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Waimairi SLSC Cook Strait Canoe Crossing 9th May 2010

posted May 16, 2010, 3:21 PM by info Waimairi   [ updated May 16, 2010, 3:29 PM ]
The date of Friday 7th of May is now history, as the day 10 intrepid Waimairi adventurers set out on a well researched & planned mission to be the first team to cross the Cook Strait by surf canoe.

The team consisted of Captain Steve Glue, First Mate Greg Bevin & crew of Dave, Don, Caitlin, Chelsea, Lorna, Ian, Wendy & Phil. After travelling from ChCh all arrived in Waikawa (Picton) late afternoon and hit their bunks early in preparation for whatever tomorrow may bring.

More photos of the intrepid adventure can be viewed here

Saturday 8th May
    Up early for breakfast and down to the marina to meet Shirley & Gordon Riach, (Wendys mother & brother) who kindly donated their time & launch “Toanui” (ex Stewart Island fishing vessel) to be our support vessel for today’s trip up the coast of Arapara Island to the head of Tory Channel. This was to be a paddle of approx 25 kms. We were accompanied by seals & dolphins, and also encountered 2 Inter-island ferries which believe me are enormous when seen from sea level. Many thanks go to Shirley for supplying us with HOT savories on this paddle, it was to be the first of many firsts on this trip!  After approx 5 hrs of paddling we arrived at Whekenui Bay, ( our destination for the night. We were privileged to be guests of the Radon family who farm over 900 acres here, our accommodation was to be in “Gunyah House” (look it up on the internet) which was the original homestead of the Parano family who were the last to run the whaling station here until it closed in 1964. For anyone who has ever been here enough said, for those that haven’t it is a must see. Built on the headland facing the entrance to Tory channel it is about 300mtrs up the hill & looks straight out into Cook Straight. We arrived here at approx 3.00pm & after about an hour of Oooohing & Ahhhhing at our good fortune to be staying here, most set off to explore the ruins & history of the whaling station (Don & Phil decided to stay & oooooh & ahhhh some more). That night we invited our hosts Mike & Antonia Radon & our support crew for tomorrow Mike & Donna Baker to join us for dinner. Great night, they enlightened us with the history of the area plus we fine tuned the plan for tomorrows assault on the strait.

Sunday 9th May (crossing day)
    Captain Glue had us up at 5.00am for a 7.00am departure, which we would have achieved easily if certain members of our crew could have organized themselves, needless to say the male members of the crew were all on time!! Still, we managed a 7.11am departure, not bad. The 2 crews headed into the unknown followed by Soundz Image which is a 60ft salvage vessel. Even if we had unlimited finances (which we didn’t) we could not have found a better crew nor vessel for this trip, a very special vessel crewed by very special people who only charged us a fraction of the commercial rate they usually charge, unbelievable. So out into the Cook Straight we went, our track took us out the Tory channel entrance, then up the coast for approx 1 hour then it was hard right & into the Strait.  The weather gods were on our side as we had a calm day with little wind, still we had to deal with a .5 – 1mtr swell & a northerly running current, piece of p… for our now experienced long distance paddlers!
The plan called for a crew change of 2 paddlers every hour & this was achieved by the support vessel heaving to & the canoe paddling up to the stern, crew member jumping off & replacement crew jumping onboard while the other 3 remaining crew tried to lift the level of Cook Strait by approx half a litre each, quite a sight I assure you. After about 3 hrs our GPS tells us we are passing the half way point, a little eerie as due to calm conditions & low cloud we could not see either island so it’s paddle, paddle, paddle. Almost 4 hrs into the paddle Chelsea pipes up all excited (not unusual for Chelsea) to say she had seen a massive water spout up ahead. All eyes trained forward to make out a giant black lump about 1 km ahead. “There she blows” was the call & Steve, Dave, Phil & Chelsea all find renewed energy and paddle their hearts out to catch up with the whale. Not to be though, as after about 2 mins the mother ship spies the whale & our 3 man, 1 woman, paddle power was no match for her 650 hp. Don & Greg had their own very personal whale watching adventure until the whale decided to head for the deep approx 350mtrs below. Finally after 5 _ hrs paddling we hit the beach at Makra on the coast of the North Island. Yeeeehah, high 5’s & hugs all round. Then it was load the canoes on the deck of the mother ship & full speed back to Picton which took us 90mins.! Then it was a case of hot showers all round and party, party, party. Mike & Donna turned up with the gear we had left onboard & joined us for a BBQ dinner, with energy levels starting to flag the party was wound up at 8.30pm & most were in bed by 10.30 (do you believe that.!)

Monday 10th May
    We were allowed to sleep in till 7.00am then up & finish off all the left overs for breakfast, load up trailers & vans and off to ChCh stopping at Kaikoura for lunch, most of the trip was spent recounting the experience of a lifetime and contemplating the meaning of the universe, then back to reality at Waimairi, unload, sort gear and head home to recount the adventure to all & sundry.
    The end of one very successful crossing of Cook Strait. For those that went, an unbelievable, never to be repeated experience and as has been said earlier there were many firsts, a few are listed below, but before that, all the crew would like to acknowledge the following for their support:
  • The club for allowing us to use the gear,
  • Steve Glue & Greg Bevin for organizing such an awesome experience,
  • The Riach family for allowing us to use their vessel for our Saturday support vessel,
  • Mike & Donna Baker for agreeing to be our awesome mother ship for the crossing,
  • The Radon family for their hospitality at Gunyah House.
Trip Firsts:
  •     First official Cook Straight crossing under own power by Waimairi SLSC members.
  •     First Cook Straight crossing by surf canoe.
  •     First club overnight at Gunyah house.
  •     First surf canoe to paddle length of Tory Channel
  •     First surf canoe loaded at sea.
  •     First surf canoe to travel as deck cargo.
  •     First hot savories to be served at sea to canoe crew.
  •     First time canoe crews in bed by 9.00pm
  •     First time for bum blisters for new paddlers.
  •     First & last time Don will drink Tui, this is a good thing as we all found out next day.!!
  •     First time Chelsea, Lorna & Caitlin were up & packed on time (only once)