Putiki Bay at dawn today

I Love The Sea

A small boat called Swirly World sailed past the bottom of my back garden yesterday morning. It took me a few moments to be sure, but once I’d recognised her bright orange colouring and diminutive 5.4m (17 foot) length I jumped up and shouted at the top of my voice “Ahoy, Swirly World” and then ran inside to fetch the brass ship’s bell I keep mounted on a wooden pedestal in my livingroom. Yes, really, I love the sea! Back outside, I rang out a few loud peals and waved with all my might as she disappeared around the corner and out of sight from Putiki Bay and into the straight beyond. I was too late to get a photo, and don’t even know if she heard me.

My excitement stemmed from having read Swirly World Sails South by Andrew Fagan, owner and skipper of that amazing little boat. He is a man who clearly loves the sea too. He has single-handedly sailed Swirly World around New Zealand and out to some of her sub-antarctic islands, and here he was idling by as I sat outside having breakfast on a sunny summer’s morning. I felt like a small moment of oceanic history had presented itself to me to appreciate up close, and I was grateful for the experience.

It got me thinking too of all of the many rich experiences of the sea that have presented themselves to me over the years, in the bay outside my window and further afield.

Closest to home, the island I live on (Waiheke Island) is supplied by a ferry service that never stops running, 365 days a year. Pretty much everything we consume here arrives by car ferry — fuel, food, newspapers, everything — as do many of the visitors and commuters coming and going each day. Everything we produce — wine, gourmet food, and all of our waste — leaves that way too. The ferries are our lifeline. They load and unload in Putiki Bay from early each morning to late each evening, at a jetty surrounded by the moorings of hundreds of pleasure boats of all shapes and sizes.

Those boats have their own stories to tell, from social day trips fishing and coastguard rescues to heroic circumnavigations — of Waiheke Island, New Zealand or in some cases the entire world — that started or finished here. There is rarely a quiet day for traffic on the bay.

Nighttimes too, bring endless variety on the water. On still nights with a full moon blazing over the blackened water the bay appears like an obsidian mirror, calm, reflecting, profoundly still. On other nights, angry thunderstorms lit by energetic lightning displays pass by only a few miles away while most often we bay residents get to watch from the sidelines, untouched by the brunt of the storms.

All of this and more is the starting inspiration for my Medium collection Some Shipping News — writing about the sea and the people and boats that sail on her. It has started just outside of my window but who knows where this adventure will end? What other writers will join in and contribute, what tales of ocean crossings or marine life conservation might end up being written about here? Feel free to follow, share and come along for the journey. Welcome aboard.

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