We’re back!!!

Hey Folks!

I’m terribly sorry this hasn’t happened sooner but I’ve not been able to access the net from the boat to post it. I didn’t realise either that so many people were reading it – I thought only my Mum :-).

The post below takes over just after the Ady Gil was rammed and the crew had climbed onto the Bob Barker and set off in in persuit of the fleet again.

Kerguelen Island

With the crew of the Ady Gil ensconced on the Bob Barker after being fished out of the Southern Ocean, some of the crew was not only surplus to requirements but a couple of the lads had commitments back in New Zealand they had to honour. A plan was made to get them back and it sounds like there was a bit of a scene caused onboard. The rumour mill was churning and we heard all kinds of delightful versions of the truth through the grapevine. As is usually the case the truth tends to be a bit bland once it comes out. The crew had to be returned to shore, so it was decided that we would meet at Kerguelen Island, which is a little blob of rock pretty much in the lower middle India Ocean.  We arrived first and were only there a day when, in an eerie introduction to all aboard the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker came silently out of the fog and pulled alongside. We had a number of supplies they needed including lube oil for their engines and food for the crew. This was all transferred along with a few of the crew that needed to get back to their other lives. The Bob had had the Shonan Maru tailing them after they left the site of the ramming. The Japanese boat was forced to stop at the edge of the French territorial waters, as they’re not welcome anywhere besides Japan it would seem. This also gave us the chance to give them the slip. We left the island after some of the more privileged and “superior” crew members had a nose around on land. We mere mortals had to be content with watching the Elephant seals fighting on shore in the distance and with a couple of penguins swimming past. Yep, it must be nice for some. It’s the only time on the trip that I can honestly say I’ve been pissed off. It wouldn’t have taken much to get us all ashore.

The whaling fleet had now headed far west, more so than they ever had and we presume that they had the bulk of their whaling season during this time. They had gone to the very furthest extent of the approved “research“ area. We slid out of the Kerguelen and headed back towards Fremantle to resupply, do the crew exchange and have a bearing in the gearbox of the helicopter repaired.

After leaving Fremantle the third leg of the trip turned out to be the best one. We weren’t out of port long when we heard that the Bob Barker had a fix on the whaling fleet and were making their way towards it after a fairly leisurely stop at Kerguelen Island. They had lost their tail as they sneaked out of Kerguelen. In due course the reports came though that they had located the fleet and were hot on their tails. They soon caught up and in the initial confrontation the two Yushin Maru’s and the Shonan Maru got all heated and were trying to intimidate the Bob by doing close passes and spraying them with a bit of water etc. The Yushin Maru 3 pulled alongside the Bob at really close quarters and as she turned out her stern caught the stern of the Bob Barker cutting a meter long gash in her side, fortunately above the waterline. Also fortunately the load of the impact was transferred to the superstructure by a ladder inside the hull or it sounds like the damage may have been more significant. The Bob fell back and the Japanese whalers made a great scene in the press about the Bob Barker ramming them. Outrage! What a bunch of muppets. The Bob sat on their tail till we could catch up and give them some support. That took about five days as we were fairly far away.

Once we caught up we went in and gave them a bit of a rev with the water canon and sat on their tails until a bit of good weather came along.

We did have a good day and Pete got out on the Delta and fired some smellies onto the deck of the Nisshin and the Shonan and put the first paint on the “RESEARCH” signs.

Nice paint job...

Dropping Pete off on the Shonan Maru

Given the fact that the Ady Gil had now been rammed and sunk we were at a loss for a medium size, more manoeuvrable vessel to get up close with the large vessels of the whaling fleet and our battle plan was seriously compromised. The Ady Gil would have allowed us almost immediate close quarters confrontation capability with any of the whalers without the need to slow down or stop to launch a delta or a jetski, as is the case with the Steve Irwin or Bob Barker.  Prop fouling would have been a matter of pulling up in front of them & deploying the fouler from the back deck.  Pete& myself were the only 2 left of the crew from the original six. We were stuck on the Steve Irwin now and with the hierarchy on the big ship being of a different philosophy than on the Ady Gil, our hands were tied to so me extent.  All of our plans and strategies had to be rethought.

We had previously tossed an idea around, more in jest than anything else, of boarding one of the harpoon vessels and grabbing one of the crew, tossing him overboard and making a citizens arrest for poaching once we had him safely on board our boat.  It would never have happened in that format but it planted a seed for what actually happened.

Pete was understandably upset that the Ady Gil was no more and decided he wanted to board the Shonan Maru and arrest the Captain. After all he was, arguably, responsible for (amongst other things) six counts of attempted murder. If you had done the same thing with two cars in the car park of your local supermarket you could bet your hat that you’d be sent straight to jail without collecting $200 and that attempted murder wouldn’t be the only charge you’d be facing. Why should it be any different because we’re in the Southern Ocean thousands of miles from civilisation? Given that the Southern Ocean is an incredibly inhospitable place and a trifle more dangerous than the car park of Woolworths, I’d say he was even more culpable.

The Shonan Maru #2 doing some "intimidation".

Obviously the chances of getting the Captain to leave his vessel, come passively over to ours and be taken back to Australia or New Zealand as a “war prize” to face his fate was practically nil.  The probability was that Pete was going to be arrested and taken either to an Australian vessel, like Potsy and Giles had been previously, or to Japan for trial for whatever charges they could conjure up.  Pete was prepared for this and went into it quite happy to face whatever came of it. The idea was to get as much exposure, especially in Japan, as we could get. It transpires that the press in Japan is dominated by the state and is quite the propaganda machine. With the ICR being semi government – or at least state funded – and having big business behind them, the press is wholly on the side of the whalers and Sea Shepherd are portrayed as terrorists, comparable to El Kaida with fully trained operatives and all. Nothing could be further from the truth really, but the Japanese public (and surprisingly – some intelligent westerners) lap it up and honestly believe that we are a serious threat to their national security and culture.  If Pete can have a public trial it would bring the whole issue into the media spotlight and we would have a platform from which to present a case against whaling in their back yard.

And so the plan was formulated. What remained of the whaling fleet was following us as we trailed the Nisshin Maru. With the two harpoon vessels out of the picture having turned off and gone south to wait, the Shonan Maru was trailing about a mile behind us some distance off to our port, on a course running parallel to ours. After some serious scrutiny of images we had of the target, it was decided he would board her at a point where one of the fenders rested on top of a sort of protective ladder on the port side. By coincidence the anti-boarding spikes that were about two meters apart around the rest of the vessel were further apart on that section of the rail and the only problem once Pete had his feet on the rail of the boat would be the protective net that they drape around the whole vessel to stop projectiles from landing on the deck.  The chances of pulling it off in daylight hours were slim as they have at least 4 watchmen (sometimes 7) permanently posted and they also had their new “secret weapon” – the pepper spray launchers. If we came within 100 meters of them or even showed any intention of doing so they would be out with their new face masks and protective suits patrolling the deck. Quite comically, on the first Delta strike that Pete & the lads did with the spud gun to put a few smellies and some paint on their decks, they were quick to their posts and, obviously never having used the equipment before, they fired a vile stream of pepper spray as the inflatable came within shot. The aerial footage shows the two operators having a go with their handpieces, shooting straight into the net I mentioned earlier. It predictably sprays back in their faces and they’re seen to be coughing and spluttering and rapidly heading upwind wiping their faces and tearing masks off. So much for the trained Security personnel then…. The ICR website and press release the next day expresses outrage at the “Eco terrorists” having fired butyric acid at the crew and “burning” three men. That footage was put on U-tube to set the record straight. It makes me wonder who was lying, the crew to the bosses, the bosses to the public relations department, or the PR department to the world.  I know where I’d put my money.

