arrange-ment and we make our way to the end of Wharf Road where the Flying Door-mat, a catamaran dingy, collects us from the boat ramp. Unlike your conventional dingy, it’s extremely stable and ideal for those of us who are older and less agile that we used to be. Christine and I are the first aboard as she has nominated herself to be in charge of the Galley, thus earning the title Galley Slave for the day. The first task is to get the kettle on and make coffee and it’s all coming along nicely when there is a mobile phone call from Carola to say she’s just stopping off for takeaway Coffee and Christine can be heard shouting down the phone, ‘There’s Coffee on board.’
The mooring is slipped and I help to raise the mainsails, although the apprentice boys are completely capable, having been well trained by Bernard. We motor out of Putiki Bay with the Te Whau Peninsular on our Port side. We pass the old O’Brian homestead and the part-time Islands cut off only at high tide. We’re heading west, towards Brown’s Island passing Motuihi Island on our Starboard side.
This route, the ferries take in rough weather and high seas rolling in down the Hauraki Gulf. Motuihe Island is, like others, in the process of being re-planted with natives. Motukorea (Browns Island) by contrast has been left in grass. Its small volcano is sexily curvaceous nestled on a large flat area to the West. It makes a lovely sight from the ferry to and from Auckland, so I’m very excited to be landing here.
One of our company, Bruce, is an ex-perienced skipper and volunteers to take the helm. We have to steer outside a marker to avoid the reef surrounding a sub-marine crater. This of course, brings us into Crater Bay and a short ride on the Flying Doormat takes us to the beach armed with togs and towels.
Carola decides to show off and swims ashore and as some of us climb the under-used steps up from the beach, we can hear other bathers telling each other, ‘It’s not too bad,’ with reference to the water temperature.
The two brothers, have scampered up the steps and by the time we get there, they can be seen running up the steep side of the volcano. We feel somewhat demoralised and not a little exhausted by the climb so far and I make regular stops which double as respite and viewing opportunities. From the summit we look down into the now extinct caldera only to see that the boys have gone down there and are now climbing up the other side. There was once a homestead on the island, and we can see the remains on the flat below.
They apparently farmed the place and there is also a story that a governor Brown, for safety, lived here at a time when local Maori tribes were not that friendly. There are great views for miles and the sun has come out to greet us.
Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands are to the North and we can get a clear view of Half-moon Bay and the mouth of the Tamaki River. Christine decides that it’s easier and much more fun to descend the volcano sliding on her bottom. Half-way down we meet Carola, who has abandoned her shoes and is making great progress up the slope on hands and knees.
Back on the beach, it’s my turn to swim. It is indeed ‘not too bad’, but a few degrees colder that Palm Beach a few days ago. In case anyone is thinking that climbing a volcano might take all day, I should point out that the whole expedition, including looking time takes around half an hour, so we are all back aboard for lunch. Part of the deal is, in true Kiwi style to bring food and drink to share, so we have a feast with loads of food left over.
No wine or beer remains so it’s time to make way back to port leaving Motuihe to our Starboard side, motoring past Matiatia, Blackpool, Surfdale, rounding Kennedy Point to home. The left over food is given to the boys and the empty bottles taken ashore to the recycling bin by the boat ramp. A great day out for everyone, with a wish list of future trips including Tritri Matangi and Great