Westward Ho: Days 6 & 7 – in the zone

Blog post from Jeanette on Vega received at 08:30am thursday morning.
Apology for the blog free days.When Bunny and I reached our final destination and joined the Vega as co-skippers, we lost access to computer and e-mail. This is being transferred via radio to s/v Baltazar where Ros is kindly typing it up.

Since the drill ship Noble Bob Douglas arrived Tuesday morning with supply ship Hart Tide, we have been driving in small circles between them, within the 500 metre zone.

The other boats are watching from outside the zone. We can not visit them again without risking implicating them in our actions, and we haven’t rigged the sail to stabilise the rolling. There have been hours of extreme boredom and moments of exhilaration, especially learning most of the Arctic 30 have been bailed, and that Anadarko’s operation here is illegal, because the Environmental Protection Authority signed off their consent without sighting their emergency spill response plan which they are supposed to approve.

There has been great loss of dignity as the wind rose to 20 knots and our tight circles sent us barrelling from one wall to the other, and many bruises on heads, shins and shoulders. Last night, anger: as the second supply ship the Bailey Tide got sick of waiting 500m away all day and decided to dock with the drill ship, with us in between. Neither ship responded to our communications and requests for their intentions, and little wooden Vega was nearly squished between two giant steel hulls, closing in our narrow strip of water and squeezing us out like toothpaste. There is a lot of lawbreaking out here, and it mostly isn’t us.

I suggest you check the Oil Free Seas Flotilla and Greenpeace NZ websites for photo and video blogs. I may be able to send one more when we head back and rendezvous with the rest of the flotilla.

Over and out.


Westward Ho: Day 5 – we chased them off

News today that the drill ship is 50 miles off New Plymouth, having passed wide of us in the night and headed south. Seems likely they had planned to rendezvous with the supply ship we saw yesterday morning and do customs clearance out here, but thought better of it when they saw us. All we know is that the supply ship turned around and went back to the site where the Ignoble Bob now is and they are apparently doing customs clearance there.

We’ve just had word that they expect to arrive at first light tomorrow. Whatever, we’ll be here.

Continue reading “Westward Ho: Day 5 – we chased them off”

Westward Ho: Day 4 – we wait, and wait…

We are now on Vega and Bunny and I have taken over as co-skippers. Vega is much smaller, older and wooden — a lovely craft but you feel the rolling much more than on Tiama. Fine if you stay up on deck. Very proud to be part of the tradition of peaceful protest on the waves. This is the boat that went to Moruroa in 1973 and helped create the climate of public opinion that stopped French nuclear testing there in 1996. We don’t have 20 years to stop this one.

We got the call at 5.20 this morning. A support boat had left New Plymouth late last night and was about an hour away. We confirmed our position and got ready. Soon we could see it on the horizon – not a graceful vertical line like our sailing boats but a square blob.

Then it turned around and left — back to New Plymouth we assume. A long way to come just to take a look at us over the horizon and run away. We have no idea how far away the Ignoble Bob is but when they get here we will be here.

Another gorgeous day and quiet sea but the time now passes quite slowly. A great morning tea on Baltazar who had made pinwheel cinnamon scones and good coffee where we all speculated on what was happening. Would be nice to have a bird’s eye view. Our radar goes 24 miles, which is enough, but only a dot in the ocean. These social gatherings are tough on the person left behind on each boat. Nothing to tie them up to!

I’ve done a media interview on Radio Live and Bunny has done one with the Waikato Times. We fooled around this afternoon getting the boats in various combinations for great photos — Pascale up the mast again.

If there’s no news tomorrow I probably won’t bother you – but hey, Harry, if you are reading this, it would be nice to hear from you!


Westward Ho: Day 3 – the reception committee

What a welcome. Another smooth night, up at dawn, then reached the spot marked ‘x’ at 8am to find ourselves encircled by a pod of at least ten Right Whales. They came really close, blowing and breaching as whales do and swam alongside us as though escorting us to the spot, then suddenly they weren’t there anymore. You can’t tell when they leave – you just realise they haven’t been to the surface for a while.

What an amazing omen. The guardians of the sea, right on the drill spot, then handing over to us. We all felt the thrill of their wildness, their hugeness, and their vulnerability,despite their grandeur, to the risk of an oil blowout and to the reality of climate change and acid seas damaging their food sources.

No sign yet of the Ignoble Bob.

As the morning went on we watched one after another, five sails appear on the horizon and move towards us – Baltazar, Vega, Ratbag, Friendship, Shearwater II. By the appointed 12 noon we were all on site – not bad for a bunch of small sailing boats over a wide ocean. Henk picked up folk off each boat for a lunch party on Tiama and James cooked up a pasta storm with a sauce of every conceivable vegetable and we all told stories about our various journeys.

Then our adventurous videographer, Pascale, climbed the mast for a few shots of all of us grouped around the “Free the Arctic 30” banner to send them some hope and support from the other side of the world. Different companies, different countries thousands of miles apart, but the same issue, the same oil risks, the same climate, the same planet.

I salute them; their course is so much harder than ours.


Westward Ho: Day 2 – the luxury cruise

What sacrifices, what deprivations we have to suffer to chase away the planet destroyers!

Woke to Mt Taranaki sharp against a clear sky. Breakfast in the sunshine on deck on a near flat sea after a night rocked to sleep by a gentle roll as we motored up the west coast from Wellington. Downside of so little wind was having to burn some fuel but it did give us time to get our sea legs. And the Ignoble Bob Douglas (did I tell you that is the name of the drilling ship? I added the Ig bit for truth enhancement) will be burning enormously more than we ever could.

Last night we picked up Niamh and James from Dunedin just off Mana Island. They had agreed at a few hours’ notice to join us on behalf of their generation, the twenty-somethings, and give us some age balance.They’ve been active in Oil-free Otago which will be the next recipient of Anadarko’s attention, in January – but 35 miles off their coast, compared with 120 miles off Raglan.They have the same concerns, the same issues as us – the potential for devastation of the coast, and the certainty of climate change if this crazy project goes ahead. So now we are seven.

Sipped excellent coffee (I said this is a luxury cruise) and watched a skua, several small albatross and huge flocks of maybe terns (that was the general consensus but none of us are ornithologists) wheeling and feeding as the water boiled with fish. Looking in vain, so far, for whales and dolphins. Tried to banish the mental image of them all spread out on the beach covered with oil.
This afternoon the wind picked up and we’ve had wonderful sailing at 6-7 knots past Cape Egmont and now veering out to sea. We haven’t even lost cell phone link with the mainland yet, but will soon. These sweet conditions may not last, but having been conditioned to expect storms and wet and cold I’m feeling very fortunate.

It feels very like the calm before the storm. We will sail all night and link up tomorrow with the other boats at “the spot marked x”. (You won’t find it on any map.) Then it’s anyone’s guess.