Shonan Maru #2 in full battle cry.....

The anti-boarding spikes as seen above here in yellow, precluded the use of the Delta as they would probably be moving at about 15 knots in an unpredictable swell and the differential vertical movement between the two vessels would mean a good chance of puncturing one of the pontoons and maybe a drivers’ head at that. The jetski was the obvious choice as it only left the latter option. It was small, maneuverable, and incredibly quick. With 265 horsepower in a wetbike that weighed just over 450kg’s it was a little dragster, without question the fastest craft I’ve ever ridden on the water. We would launch an hour before sunrise to allow for the light to be improving in case anything went wrong. They would be at their most vulnerable at that time with the watch crew fatigued and everyone else in a deep sleep. Hopefully. So there we had it – a plan.

After a few days of preparation we identified a weather window in which we thought we may be able to do it. This far south the weather is barely predictable and quite changeable. Low temperatures and storms coming straight off the Antarctic landmass make for harsh conditions. The water is normally below freezing and even in mid summer there are regular snowstorms. This wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Pete and I were sharing a room and neither of us slept more than a couple of hours that night. He was fidgeting, packing his stuff and “cleaning up” and I was up and down getting stuff together and prepared, testing gear and making sure we had all the bits together. We arose at about 4 am and got everything ready. Undergarments beneath the tactical dry suits, suiting up, double checking, headgear including a helmet-cam for myself (that came adrift ten seconds into the mission), lights for locating in case someone fell off the jetski, flares for location of the jetski in the dark, night vision for being able to see in the ink black, locator collars as worn by pig hunting dogs for locating lost persons by GPS in fog or bad visibility, commercial maritime locator / rescue beacons in the front compartment of the jetski and radios for communication with the Steve Irwin,  a satellite phone in case we became separated from the fleet, drinking water, energy bars, fresh underpants. Condoms…naaah.

At 04h45 we were on deck and mounted the jetski, getting set up and stowed, at 05h00 we went into the water. I have neglected to mention before that we had one extra piece of luggage. A cameraman from Animal Planet was to be strapped to the back of the jetski. Joe was kitted up and ready to go. The plan was that we would see if the craft was stable enough to operate in the conditions with him on the back and if not we would drop him off back on the Steve Irwin before we set off. We couldn’t practice before the time as any stopping, changes in speed or direction of either of our ships was met with the greatest suspicion from the Shonan Maru. We had to get across nearly half a mile of water before they caught up with us so timing was critical. A moment before we were lowered down into the water I was handed the sat phone. I put it into the footwell of the jetski and clamped it there with my leg. As we hit the water and the hook released from the crane we leaned over at a jaunty angle to our starboard side. The Steve Irwin stared moving off and we realized that it was too late to drop Joe off. The conditions weren’t that bad and I judged that we would probably make it. So we set off. Once out of the navigation lights of the ship it was pitch black. I had chosen not to wear the night vision scope as it was not possible to get the headstrap firm enough to stop the scope swaying around, and I knew if I used my peripheral vision it would be enough to see what I needed. There was about a meter of swell as we made our way across. A breeze had sprung up and brought a slight chop top the surface of the water, so when we got up a bit of speed in the trough of the swell and crested a wave we would fly over the other side if I didn’t tap off. The water was below freezing and the spray in my face was like a handful of sand or gravel being blown hard onto my exposed skin, stinging like hell until the numbness took over. At the same time I had to keep enough speed on to make it across the gap to the path of the target. I was busy concentrating on negotiating the waves and when I looked up everything had changed. The Shonan Maru, after seeing the Steve Irwin stop, had taken a hard turn to port and was barreling away from us. That meant we had to make a bit more speed and get into its wake as we would never maintain pace and catch up with the ship if we travelled parallel to it in these conditions. A quick pause to get my bearings, with only the navigation lights of the Steve Irwin and the Shonan Maru in sight and I hear Pete saying, “Here mate, my night visions given up. Take it!” I put it over my arm and put on a burst of speed and soon, half flying, half floating we hit the wake of the boat.  I listened to the Animal Planet sound recording after the event and you can hear Pete saying “Whoa, there’s a bloody big wave coming here” or words to that effect. I tapped off & we crested that easily, getting into the wake now and pushing hard to get alongside. Hearing anything over the thudding of the hull, the roar of the engine, the whine of the jet, the whistling wind and the splashing was made impossible by the  9mm hoodie over my ears. This and the numbness of my face made it seem like I was in some kind of a capsule.

Yep, it’s cold down there…

The smoother water within the wake meant the going was a bit easier with only the swell to contend with and not the chop. We must have got up to about 35 to 40 knots in the pitch black, only the stern light of the Shonan Maru visible to guide us. We drew up just astern of the ship and I turned to Pete. “All go?”…… “Yep! Let’s do it!”

A slight turn to my port and a good burn on the throttle brought us up parallel with the side of the ship, the grey blue paint glowing faintly offering a shady shape off to my right. I judged the anti-boarding spikes in what little light I could see from the stern light and made a swerve into the gap. We’d seen the security vessel from about 50 to 70 meters away during skirmishes over the past few days but it had never looked quite this big. It was huge compared to the jetski. As the waves passed down the side of the ship there was a variation of about 2 meters on the water line. These harpoon vessels had a very wet deck. I drew alongside and as we got about half a meter away I felt Pete get up and stabilize himself, then launch himself onto the rail as the ship rose and we fell. As soon as I felt the weight go off I turned out and while concentrating on the waves and my proximity to the ship’s side I saw a shadow fall into the water out of the edge of my vision. Half a second later I heard Joe scream, “Pete’s off, he’s fallen!”. I brought the wetbike around hard and not 40 or 50 meters away saw the silhouette of Pete’s head in the wash of the ship. I roared up to him and shouted to Joe to try and grab him. They latched hands first time and seconds later after trying to keep the bike as stable as I could I heard Pete’s voice over my shoulder. Quite what he was saying I couldn’t make out. I opened her up again. “Whoa whoa!! Wait, Joe’s getting sorted!”. He must have been bellowing as I heard that bit. Mumbling follows. I try again. “Wait up mate, Joe’s getting himself stable!” ….A pause and then “OK, let’s go!”. I open it up and in what feels like no time we’re flying up next to the ship again, the hull of the ski slapping the water loudly as we land from the jumps between waves. I hear Pete shout that he wants to go aboard further to the stern, where the light is. I reckon that would be a problem as not only would it blind him and the camera, but the spikes are closer together there and it’s heaving up and down. There’s a lot more vertical movement at that point than amidships. I position us for the original gap again and swing it in. As we draw near the hull a wave comes across from the outside and slaps us like a leaf in the breeze into the side of the ship. A loud bang and the jetski shudders, topples radically and for a moment I think we’re all going in. That wouldn’t be a good scenario as if one of us happened to get dragged in under the hull amongst the propellers it would be… well….messy. I pour on the horses and it pulls out of the slide but we’re now just ahead of the stern of the ship and the anti-boarding spikes are there, dangling above our heads. I tap off and swerve out, get alongside once again and shoot up to the sweet spot. I pull in. We get about 6 inches from the ship and suddenly, unbelievably, the rail of the boat is at our hip height for a few seconds as we ride over a big swell. Pete steps onto it like it was a rowing boat next to the lake jetty. He’s positioned with his feet both on the rail and his left hand holding the ladder, his right hand grasping for the knife he’ll use to cut through the net. The next wave comes and the jetski rears. I’m watching Pete and it bucks up into my face, the padded cross member of the handlebars hitting me just softly in the face. Lucky. Dropping back a little I look for Pete again and he’s already disappeared in the gloom. I speed up again and in a flash I see the vertical waving of his signal light. He’s on! Result!

