Sailing through history

Siena Thompson on board the Spirit of New Zealand

Year 12 Whangaparaoa College student Siena Thompson was one of the local teens who sailed on the Spirit of New Zealand as part of the Tuia 250 flotilla of tall ships and waka that arrived in Gisborne on the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s landing. Here is her story:


“In early October a group of excited teens met at the Tauranga yacht club, ready to take part in the first leg of the historic Tuia 250 Voyage aboard the tall ships R Tucker Thompson and Spirit of New Zealand.

I was selected for the Spirit of New Zealand, with the voyage funded by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Another Hibiscus Coast local, Craig Butland from Orewa College, was also on board. We departed Tauranga at dusk, after learning the ropes of the ship. From there we sailed through the night, and rough seas towards Gisborne, passing White Island. Our first stop was at Whangaparaoa Bay, sheltered from the heavy seas. There we learnt waiata, history, navigational and boat skills. Part of my duty was the night watch from 2am-3.30am. We had to monitor radio calls, check the engine room, and proximity to nearby ships.

Sailing around East Cape was spectacular, with dolphins cruising the wake, and beautiful sunsets.

I was also given the task of calling the HMS Endeavour on the radio to request permission to come alongside for a friendly greeting. We gathered on deck to shout good morning and one of our crew jokingly shouted “fire the cannons”. The next thing we knew, the Endeavour crew where donning earmuffs and looking like they were loading the cannon. We watched on in shock – surely not! They proceeded to fire a blank at us, amid much clicking of cameras and cheering on our part.

We had an early start on October 8 – the day that Cook originally landed in New Zealand 250 years ago. We were woken at 4am, and the starry skies were breathtaking. As the sun rose we were joined by the other flotilla members – the tall ships HMS Endeavour and R Tucker Thompson, and the Waka hourua, Haunui and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, and the Va’a Fa’afaite from Tahiti. The flotilla sailed to various parts of the Gisborne coastline, learning the historical importance of each area via the ships’ radio. We had karakia and sung waiata along the way and learnt about the tragedy of Cook’s first landing with the loss of life of local Maori.

What an incredible sight and an exciting part of history to be involved in as we all sailed and docked together in Gisborne.”


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