Kakapo rocked gently back and forth,
the only yacht in the cove, her bright yellow paint no match
for the rising sun. A light wind rippled over the waters
beyond the shelter of the headland. The air was chilly and
I shivered a little as I pulled on the anchor chain to free
us from our overnight mooring. Piles of chain clanked noisily
onto the deck breaking the magical morning stillness. I
hoped it wouldn't wake the boys sleeping peacefully down
Kirstie appeared from the hatch
wiping sleepy eyes. "Shall I start the motor?" she asked
sensing what needed to be done next. I nodded, "Sure, take
us into the wind and I'll rig the sails." As the motor spluttered
and we left the quiet of the cove, the flapping sails swept
skywards carving graceful arcs as they took their fill of
wind. "OK, put her on a broad reach and cut the motor,"
I called to Kirstie from the bow. She looked up at the wind
direction indicator and froze. "Just pull the tiller towards
you a little," I explained softly, "until the little arrow
is at ninety degrees." "I know, I know," she said as she
figured it out for herself and nosed the boat slowly away
from the wind. Kakapo leaned gently over and accelerated
and Kirstie cut the motor. The silence returned and we were
We sat companionably in the cockpit
eating a breakfast of bananas and dark chocolate, Kirstie
at the helm while I trimmed the sails. It felt good to be
handling the boat together, a real team effort. The keel
hummed happily as we made our way out into the channel.
First Clifford and then Matthew
stir from behind the toilet curtain
"Woof, woof," came
a voice from the cabin. A cheeky grinning face looked out
at us from behind the patterned toilet curtain.
"Good Morning Cameron sweetheart," I called.
"I'm not Cameron, I'm Clifford," he replied, "Woof, woof."
The big red dog disappeared, the curtain twitched again
and another smiling face appeared. Matthew.
"Hello Matthew, did you sleep well?"
He nodded, "Are we sailing Dad?" I nodded back.
"I'm hungry," barked Clifford peeking out again at the chocolate
on the cabin table.
"Me too," said Matthew eyeing it up.
"Well, breakfast is on the table." The boy and the dog crawled
quickly out of bed, and toddled to the table.
"Kakapo is really leaning Dad, it's really funny," said
Matthew laughing as he rolled his banana around the table.
"Woof, woof," said Clifford happily as he munched on the
As the boys devoured their bananas and chocolate, I joined
them down below to give Matthew some juice, fill up Clifford's
water bowl and make some coffee, leaving Kirstie at the
helm to pick a safe course along the channel.
"Oh my god. Quick,
quick," cried Kirstie, "Come up here Stuart. QUICK." I panicked
thinking we must be about to hit a rock at the edge of the
channel. "I just need to turn the gas off. Boys don't touch
the kettle. Put your lifejackets on. I'm coming Kirst."
I shouted back unsure of what to do first.
"It's dolphins… dolphins all around… oh my god," she continued.
The boys beat me up onto deck while I gathered their lifejackets.
Up on deck, the unmistakable splash of dolphins could be
heard all around; some leaping high and fast in and out
of the water, others cruising in synchronised trios, fins
bobbing in and out of the sea in glorious slow motion.
"They're everywhere Stu," said Kirstie as I made it up on
deck. "Just look."
Two boys on the lookout for dolphins....
There were dolphins
near and far, at every point of sailing. A childlike rush
of excitement filled me, the same way it did when we first
saw these extraordinary creatures in the wild way back on
Doubtful Sound. But this time the show was just for us.
There was no-one else around. Just Kakapo, her Captain and
crew. The sun shone, the wind blew, the sails soared, the
dolphins splashed, the kids squealed and Kirstie and I smiled
the biggest smiles you've ever seen.
The dolphins stayed
with us for half an hour or so, until we nearly hit the
rock I thought we were upon earlier.
"We need to tack here everyone," said Captain Kirstie to
Confident Captain Kirstie at
"Ready about?" she asked.
"I'm ready," shouted Matthew from the cabin below.
"Ready," squeaked Cameron in his Clifford voice.
I wrapped a rope around a winch and locked it off in the
"Lee ho," cried Kirstie as she nudged us into the wind.
The sails flapped helplessly for a moment as we passed through
the no go zone, then filled the other side. Kakapo leaned
gently over again and accelerated onto her new course.
"Wasn't that just the most amazing thing?" I said to Kirstie
as the boat settled into its' new rhythm.
She looked at me with a grin, "You know I think I could
grow to love sailing."
Captain and crew at sunset.....
it all went pretty well considering