I stop, and check how Joe is doing. He’s good. I take my gloves off as my fingers are dead with the cold and not functioning well enough to haul out the radio to contact the Steve Irwin. “Steve Irwin, this is Larry, Pete Bethune is safely aboard the Shonan Maru over”. A surprised sounding Locky says “Well done! Where are you now?”. I give him an estimated position in relation to the Shonan Maru’s current one. “You’ll have to come back and fetch us Locky, we’ll never be able to catch you in this”. I’ve suddenly realized that the wind has picked up to about 15 or 20 knots and now that we’re out of the lee of the ship it’s getting really choppy.

I turn to Joe. “How was that?” He’s as excited as I am, but ever the professional, he gives me an impromptu interview his infra red camera held out at arms length framing my face. We wait for what seems an age but was in reality about ten minutes. The navigation lights of the Steve Irwin approach, but quite a way ahead of us. I radio Locky to guide him in and rip the handheld flares off the shoulder of my life jacket. I ignite one and the ship alters course and steers towards us. It burns out and I light another one. In moments the ship is only 100 meters away and we make our way across to it. Joe catches the cable from the crane and attaches us to the big boat. Next thing we’re up in the air and then alongside the bulwarks against the fender. Joe jumps off over the rail and I follow him shortly afterwards, my legs are like jelly from all the adrenaline and I, very suavely, crash down onto the deck in a heap. I stand up and get interviewed again. There’s a sense of disbelief on board, everyone is totally stoked and the feeling of elation spreads as I tell the story. It takes a couple of hours for everyone to acknowledge the fact that we had one less crew member on board now. People missed him. That says something about the bloke.

Pete is on his way to Japan. Mission successful. I hit the showers and have a cup of coffee. It’s impossible to sleep for the rest of the day as I’m still surfing an adrenaline wave. There are phone calls coming in thick from all around the world, the press are jumping on it like locusts. Paul Watson handles them like a true master. One has to give credit where it’s due and he’s got them feeding out of his hand.  The world is hungry for this. Later between phone calls he says to me “You know, I didn’t think it was possible”. Coming from him I took that as a major compliment. He’s a man who’s quite scant with his praise and that’s as good as I’ve heard from him.

Not long before sunrise Chris takes off in the chopper with a Jamey, one of the AP cameramen. They fly across to the whaler and Pete, having hidden under a propaganda banner on deck for 95 minutes without being discovered casually steps into frame and makes his way to the bridge and knocks on the door. He must have been freezing his bollocks off after falling in the water and then being exposed to the icy cold for that long. In what has already become a classic piece of U-tube footage and was watched on news channels around the globe, the bewildered watch officer comes out and shoo’s Pete away.  He clearly doesn’t need this in his life. He wonders over to the bridge wing and peers over the side. “Where the f**k did he come from?!” is written in capital letters across his face. Just those few seconds of footage has made this whole journey worthwhile for me.  How they didn’t know he was on board is quite beyond me.

Quite what was going to happen to Pete was another question. The Japanese were caught totally off guard. Their press release later that day said as much. It was four days before they had decided that he would “probably” be taken back to Japan. The ICR’s bungling New Zealand public relations man, Glenn Inwood, describes Sea Shepherd crew as “cockroaches”. At least these cockroaches have still got their souls. His has been sold for a few measly dollars. How does he look his kids / grandkids in the eye? Perhaps he doesn’t have any – he doesn’t seem to have any testicles.

The New Zealand government gives stock answers. Murray McCullay, the Japanese trade envoy to New Zealand and part time foreign minister says we should exercise restraint. He says we were silly to take the chances we had. “ You would only last twelve minutes in that water if you had to fall in”. Thanks Murray. Perhaps if you had done your job instead of kissing the Japanese Government’s arse we wouldn’t have had to do something about it ourselves Murray. Perhaps if you hadn’t dodged an appointment with Pete that we tried to set up for this particular reason you would have been better informed Murray. Perhaps it would have been more expedient to discuss the situation with Pete than to set the Maritime NZ lads on us to look for an excuse for withdrawing the New Zealand flag from the boat. If you stand back and take a look, the planet is in the deepest crisis in geological history and the leadership that we, globally, have put in place to manage it is debatably the weakest it has ever been. I’m quite concerned about that.  To be fair he probably didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the issue. He had to work out how much was left on his housing allowance, foreign travel allowance, expense accounts etc.

Peter Garret, the once militant enviro-crooner that has become the Australian Minister for the Environment was just as bad. He sat on a wall / fence of government rhetoric. He’s just had a major demotion as a result of mismanagement of another shocking political issue. That one involved endangering human lives so it was different. More important. Humpty Dumpty. Perhaps he had other important stuff to think about too, like selling his countries remaining energy resources to China. Their natural gas reserves that is, not the Midnight Oil ones, though I’m sure they’d be for sale too.

I caught up with Joe the cameraman a couple of days after the trip on the jetski. I asked him how it was for him, being strapped to the back of the thing half submerged in freezing water blasting along at 40 knots through the darkness. He told me he had found God. None of his footage was of any use at all as it was just sky, water sky, water….. Joe’s a good bloke. He worked on an Alaskan fishing trawler for 7 years. That hardens you up a bit.

Delta attacks

Now that the Bethunator was on the Shonan Maru, kicking his heels, eating whale offal with rice and drinking Japanese tea, we needed to continue our campaign against the whaling fleet. I, blinking and shielding my eyes from the bright light, was allowed out of the depths of the engine room. The spud gun was overhauled and bottles of butyric acid filled. Whatever paint we had left was bottled too. You can imagine how much work it was emptying all those beer bottles.  Nickleback – the popular band had, in support of our cause, donated some T-shirt launchers that they had used at one of their concerts to hand out freebies to the crowd. They can shoot a rolled up T-shirt about 150 meters and are the right diameter for a wine bottle, which they shoot a fair distance.  They use a small compressed CO2 cylinder to power them – much along the same principal as the spud gun.

My gosh! How dapper!

