An epic, unforgettable experience

23 Oct 2019

Taking a berth on the Spirit of New Zealand and participating in the Tuia 250 commemorations was, according to Year 13 student Matias Biraben-Clough, an “awesome, once in a lifetime experience.”

Matias joined the Spirit of New Zealand in Tauranga on Saturday 5 October, spending that first day getting to know the boat and his crewmates, before setting sail for Gisborne and a place in the Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla.

“Joining up with the Endeavour is a moment I’ll never forget. As we passed it to find our position, it fired its cannon at us. It was pretty incredible pulling up behind such a ship.”

The six vessels in the Tuia 250 Voyage flotilla – a Pacific va’a tipaerua, the Fa’afaite from Tahiti; two Māori waka hourua, the Haunui and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti from Aotearoa New Zealand; and three European tall ships, the HMB Endeavour replica from Australia, and the R Tucker Thompson and Spirit of New Zealand – were chosen to showcase Pacific, Māori and European voyaging traditions. They came together in open water just north of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa / Poverty Bay.

“We were up at three in the morning, anchored offshore. It was a clear night, all stars out. As the sun was rising, we were listening to a kaumatua over the marine radio explaining the background to Cook’s arrival, then a karakia and the waka sounding their horns ... It was an epic moment, so cool.”

Then, together, the flotilla sailed into Gisborne on the morning of Tuesday 8 October, 250 years after the first encounter between Māori and Europeans. The students from the Spirit of New Zealand enjoyed a warm welcome and a hearty meal at a local surf club, before heading back for their last night on the boat.

Despite some initial seasickness, Matias relished the whole experience, especially the early morning ocean swims and learning how to live on board, look out for his mates and look after the ship.

“I’ll always remember the amazing experiences I had in the short space of five days. It was such a special time. I made connections with some awesome people and I’m so grateful to have been able to take part.”

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