Eastward Ho: heading for home

Heeling over hard as we scud up the west coast of Northland. First sight of land in nearly 2 weeks this morning as we recognised the north head of the Hokianga — a magic place I visited some years ago with giant wind sculptures and streams that welled up as springs and disappeared again into the sands.

Five knots feels faster than it is, but air and car travel totally distort one’s perception of space and time. Two days so far to cover a distance one would drive in three hours. But this is travel at a human scale — the unrealistic thing is traveling Auckland — Wellington in an hour. Perhaps life will be better when we slow down and have more time for reflection.

All the people in the flotilla I’ve spent time with have been excellent company. A great sense of solidarity in a common cause. Heard fascinating stories this morning out on deck from Andy, our skipper, who has worked in Chile, Yemen, Cyprus, Rwanda and sailed in the Southern ocean and across the Pacific. It’s reassuring, when the boat starts bucking like crazy.

Continue reading “Eastward Ho: heading for home”

Westward Ho: on our way

We are out of prison. Oh the joy of sailing in a straight line to a destination; of the quietness of the deep ocean away from the constant thrum of the motors of the monster. A huge sense of relief as it dropped over the horizon. And tonight it will be dark.

I’m now on Baltazar which has a computer and internet connection and saves Ros from transcribing everything I write from recorded radio. Baltazar is bigger and currently has no motor as the gearbox packed up soon after leaving. If there is wind she is the fastest boat but if there isn’t we don’t go far.

We are headed for Auckland under plan change 45/C/2 (plans have changed hourly over the last few days – there wasn’t much else to do) because the forecast has a 30 knot easterly about the time we would have entered Cook Strait. We are actually quite close to Auckland but it’s a four day sail as we have to go right round the Cape. But Baltazar is much more stable than Vega and has a lot of mod cons like comfy sofas.

Anadarko announced this morning that they had begun drilling at 2.30am. We have been expecting that for several days – they first said they would start Thursday, then Friday, then Monday – but when the time came nothing changed. We had been told by an oil industry contact that the signs of imminent drilling were a person in the “monkey perch”, the deployment of the blow out preventer, and that the drilling would be very noisy. None of those things happened. We asked the first mate (the captain refused to speak to us) whether they had begun drilling and they refused to comment.

We suspect they are not in fact drilling the hole to access the oil, but sinking the pipes into the sea floor through which the drill will go. But only they could confirm that. Meanwhile the fight turns to our derelictgovernment which has not followed proper procedures in granting the permit. This morning Greenpeace has filed for judicial review of that decision in the High Court in Wellington.

We will fight them on the sea; we will fight them on land; we will fight them in the courts; we will fight them on the beaches; we will never surrender.


Westward Ho: life inside the line

Imprisoned within one square kilometer of water, two hundred kilometers from land, our only point of reference in a black ocean the brightly lit deathship. Confined within an invisible line we must not cross. Missing our friends who must stay outside the same invisible line. We are never still – there is no parking out here and the tiller must be constantly active to keep us all here, the engine on idle. We do two hour watches overnight.

The other boats meet once a day to talk and socialise and we hear them on our radio talking about how good the scones, pancakes and coffee are. But we choose to stay in prison.

Huge inspiration to hear of seven thousand kiwis gathered on 48 beaches in support of the campaign. We decided we needed to relay that good news to our 200 neighbours, and not on the normal channel 16, which we think goes only to the bridge. So we used their working channel, which everyone on board should hear, and told them about the mobilization on the beaches and how our government has misled Anadarko. Then each boat in turn talked about why they are here and asked them to go home.

We have binoculars and camera and video trained on them and they on us. When we watch them they try to hide their cameras.

This morning: a safety drill preceded by an ear rupturing blast on their horn. We learned today that usually precedes drilling.

We take seriously our responsibility to entertain these poor blokes (well, we did see one woman), who are confined in an even smaller prison than ours, though with rather more mod cons. So today, we are putting on orange overalls and safety harnesses, and Niamh has practiced her climbing skills up the mast. Every camera was on us. I thought the Bob would overbalance as they all rushed for the side we were on.

Breaking News: Anadarko has just told TV3 they will begin drilling tomorrow morning. We’ll believe that when we see it – they were going to do that on Thursday and still haven’t. We think that’s because we are here.


Westward Ho: Who’s in Charge Here?

We’ve had lots of opportunities to observe operations on the drillship — often better at night when it’s all lit up. The difficulty is in interpreting what we are seeing. Support ships come in and out. Cranes transfer people in cages from one to the other. Other cages and pipes inside the derrick go up and down. Inflatables zoom around. Divers drop over the side of the NBD. I should have done oil drilling procedures 101 before coming out here. We understand they can’t while we’re so close but don’t know for sure. However, it is clear they are not drilling yet, despite saying they planned to start yesterday. Great statement yesterday from Labour leader David Cunliffe, about the huge risks of drilling — until you realise he hasn’t committed himself to anything. There is no policy to stop deep sea drilling. We need to keep working on Labour especially on the climate aspect.

Meanwhile the government is totally missing in action. Having rushed through draconian legislation to stop deep sea oil protests, they are taking no action to enforce it. We have heard nothing from the authorities. Anadarko has been hung out to die. Other oil companies interested in coming here will take note. They are missing in action on environmental protection. Simon Bridges says they are “putting the oil drilling industry through the wringer” yet their new EPA approved the emergency oil spill response plan without seeing it, let alone evaluating it. They are missing in action in their accountability to the public.

Having told the public deep sea drilling is no more dangerous than shallow drilling, though the consequences would be “significant”, Amy Adams has been caught out hiding a report showing it as seven times more dangerous and the consequences would “catastrophic”. It leaves one asking “who is in charge here?” Obviously, the US oil industry.

Westward Ho: Singing Jellyfish and Other Trivia

Day nine at sea, day seven on site, day four marking the ship. It would be mindlessly boring, day and night zigzagging alongside the ship, were it not for the excitement of updates from the campaign on land, the good company, and the occasional hilarious moment.

Last night, off the stern of the Noble Bob Douglas, Niamh yelled “Jellyfish, jellyfish!”

“That’s not a jellyfish, its rubbish.”

“No, it’s a bluebottle, Grab it with the boathook!”

So Bunny did. And as she hauled onboard a bubble some half metre across it started singing operatically to the tune of Handels Hallelujah chorus, complete with orchestra. “Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!” Every time you poked it, the music began again. It seems they do birthday parties on the ship, and chuck their rubbish overboard.

Noble Bob Douglas looks like a cross between a battleship (massive grey hull, radars, bits and bobs) and one of my grandson’s intricate Lego projects (blue cranes, crates, derricks; yellow railings, drills stairways; white helicopter pad). The support boats look like giant malevolent tadpoles with fat squarish heads, and long wiggly tails.

We are also encouraged to hear of the mass mobilisation on so many oil free beaches tomorrow. The campaign is moving to land in a huge way. Watch out for simultaneous haka!

To find a beach near you, go to the oil free flotilla site or the Greenpeace Aotearoa site. This is enough for my patient scribe on the other boat. More serious stuff about the political situation later today.

Love you all,