A couple of days after the drop off, we had a really nice day and the Delta was readied for an attack.  We took 36 bottles of paint and butyric acid and the spud gun and left on the first mission. Chad, an American person, was at the wheel and Leon, a keen young Aussie lad was his right hand man. There was the omnipresent Animal Planet cameraman filming it all and myself on the launcher. It has to be said that the black tactical dry suits that we got for the Ady Gil look a bit more intimidating than the bright orange Mustang suits worn by the Steve Irwin crew. The photos show me on the back looking like some sort of gunslinger operating the shooting gear.

Chad is a really good boat operator with good judgement and an instinctive feeling for the movement of the bigger ship and its water canons. He took us up to the tail of the Nisshin Maru hanging back just out of reach of the water canons. I readied and loaded the spudgun, give Chad a nod and he shoots forward toward the large “RESEARCH” sign on the side of the ship. Research my arse. As we draw alongside I fire a bottle of paint at the banner saying “Animal Planet Supports Environmental Terrorism”. I get a direct hit but the bottle sails right through the cloth, smashing on the superstructure somewhere behind it.  I load again and Chad has got us up between the water spouts and I baste the research sign with my first bottle. There are already a few splotches on the writing from where Pete had had a go a few days before. That wasn’t enough. Getting your eye in with the spud gun takes a few shots and although I had been told only to shoot below the black of the side of the ship some of the shots fly high. One of them crashes into the very top of the bridge, narrowly missing the ships expensive communications dome. Some others leave splotches near portholes and on the superstructure, but most of the paint is left surrounding and covering the writing, port and starboard. We fall back again and Chad shouts “Slipway?”. I nod my head and load some butyric acid. He draws up close, dummies the controllers on the water canons and gets me right up under the murderous tunnel up which the dead whales are dragged for “analysis”. I fire a shot and it flies low, hitting the slipway. We fall, back, I reload and he does it again. This time the bottle flies up cleanly and gets a direct hit on the flensing deck, spraying everywhere. Travelling directly behind the ship shortly afterward, we get a waft of the smell, absolutely putrid. It’s a mixture between a Vindaloo beer fart, vomit and unwashed body. And some. The crew on these vessels must absolutely hate the smell of that stuff. As we dance amongst the huge jets of water I loose off bottle after bottle and 95% of them get within a meter or two of their target, only about 6 missing altogether. The art of placing the Delta lies in anticipating where the water jets will travel. Operated remotely from hidden little cubicles somewhere, they move fairly cumbersomely but would be devastating if they caught the inflatable. They also have the disadvantage of having to start up the jets on the port and starboard independently as the pumps don’t have the capacity to run both sides simultaneously. Chad dodges, swerves and weaves nimbly in between them. He’s a master. We get a small burst from one at one stage but it was negligible as the jet was at its furthest reach.

Before I know it, my rounds are finished. We return to the Steve Irwin elated and riding that adrenaline wave that becomes so addictive. This is just like being in the military but without the more certain odds of getting your arse shot off. Once on deck we discuss the attack and decide that we can do better. We agree that we’ll adjourn, have a leisurely dinner and do a second mission afterwards, weather permitting.

Bob Barker and Nisshin Maru in the ice...

Everything is prepared after dinner and the T-shirt launchers are loaded too this time. We reckon on using them for firing bags of an organic powder that when wetted forms a resilient slime that coats everything proves very difficult to remove. These are destined for the aft deck where the flensing takes place. There are nets suspended over the back deck though, so we plan on trying to land the paper bags on top of these in the hope that the whalers will not be able to get to them and will try and wash them down with a hose, wetting the paper and releasing the slime to drop onto the decks.

We gear up again and launch the Delta. This time we have Simeon the Steady Hand, the cameraman that was on the Ady Gil at the time of the ramming. He’s quite a lad. Chad takes us to the stern of the Nisshin, Leon this time has a T-shirt launcher with which to wreak some havoc of his own. We load & lock with powder and Chad makes his move. He gets alongside the starboard aft Nisshin Maru nametag and Leon & I fire. Mine sails up and hits the gantry above the flensing deck. Leon’s launcher fires a half-baked shot. The O-ring on the pressurised cylinder has blown out. His gun is useless. We weave in and out and I place a couple more shots with mine but the small cylinder quickly runs out and the shots fall lower and lower and then fall short. So it’s back onto the big guns and I ready the spud gun once more. We had another 27 bottles of butyric and 18 bottles of paint. This time my score is higher. We place butyric acid all over the place. On the walkway to the watch house above the slipway I manage to land three bottles and also a couple on the hangar wall that overhangs the flensing deck. All in all, I’d judge that the flensing deck wouldn’t be a very pleasant place to hang out for the next few days. We make our way forwards and weaving in and out, plaster the “RESEARCH” signs with some more blood. The forward Nisshin Maru nametags get some love this time too. We get right to the front and as planned, Chad sits the Delta about 30 meters in front of the towering bulk of the bow of the ship.  I fire bottles of butyric acid onto the forward deck and, aiming really high at the huge spotlights on the gantry above the forward deck I hit the frame a meter either side of the lights. The rancid liquid sprays down, covering everything on the deck in a fine spray. The inlets for the ventilation for the factory space and the accommodation all draw air from this area so the inside of the ship will be olfactory hell for the next couple of weeks. Shortly after this event we travelled into some seriously harsh & stormy weather conditions and quite often my thoughts were with the crew. We had a couple of wine bottles full of paint left that could no longer be fired by the T-shirt launchers so a quick plan was made that we pull up hard alongside and Leon could hand throw these while I fired up onto the deck with smellies. Chad had us in under the water canons in no time and I fired at a ventilation inlet we had identified from close inspection of the digital pictures we had of the starboard side. Direct hit! Suddenly we were out of ammunition again. We return to the Steve Irwin and take a good shower, a job well done. This feels so right it can’t be wrong!

As it happens we were right to have taken the second trip that day as it was the last weather window we had on the whole trip. It turned pretty foul the very next day and stayed that way till we turned around.

With the whalers season drawing to a close and the supplies dwindling on the ships, we turned around and headed home. The return trip seemed to take forever but the welcome we got back from the public in Hobart was well worth the wait. I wish I could say the same for the welcome we got from the government but that’s another story. It would appear that the opinion of the Japanese government is more important than that of the everyday Australian as we were detained on arrival for the purposes of  executing a search warrant for some kind of a spud gun. I knew nothing about it…

The whole campaign has been a total revelation for me. I have come into contact with so many good, caring, generous and selfless people during the course of the last six months that I  feel quite refreshed. If you are even slightly environmentally aware in some places you can be looked at as a bit of a wierdo – an outsider of sorts – as everyone rushes forward in their consumerist trance as the death cries of Mother Earth are drowned out by the Eastenders theme tune. But there are thousands of us and I venture to say millions of us that actually care – enough of us to make a huge difference. We need to start organising on a scale that we never have before as we all know that planet Earth is in crisis. Now is the time we need to do something. The passion I’ve encountered in people has been inspiring and has filled me with admiration.  People have opened their hearts, their homes and their lives to us and the generosity has been humbling. I am so so proud to have been part of this effort and have vowed to continue with what I now see as my calling. I’ll be continuing with the Steve Irwin for at least another 6 months and will see what direction my life is taking at that point. I’d love to do another campaign to the Southern Ocean. Watch this space……

Whale breech - humpback
Commersons dolphins on our entry to Kerguelen Island

Week 12

Ok Folks.

