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Avast there me hearties

Taking the wheel of the R Tucker Thompson in the Bay of Islands (2015)


R Tucker Thompson



R Tucker Thompson gallery of pictures
Our previous voyage on the R Tucker Thompson
Adventures in the Bay of Islands
Hotels in the Bay of Islands
More photos of the R Tucker Thompson


By Richard Moore

Is there anything better than sitting aboard a boat on a lovely sunny day, peacefully cruising along on mild seas in the warm sunshine?

Probably not.

Mind you, add good food and pleasant company and things can always be improved.

But nothing, it has to be said, can compare with getting behind the wheel of a tall ship on such a gorgeous day and steering it around the Bay of Islands.

I'm not sure why the ever-cheery Captain Terry picked this fellow to grab the beautiful ship's polished-wood wheel, although it could have been:
- my obvious intelligence
- my muscles
- my family links to Yorkshire - the home county of Captain James Cook, one of the greatest navigators and explorers to ever hit the oceans of this planet.

Or ... I could have been standing nearest the wheel.

No matter the reason, I took the position of power and - channelling my inner Horatio Hornblower - took over the steering of a 26m long, 50-tonne gaff-rigged schooner, the R Tucker Thompson.

That was worrying enough, considering there were about a dozen lives on board relying upon my completely inexperienced hands to get them back to the Russell wharf.

Oh whatever, I hear you scoff.

Well, I haven't mentioned the fact that Captain Terry handballed the steering to me in 30-knot winds!

In layman's terms, that's blinking windy!

It was okay when sailing along in a straight-ish course, but, when we had to gybe to change direction, things got a little more complicated. Not to mention worrying.

For our 22m masts began to heel towards the horizon and the starboard side of the ship dipped to what my unsailor-like mind thought was close to the point of no return.

Hah, the mariners among you laugh but, when you see the sea coming through the scuppers, landlubbers like myself tend to get a little nervous.

Even more so when the skipper has deserted the stern of the ship and headed forwards to get the sails organised for the direction change.

Oh well, time to use both muscles and braincells - as well as an increasing feel for the ship - and just go with the flow.

I must have done okay because we didn't founder, or even obviously come close, and the cap'n was more than happy for me to continue steering on our new course.

It's interesting that you begin to feel the ship as a living entity and, through the wheel, you work with it and the power of the wind to find your course through the waves.

Upon his return, Cap'n Terry showed us how to watch the sails to see when we needed to slightly change the direction of the ship in order to make the most of sailing with the wind.

Apart from taking tourists on a wonderful old-fashioned tall ship exploration of the Bay of Islands, the R Tucker Thompson is about training people.

The trust that runs the vessel uses the dollars earned from summertime tourist voyages, such as the one we were on, to fund training courses for young people.

These courses instill confidence and provide a new learning environment for youth in which to prove themselves to themselves.

A very worthy cause.

Aboard our voyage were eight tourists from Germany and, initially, they weren't that keen to do much other than check out the scenery. They didn't even offer to mop the brow of the guy at the wheel!

So the next person volunteered to take over from me was my good lady who did a fab job and allowed me to move about doing my favoured nautical manoeuvres - taking photos.

Eventually, however, the others got into the spirit of things and by the end of our almost six-hour voyage we were all one big happy - and working - crew.

Each sail change required several sets of hands to achieve and in the end it was almost a race to see who could get to the lines first.

The camaraderie was no doubt bolstered by an encounter with some of the biggest dolphins I have ever seen, which had us all grinning from ear to ear.

Other highlights included putting on a safety harness and carefully picking my way out to the end of the bowsprit to get some images of us with plenty of canvas up and also easing my way up the rigging to get some shots from high in the masts.

The latter was less fun as we were racing along at a fair clip and it wasn't the smoothest of rides while perched on an almost-vertical rope ladder juggling a camera.

I should also mention the cheerful crew members under Captain Terry - Alex, Pania and Ethan - whose assistance and friendly demeanour made the trip the best adventure we had in the Far North.

Throw in excellent food and absolutely first-class service standards that a lot of our tourism operators at home in the Bay could learn from.

It is always good to be part of such a worthwhile cause and the R Tucker Thompson is not only that - but a terrific way to spend a day.

Set sail on a voyage with the R Tucker Thompson



Copyright Richard Moore 2018 | Contact Us