Thursday, April 1, 2010

My first (and last?) experience sailing

Things have been so busy around here that I haven't been able to tell you the story of the giant storm that came through Wellington a couple of weeks ago. This one was pretty fierce. And I happened to experience it from a little sailboat in the middle of the harbour.

The day started out fine. A few of us from work had been invited to go sailing as part of a corporate event. So we left around noon and found ourselves on deck shortly thereafter. Each boat had it's normal crew (ours had three guys) and a few guests. Above from left are Lisa, Tania and Stacey. The girls and I were given the responsibility of sitting on the side of the boat. Every time we tacked -- turned the boat right or left -- we girls would crawl over to the other side of the boat, carefully staying clear of the boom. It was all very exciting and harmless.

Above is a shot of our captain on the right. There were maybe 20 boats in the event, and I learned they can really lean against the wind.

We had a fun little tour of the harbour and we were making very good time, since the event is something of a race with the other boats. It was quite a rush to see the Interislander ferry pass by us so closely. One of the crew said it was maybe 30 meters away. This is the giant ship that Jake, Jim and Adena and I rode back from the South Island that carries 1,600 people and 600 vehicles. Made us feel pretty small on our little sailboat.

I sure wasn't much help to the crew, but I was still having a great time.

The next boat that came by, about two hours into our trip, was some sort of freight ship. Quite large, but that's not what was concerning me about this view. Take a look at the sky behind it. We'd all known there was a southerly coming, just had no idea it would be anything like this one.

Within just a couple minutes of shooting the photo above, we were hit by a violent storm. Our boat was getting pushed over at extreme angles and bouncing around randomly on the waves. They ushered us girls down below, as the boat was big enough to have a little area below with seating, minimal kitchen area, life jackets and gear. The boats was being tossed around in every direction, and all the stuff down below was flying around and falling off the shelves. We were leaning so much that one of our two little windows was under water.

With the adrenaline pumping, I watched the captain (that's him above) struggling for control and saw the giant waves out our one good window. I'd taken a couple of photos from down below until a couple things occurred to me. Number one, some of our people were scared. Scared in a serious way. And number two, I was getting motion sickness. Ugh.

For the next 30 minutes or so the crew struggled for control of the boat while maneuvering it into a safe part of the harbour -- Kau Bay -- that was protected from the brunt of the southerly winds. Things calmed down while we were there waiting out the weather and the crew came down and made us coffee and tea and listened to the boat's radio. Apparently someone had gone overboard on one of the other boats but had been rescued. Before long, the others started giving me strange looks and asking why I was blue and shivering. I'd been shivering for a while, but except for my uneasy stomach, I was feeling fine and not really that cold.

We heard the radio asking about our health and safety among all the boats that were still out on the water. I think everyone on ours looked up at me, and the captain radioed back that we "had a cold girl." I felt like the biggest wimp ever.

But on the bright side I got to ride back on the small rescue boat with Lisa and Stacey. It was the fastest boat I'd ever been on, we were hitting every wave hard and the three of us were holding on for our lives. But my stomach was already feeling better after leaving the cabin of the sailboat. Back on shore we thanked our rescuers immensely and ran into the yacht club where I immediately jumped into a fabulous hot shower. Got out and put some wonderful dry clothes on, was feeling pretty awesome until Stacey gasped at me -- apparently I was blue. She ran out (into the bar area wearing nothing but a towel -- I owe you a big thanks Stace) to get help, and a couple of lovely ladies came in with water and hot chocolate and lots of medical questions for me.

After lots of compassionate questioning, they decided I was recovering from being cold and sea-sick (although I never threw up -- just for the record). They kept a close eye on me and walked me out to my car when Jake picked me up.

We went home to find some extremely relieved in-laws. Apparently they were watching the sailboats out our apartment window when the storm blew in. They had no idea if I was on one of them, or whether any of the boats had cabins that would give us safe shelter. I hadn't taken my phone. Adena was so sweet to cook dinner that night. I snuggled up in lots of clothes and a blanket and shared the story with the family over spaghetti and meatballs. Wow, it was good to be home.

The storm made big news in the paper, and there's even a video of it on YouTube. Three separate folks in the yacht club who'd been sailing all their lives told me they'd seen storms like that out in the ocean, but never in the harbour. For my first real sailing experience, it was definitely one I'll never forget.


Jamie Stark said...


Juli Ryan said...

Wow! That was a crazy storm that came up very suddenly, even by NZ standards. I can't believe you were out in the harbour in a little sailboat. You are a brave girl.

Dave said...

Well at least you didn't decorate the boat with your lunch. And how did they select the employee's who went on this thing? Maybe the boss is trying to collect insurance on you guys. :)

Phil said...

I guess you're quietly thankful Kansas City is sort of about a thousand miles or more from the sea in any direction. Not much chance of this dramatic event happening back home, or can things get rough weather-wise on the Missouri?

jamie said...

Juli - Thank you, "brave" is a very generous word. :)

Phil - Kansas City gets much hotter and much colder than Wellington, and has its fair share of tornados and big storms, so I usually prefer New Zealand's weather. It's good to know storms like this one aren't that common here.

Corey said...


Yer Mum said...

Oh, Jamie! So glad everything turned out okay. Very awesome pics of your sailing event, and the play-by-play description of your sailing adventure left me breathless! How exciting, glad you had Jake & your other people there to take care of you :D

Curtis said...

Kia Ora!

We moved to Wellington from Overland Park in Jan 2008. A random search turned up your blog. I just wanted to say Hi and "small world!"

We're just going through the paperwork process to stay longer. Our 30 months is due in June.

That storm was incredible! I can't believe you were out in the harbour! I would have passed out.

I'll pop back to check your blog now and then. I have one up on Multiply which has been neglected lately... But I have quite a few NZ stories up there.

Good Luck! It's a beautiful place!

Katherine said...

Just now catching up with your news. Wow. Scary. So thankful everyone is ok. You did a fantastic job reporting this. You should be a war correspondent! In KC, our biggest issue right now is young thugs storming the Plaza. (check the news from last weekend. it was wild.)