Just a brief blog post before we depart tomorrow.

All’s going well here and we have most of the stuff on the boat under control. We still have the heating system arriving today which will have to be fitted and I’m busy fitting bilge pumps to the sponsons (outriggers) as one took on a bit of water on the way over, but other than that it’s refuelling and getting on all the provisions. The visit by the Dalai Lama is still on the cards but we’ve not had an official response from his people. They say they may be able to get him to pop past and bid us farewell from the shore or something. We’ll see how that turns out.


Otherwise Hobart has been a blast. Everyone on the crew has enjoyed it and the people have been fantastic. There is a very wide section of the population here that’s not into the consumerism and materialism that we all seem to have embraced with such relish, the same that will probably be recognised by future generations as our civilisations’ downfall. That’s if there’s a hospitable planet left to support anyone of course.

Tasmanian coast

I’m losing weight with being more physical and on the Vegan diet when on the boat. I’ve lost 11 kilos already and am all the better for it. I was getting a little portly it may be said. I’m feeling a whole lot more physical and am generally pretty happy with things. The Vegan diet isn’t so bad, I kind of thought of it as a compromised hunger strike before but it’s not as bad as I thought.

We went for a dive yesterday to test out all the kit and to do a training exercise with all the new crew members. The only crew member not here is Jeff. He’s stepping on board as the ship pulls off the pier it would seem. I hope he remembers everything he needs as there’s no turning back. The dive was good, lots of soft corals I haven’t seen before and the toys worked with a couple of exceptions. There’ll be another testing session tonight.

We had an open day planned for Saturday but the Port authority, in their great wisdom, closed us down because it was deemed that Health & Safety was more important than people’s curiosity and education. But despite them we had a good day for fund raising and there was an excellent turnout, with people turning up in a constant stream to look and buy T shirts and stuff. There was even a local folk band that came down and played us a couple of their tunes.

Folk bandSerenade

Tasports are the only people here who haven’t been totally supportive & friendly. Their security guard caught me standing with the marina gate open the other evening and bawled out that I “ Shut it! Now! I don’t have time to &^%$ around”. Obviously a very busy security guard & quite reminiscent of the Gestapo in some ways. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a little decency, but she obviously didn’t know that.

Anyway, I’ll try and get the blog up to date as often as I can once we’re at sea, the satellite comms system is quite expensive to run so it’ll be once a week if that’s possible.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and an excellent New Year in case I don’t manage to catch up before then. We’re prepared and chomping at the bit to get down there and kick Japanese ass so don’t be overly concerned about us, we’re having fun.

Catch up soon.


Week 9 & 10 (possibly….?)

Hi Folks

Take a look at the picture below and ask yourself what the men on the Navy boat could all be so interested in….could it just be the interesting boat going past them? Below that picture is the answer….

Go Navy

Nope, it’s the very obliging ladies from the Mermaid bar in Auckland.


Mermaid girls

(Other picture deleted in anticipation of complaints from the less broadminded……)

They came out for a jaunt on Auckland harbour when we tested the jetski ramp for the first time. We happened to go past a Navy boat on the way back into the marina and having been at sea for who knows how long the Navy boys appreciated a bit of a flash. I’m assuming the admiralty had been at sea for a while and I felt compassion for Roger, the ships poor cabin boy that night. The ladies had a seriously good time despite the inclement weather, I haven’t seen a group of people with such a “don’t give a damn“ attitude for a while and our jaws were aching from laughter the whole afternoon and night. We all joined them later down at their place of employ and had a bloody hoot of an evening, with straight laced old Gemma Thornton getting her kit off for the first time in public and doing three songs on the pole for us. That took more than a little courage and she did it pretty well too. Bloody good on her.

We also met up with some really cool people on a boat called Takapu in the Viaduct marina and it’s fair to say that Pete pulled….Yes there was a gay bloke onboard called Michael that took a real shine to him. “He’s ssssuch a sssssexy mannnn”. We had a send off party with them a couple of nights before we left Auckland. Bill, Mandy and Mike put on a magnificent meal and we had a thoroughly good evening with loads of wine and good laughs. Had the best smoked salmon I think I’ve ever had. Life is good…..

The jetski ramp works very well incidentally. We can easily get the jetski onto the boat while moving along at 5 knots which is good for the tactics we have in mind for it.


We left New Zealand on the 25th and after a bit of a rough trip across the Tasman are now in Hobart. The new owner of the boat, Ady Gil came along on the trip and handled it very well overall. We were going straight into a moderate south westerly once we’d gone around the northern tip of the island and the swell was rolling in at about 2 to 3 metres for a couple of days when it changed and we had a clear calm day about halfway across. We stopped and had a swim in the middle of the Tasman in about 5 kilometers depth of water. The second part of the trip was a bit more harrowing with an easterly blowing up to 30 knots at times from our stern. The boat handles the following sea well and at times we were surfing down the face of 4 to 5 metre swells at up to 23 knots. The normal cruising speed is 15 knots – that’s where the boat’s happiest and most efficient although as we currently have her configured she can do just shy of 30 knots.

The Jap whalers are already whaling down there according to some sources and the plan has now changed that we leave Hobart on Monday the 7th and go directly down south. That leaves us a week in Hobart to finish our preparations and cuts out the leg to Perth, which makes perfect sense. The departure date is subject to change as we’re hoping to get the Dalai Lama on board as he’s in town on Tuesday. Quite ironically he’s a huge supporter of Sea Shepherd.

Sushi anyone?
Sushi anyone?

We met Laurens in Hobart. He’s the Dutch guy you might have seen in the second series of “Whale Wars” on the telly. He’s a volunteer who’s been doing a bit of fund raising in the States for Sea Shepherd since last season and will be on the boat with us for the campaign. So the crew will be myself and Pete, Laurens, an Animal Planet cameraman called Scott and the CEO for Sea Shepherd for Australia, Jeff. The remaining position it seems will be split between Mike the giant fireman from Tauranga and Stan the hardman carpenter from Auckland. There is another bloke, Jake who’s in the process of leaving the Navy who may join us halfway through the campaign if all works according to plan. They’re all pretty hard core blokes and I believe we’ll have a good crew down there. I haven’t met Geoff yet but he seems to be well thought of within the organisation and is a triathlon running type who should handle it OK. He’s a gluten intolerant vegan – which I’d say would kind of limit your options when it came to eating.

Hobart is quite a cool place and the interest and excitement we’ve had here is pretty overwhelming. It reminds me of some of the small African cities like Harare or Blantyre in some ways with buildings in the old colonial style and a quiet & peaceful pace to it. It’s relatively prosperous and happening though, and the residents generally seem fairly happy.

Seals & Penguins

There is a very strong green agenda here and they’re busy protesting against the forestry companies cutting down the forests left, right & centre. There’re people sitting up in trees and they’ve got a village in the trees somewhere up in the mountains that has become a bit of an attraction. We’ll go up there on Sunday probably so I’ll try get some nice pics.

I’ve been amazed at the network of volunteers that has spring up out of nowhere wherever we go with the boat. They’re obviously well connected as they seem to be up to date with the latest of happenings and plans. I’m impressed with the motivation they have and their energy and passion. You’d imagine they’d all be pot smoking hippies who need a good wash with a fire hose and yard broom, but that’s definitely not the case. Most of them are twenties and thirties from all walks of life and they’ve all got the one thing in common – that they care about things. The Green Party’ offices here in Hobart have very kindly allowed us access to their internet and have been as helpful as they can for example. It seems that people in general are all suddenly realising that our planet is in crisis and some of them are motivated enough to take some sort of action. And somehow the world seems to look after you when you’re doing good stuff. Here’s an example. I was chatting with Matt, one of the volunteers yesterday evening about wondering into town to find a bottle store to buy some beer and not five minutes later there was a knock on the back hatch of the boat. A local surgeon was standing there and he says “I was just wondering if I could donate you guys this slab of beer?”  Obviously we didn’t take a lot of convincing.

I tied up with some old friends from South Africa yesterday, Tony and Joan Fenwick and Tony’s son Clay. The plan is that I’ll take the bus up to Launceston on Thursday and spend the night with them and catch up on old times. Apparently Tony fell off a roof a couple of weeks ago and broke two ribs. He’s knocking on a bit and I never would have thought he’d be able to get up onto a roof anymore unless in some sort of mobility chair, but fall he did and it rests on my shoulders now to try and make him laugh so the ribs hurt. I’m so looking forward to catching up with them.

A small side note here. Having been travelling for a while now I’ve been spending a bit of time in public toilets recently (no, not in a George Michaels sort of way) and have decided that you can tell the mental state of a society by the way they treat their public toilets.  It is an area in which I have some expertise as I looked after all the public toilets as part of a maintenance contract I had in a small town in the Eastern Transvaal for a while. The toilets in New Zealand and now Tasmania have been very clean and well looked after, the majority of people leaving them as pristine as they found them. For some reason the locals don’t seem to have the pathological need to shove cement bags and maize cobs, rocks and reusable shopping bags down the loo. They don’t feel the primal need to express themselves artistically on the walls with their excrement and defecate on the floor right next to a perfectly functioning toilet, or even tear the perfectly functioning toilet base physically from the floor at whim, as is my previous experience. It’s not a mainstream topic I know, I just thought that may be of some interest to you…

We’ll be in Hobart for the rest of the week so I’ll catch up on the blog again before we go.



Week 7 & 8 (I think)

Well, it’s been a while since I caught up but we’ve had quite a lot going on here. Last week was really good as we went for a spin in the boat to test things finally for the big trip across the Tasman.

Balancing on the bow

Gemma Thornton from Sydney joined us on Monday for the leg across the Tasman and to Perth. She’ll be helping with the media coverage and the blogs etc until we get the cameraman from Animal Planet on the boat. She’s a very bright, talented and creative young lass and someone you’ll hear of in the world of television in time to come.

We started the week off with a visit to an audiologist on the North Shore of Auckland who have very kindly donated customised hearing protection for the crew. This involved injecting silicon into our ears to take ear impressions. These will then be digitally scanned and replicated as a moulded earpiece that has all the necessary noise reduction properties we’ll need. The interesting thing is that digital files of these scans can be sent by email anywhere in the world and replicated if one of the units is lost or damaged. The inside of the Ady Gil can get up to 85 dB when at full howl so it’s very necessary. Ronnie did tell me however that technically speaking I need hearing aids, I guess a life of too much banging and grinding, shooting and loud music must have taken a toll on the old ears. Ronnie and his lovely wife Gundy have proved to be very generous and concerned people and are helping us in all kinds of ways, materially and with their energy and enthusiasm. It’s very refreshing to meet people so many selfless and pro-active people and it makes the experience that little bit richer. This little jaunt has already opened my eyes so much and it’s only just starting. I’m having the time of my life here.

On Wednesday evening we left the Maritime Museum and went over to Great Barrier Island. I was gobsmacked by the beauty and tranquillity of the place and somehow it struck a special note with me. I would rate it way up there with the most fantastic places that I’ve had the privilege of seeing on my travels. It’s so close to Auckland and yet very undeveloped and natural with indigenous bush coming right down to the waters edge and tiny little roads and tracks going up into the hills. We went to visit some folk that I have come into contact with through the sale of Happy 2, my old boat. Kevin and his wife Marissa were very welcoming and after brief photo shoot (with my fancy new camera) from Happy on Thursday morning Pete went to do a talk to the local schoolkids and we had about 100 kids come through the boat before lunch. The kids love the boat and there was one young lad in particular that I saw that was quite obviously inspired by the experience as he sat quietly in the driving seat and almost drooled, touching the controls, a spark of awe and ambition in his little eyes. We went up to Stray Possum Lodge after for lunch and had the most amazing pizzas and a very pleasant couple of hours with some of the local folk. Definitely a place I’ll be going back to….

At pace

We left at sunset, did some more photos and videos on the way out and made our way down to Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula. It’s a sleepy little coastal town with a very beautiful inlet. We had lunch with Pete’s step Dad and did a whole lot of work on the boat and left to return to Auckland in the evening. The wind blew up a little coming around the top of the peninsula and we headed into some pretty decent seas as we turned west for Auckland. No problem for the boat though as she handled it with scorn. We’re back at the Viaduct now, though no longer at the Museum.

At Great Barrier

The weekend was spent working on the boat and it has to be said that the light is at the end of the tunnel in that respect. It’s looking good and we will be doing the final fit for the Jetski tomorrow. The ramp is looking robust if not pretty.

I’d like to take the opportunity here to tip my hat to someone who’s been a great family friend and more recently a source of inspiration to me, Bennie. Unfortunately Bennie was diagnosed with terminal cancer a little while ago and has been bravely battling against what has probably become something of a scourge in each one of our lives, some more than others. While the inevitability of our demise is a given, we all like to think that we can live as long as possible and that’s been playing on my mind a bit of late. I was at a talk about the late Sir Peter Blake last week and Professor Mark Oram, a personal friend, sailing companion and admirer of Blake’s said something very touching and relevant to this. He said that it was a common sentiment of his and Peter Blake’s that if you could have touched someone’s life and affected them in a positive way then you had achieved some degree of greatness with your own. This lead me to thinking that as I am trying to make some sort of a difference on a global scale with this mission to Antarctica, Bennie has in his own quiet and unassuming way made a profound difference to mine in that his unfortunate circumstances have played a great part in my decision to change the course of my life. Having had 3 malignant growths taken out of me in the last few years I realise that statistically and logically I’m never going to be the trembling card shark smelling of moth balls and ripping all the old biddies off at Poker in the old age home so I have to start making my life count. Bennie has been a supportive, generous and faithful friend to my mother and to my family and I’d like to thank him for that. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Incidentally there was a quote read out from the Sir Peter Blake Trust’s website at that talk. It was a very eloquent and meaningful response to a logbook entry by Mark Oram about two weeks before Blake’s death that summed up very accurately the state of our environment and our need to do something about it. I haven’t been onto the site yet myself but you may find it interesting to visit it and check it out. Just Google Sir Peter Blake Trust & you should find it.

Anyway, time to get some work done. I’ll catch up soon, probably after the Tasman leg.


Week 6


Wallweek Another fairly quiet in port. We’re in the process of completing registration of the company that’ll own Ady Gil Earthrace and the registration of the boat has to be done after that. We’ll be leaving at the end of next week by the looks of things.

  Stan working


In the meantime we’ve been building the Mark 2 Jetski mounting ramp for the back of the boat. The first version you may remember was destroyed as it was ripped from the deck by a wave & dropped about a meter with the jetski on top of it when we were crossing the Kaipara bar in a 5 meter swell. We have managed to salvage some of the bits and are well on the way to trying out the new model shortly. The new model has less moving parts and will use two strips of rollers on a wooden frame and a tailgate that drops down for mounting and dismounting. The wooden frame is being put together by Stan, a master carpenter, volunteer and Sea Shepherd supporter who will probably be joining us in the Southern Ocean at some stage during the fray and we’ve had some help from his mate Colin with the stainless steel fabrication. It’s amazing to see people giving so much of their time, Kiwi’s are awfully generous and we’ve had folks donating loads of stuff and time. So the ramp will be a masterpiece….. The jetski is being given some love & attention by Planet Seadoo out in Glenfield as it suffered some damage during the dousing when it got submerged. We’re going to be putting a cover on it from now on to prevent the same thing happening again. Lessons learned.

Otherwise it’s been really nice just to hang around in Auckland for a while. There’s a couple of memories and incidents that will stick with me including one when Pete and myself went into the Waterfront Café and bar which is in the Maritime museum building and looks out over the harbour. Pete was dressed as he usually does on sunny days with a T-shirt wrapped around his head and there was a big scene going on with lots of people rushing around dressed as pirates for Halloween and taking trips out with punters& tourists on the classic old sailing boats that are moored in the basin here. Next thing a bloke walks up to us and starts chatting to us as if we’re part of the pirate scene. It would normally have been unremarkable with some bloke who just didn’t have a clue but the irony of the situation struck me as quite funny. The Japanese Whalers go to lengths to brand Sea Shepherd as “Pirates”.

Old & the new

I’ve not had time to take many photos and there’s not a lot going on that’s very exciting to the camera so this week won’t be startling on the blog. But the action starts next week as we’ll be going down to Whakatane to do the video shoot from the helicopter around White Island if all goes according to plan. We’ll have the jetski in the water and I’ll get some nice pics then.

The preparations for the tactical stuff in the Southern Ocean continue and we’ve got some crackers planned for them down there. Obviously this goes out on the net and I’d be giving it all away if I said what we were doing, but a couple of you who might be reading this will have some idea of what they are. Suffice it to say that all is going according to plan and I honestly believe we’ll have a result this year. I don’t believe it’s worth going all the way down there and doing all this preparation if it makes no difference at all to the whaling. We’ve got to make this effective.

Prop blades
Prop blades

I’ll catch up again soon…..

Week 5

Viaduct Harbour
Viaduct Harbour


This week was a fairly quiet week in port, moored in front of the National Maritime Museum in the Viaduct harbour in Auckland. “Quiet” only in the sense that we weren’t haring around the high seas as we did a good deal of work on the boat.

Pete was busy wiring in the new big screens to the radar, depth sounder and all the bits and pieces that have an input. The screens are about the size of a laptop screen and we’ll be able to see all the inputs on one screen instead of having 5 or 6 separate screens, each for its own purpose. It’ll include rear facing cameras and the night vision Flir camera that’s invaluable while travelling at night. It’s an amazing piece of gear giving you clear visuals of any landmasses, waves and even birds flying around the boat at night (and you’d be surprised how many of those there are). It has the capability to be remotely controlled with a joystick from the drivers seat, giving a 360 degree arc horizontally and also adjustable vertically. Whatever will they think of next?

Nick, one of the Sea Shepherd volunteers, spent what must have been a very uncomfortable day up in the cooling horns wiring in the speakers for the stereo. That comes with a liberal dusting of fibreglass dust and the associated itching. A very important part of the bigger picture though, I’m sure you’ll agree. So now we can crank up the “bitchin choons” when we leave port to attract a bit of attention – as if the boat on its own doesn’t already do that. Earthrace was given permission by a local musician, Tiki Taane to use his haunting and pretty powerful music and he cranks the 9000 watt Fusion system up to do it a bit of justice as we depart. I think it’s pretty impressive and it certainly turns a few heads. The whole purpose of being involved in the Sea Shepherd programme is to draw attention to the illegal whaling and having such a charismatic vessel to do it with makes sense, especially when your target audience is the younger generation. The first part of our trip involves visiting 7 cities along the coast of Australia to try and raise funds and awareness. If they don’t see us coming they’ll certainly hear us…


I spent some time sorting out stuff in the engine room and realigned the port drive shaft as it was making a bit of a rumble when we got up to about 2200 rpm on that engine. I also made an overnight trip to Taranaki to collect some stuff and see Leyla, my beautiful little girl. I miss her so much, she’s so full of light & love and is growing up so fast. I draw some consolation from the fact that she’s equipped with such a strong spirit having a fair idea of some of what she’s going to be faced with in her lifetime.

Me & my gal

The boat attracts a lot of attention and there is always a stream of people coming past asking all about it. There is a block of luxury apartments opposite us in the harbour and I even got a flash of breasts from some obliging young lady having a cocktail party on the first floor last week. Great rack…

Auckland certainly is the “City of Sails” as they claim. It’s the Labour Day long weekend this weekend and the weather is perfect for a bit of boating. We went out on a short run around the harbour this afternoon and there were so many small craft out there. There must have been at least a hundred boats of all different kinds and sizes in sight at any given time. It’s refreshing to see people out and enjoying their environment like that, I think back to dismal old Johannesburg and how little scope we had to our recreational life there.


Hannah Ley left us on Saturday morning to go and join her family in Brisbane for the summer. She was really cool to have around and I wish her the best of luck with her future studies and everything she does. I think this experience will have made us all better people in some respect or other and she’s no exception. The only problem is I’ll have no-one to pull the piss out of now.

Next week is much of the same and hopefully we’ll be taking the boat on a final test run to Great Barrier Island to visit the folk there. Time is quite tight though and we’ll do our best.

I’ll catch up soon.

Maritime Museum


Weeks 3 & 4

Emerges Batcave

Humble apologies for the delay in this latest post folks, we’ve been awfully busy getting the boat back in the water which doesn’t leave much time for anything else. The boat finally went back in the water on the 7th October, which coincidentally was my birthday. It all went fairly smoothly and apart from a diesel tank hatch leak that flooded the sleeping quarters floor and a couple of teething problems with the steering the boat is quite sweet, just a lot to do on electrical and general cleaning up stuff that has deteriorated during the record attempts. The wiring is in a bit of a state as most of the navigation gear is in the process of being changed and there are a lot of bits that have been added on that need tidying up.

Flying boat

We had to get the boat around from Kaipara Harbour on the west coast to Auckland harbour for the 16th October as we had the grand launch function and Ady Gil had come from Los Angeles to see the boat. Despite a bit of weather coming in we exited Kaipara bar on Saturday afternoon and hit a barrage of 5 to 6 metre waves that were coming in directly over the bar. I got my first experience of the boats wave piercing capability and at times the boat was very nearly totally submerged. The new Jetski mounting frame was only mounted to the deck temporarily and it came adrift, the Jetski and frame bouncing about 3 foot in the air at one stage and coming down onto the deck with a massive and frame devastating whack.  The Jetski very nearly went overboard.


 The trip northward was OK at first and then later on in the evening we started having trouble with the steering. The swivel bolt on the starboard rudder had come adrift and I had to go overboard early in the morning to put it back in. The water was pretty cold and only a taste of things to come I’m sure. We made it to the Poor Knights island in the late afternoon in time for a photo shoot of the boat coming out of a huge cave that goes in under one of the volcanic overhangs. The cave goes in about 75 meters through a narrow entrance and then broadens out wide enough for Pete to turn the 78 foot boat around quite comfortably and come out for the “emerging” video and photos. When we’d done there we headed south for Auckland and docked at the New Zealand Maritime Museum at about 3.30 in the morning. The southward leg of the trip was really cool as we had flat seas and hardly any wind.

Approaching skullWe did maintenance on Monday and replaced a bent steering ram and bled the steering. We met Ady Gil and Persia White on Wednesday morning and set out a few hours later for Kawau island just off the coast North of Auckland. Ady is a the guy who’s putting up the money for the boat for Sea Shepherd. He’s a shrewd and savvy Israeli that’s gone to the States and made good in the large screen projection business. Persia is a gorgeous and street smart cookie, a keen mind and pretty hilarious when having a few wines. Apparently she’s famous as she’s been on a series called “Girlfriends”. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of her before but anyone who knows me would know that that’s not my area of expertise.Ady & Persia We spent the night in a beautiful little bay called Bon Accord, wooded hills all around us and some fantastic looking homes on them. These Kiwi’s recreate in style. Persia and Ady cooked a really cool Vegan pasta for us with sun dried tomatoes and olives with a good tomato sauce and it was a bit of light on the horizon as the boat is going Vegan shortly. The wind blew up a bit on the return trip and we stopped with Auckland in the background to raise the Sea Shepherd flag on the radio aerial.

Sunset sheen

The grand launch was on Friday and all the volunteers put together a bloody well executed shindig with four live acts and loads of free wine from some pretty generous sponsors at the Floating Pavillion, the old headquarters for the Ahlingi team when the Americas cup was held in New Zealand. There were sponsors and some members of the public and a good contingent of Sea Shepherd supporters and sympathisers. Everyone had a hoot and there may have been a few sore heads the next morning if I’m any judge. Apparently we were on TV3 although we didn’t get the live slot we were hoping for for the breaking of the bottle over the bow.

Ady raising flag

@Floating Pavillion

It looks like I’ve found a buyer for my boat and we’re in the process of doing a deal.  He seemed like a really nice bloke and has a lodge called “Stray Possum lodge” on the Great Barrier Island, Northeast of Auckland. I’m hoping we can take the boat out there on one of the trial runs as he was saying he could gather the community if we popped in at a days notice. Apparently the community there is a very environmentally aware bunch and would be very supportive. I’ve put a verbal condition in the agreement that I’d like to have to visit the boat at the lodge occasionally.

Sunday we went to Waiheke Island with one of Pete’s long term sponsors, the Waikato Motor Group for their 20th Anniversary. The whole group fell under the leadership and spell of the owner, Tracey. A clever, vivacious and absolutely charming lady who took us to lunch. Yum, yum on both accounts.

Exit Batcave

The coming week will be preparation for the Australia leg and lots of finishing touches to the boat. We’re getting more and more good ideas for strategies for the Yellow bastards, all of which can’t be related openly as we’d like some surprises up our sleeve when we get there. Lots to do and not that much time left. I’m starting to notice a pattern here…….

I’ll catch up soon.

Second week

First top coat

So the lads at the boatyard have been working flat out to finish the base coat and the first sections of the top coat were applied late on Friday. The finish will be matt black. There’s been an awful lot of work done on the hull and four more layers of Kevlar have been added for protection against the ice we’re likely to encounter down there. Final planning on the jetski ramp has been completed and the pieces are being made up. The prop shafts have been overhauled and were delivered on Thursday. These will be put in early next week once the painting has been completed. The rudder bits are on site too and will be put in after the shafts.

The jetski itself is getting the same finish as the Earthrace and Marcus and myself have been doing that this week. That involves a whole lot of sanding and elbow grease but the result is looking promising. It gets its final coat on Monday and assembly on Tuesday. Ski

So progress has been good and the next week will be busy. The boat will in all likelihood be put back in the water later this coming week and we’ll be doing a bit of testing and fine tuning early the week after. After that we go around the north of the North Island to take the boat to Auckland. This means a bit of photographic work when we get to the more scenic bays and a bit of fishing off the Three Kings  and surrounding area. I know, it’s tedious but someone has to do it.

So all’s going according to plan. Just a lot of work left as all the electronics still have to be put back together. The Flir camera, satellite antennae and radar all to be mounted and a boot spoiler from a Mazda RX7 just happened to show up to facilitate this – compliments of Marcus. This was reinforced to carry the weight of the camera and all is looking good.First topcoat

The end of the first week………..

The progress so far……Craig spraying
Work started in earnest on Tuesday and we began by unpacking all of the spares, gear, equipment and bits and bobs from the containers where it had been put after the boat was taken out of the water. There’s a fair bit of gear that quite understandably needs replacing and some attention so we’re in the process of doing that. It’s quite astonishing how much stuff was actually in the boat. The spares need cataloguing and used items replenishing, the electronic gear is all being updated and most other gear being replaced so planning & action on mounting antennae and cameras, new hatches and the Jet Ski mounting rail is all going on. The boatyard is busy at the same time in the immediate area and there’s a fair bit of dust and overspray around at times. They’re just finished the bottom of the hull and have put the first coat of filling spray on and the base coat is going on in preparation for the colour change from Silver to Black.
Hannah Ley arrived on Monday too and is correlating all the video and media material so that we have an organised and accessible collection to use for promo stuff. She’s also doing emails and organising the promotions and the opening party. Marcus arrived on Wednesday and is lending a hand with the work on the boat, cutting hatches and starting the big cleanup. There’s an awful lot to do and not a lot of time so we’re going to flat out to get it done before the launch next week (29ish September).
We’re staying at a cottage on Pete’s sister and brother-in-law’s farm not far from the boatyard. They’ve just got it ready in time for us to move in and have been very friendly and welcoming. Such lovely people…. The view from the cottage is amazing. There’s a beautiful valley of indigenous trees in front of the place that stretches right across the horizon and it’s really peaceful, not a car in earshot.
I picked the Jet Ski up from the dealer on Friday and that gets prepared and painted this week. The boat also gets its main colour coat and things should start looking really good in the workshop. We’re going to give the galley a coat of yellow to lighten things up in there. It’s all really good fun and the people are all upbeat and spirited.


In yard 17.09
Yep, there’s plenty to be done and we’re making good progress. I’ll catch up soon.