The day was off to an ominous start when those who wrote the instructions and planned the day turned up at the wrong pier. But our confidence was soon restored when our Skippers for the day, George and Arthur from Wave Dancer (http://www.wavedancer.co.nz) ensured all of the team members were reunited. Within minutes we were asked to draw from a hat to be either on the Red team or the Blue team. The writer of this article was part of the Blue team, so from here on in an unashamedly biased view of the days events will be described, predominately because the teams spent a large part of the morning in different areas of the Hauraki Gulf.
The boat trip from the Auckland Viaduct to Kawau Island went quickly due to good conversation, a knowledgeable Skipper and a feeling of, “this is the best work day ever.” But cheerfulness soon turned to concern as it was discovered that the Red team had already started playing the game. We felt like our provisions of; water, electrolyte drinks and two bags of chips, would not get us through much of the day. We later learned that the opposition had a choice of sandwiches, sausage rolls, quiches, filled croissants, brownies, muffins and a selection of much more appealing beverages for a day in the sun.
Not to be discouraged Blue team set about learning the art of fishing and Matt, the boss, got away to a great start, pulling onboard a good sized Snapper and our Team Leader, Leong snagged another when he walked away from his rod for more pressing matters. Unfortunately for Leong, no matter how much disinterest he showed in the finer points of fishing, the more fish he snagged and more unfortunately for Matt he had caught his first, and last, fish of the day.
Meanwhile, Arthur expertly maneuvered us around what was fast becoming a playground for every type of sea life the harbor had to offer. We were treated to a hunting display by many dolphins, seabirds and even a Humpback Whale. Whilst those hunters stalked their pray we stalked their movements in order to catch more fish.
Fiona represented the fairer sex aptly and pulled onboard more than her fair share of Snapper and Kahawai, as did the writer, who was happier just bobbing around in the harbor he spent his youth in as a Waiheke Islander. Cliff won the variety award hooking one of everything, including a sizeable Kingfish when reeling in for another cast. Mark had a frustratingly slow start to the day but once we heard the phrase “I’m on” once, we then heard it again many times in quick succession.
From what we were told, the Red team also had a frustratingly slow start to their day and had soon turned their attention to the abundance of ill-gotten nutritional gains. However, with a couple of changes in position on the Gulf they were soon pulling onboard a healthy number of Snapper, many of which were a healthy size. When the boats met back up in the same area of the ocean the banter began and it was soon apparent that, just like the US presidential election, team Red were coming out on top.
But joy soon turned to trepidation as Matt issued the instruction for the Skippers to head to the Noises Islands. The second competition of the day was to swim to Otata and then circumnavigate it quicker than the opposing team. As with all of our events, the rules are a mere guideline, so one team went left, one team went right and somehow the teams never crossed paths at any point around the island. I decided to swim around the whole island rather than take to shore. It was a strategy not without fear, and a bit of pain. I was aware of something in the water, which turned out to be a seal, paying closer attention to me than I was paying to the many seashell-encrusted rocks in my path.
It was definitely the quickest route because within 40 minutes I was back on the boat and was quite happy to return to our chips and electrolytes to alleviate some leg cramps. It turns out that I was not the only one to suffer from low nutrition levels and I returned to the water to help my teammates and especially Team Leader back to the boat. As it turns out the opposing team thought it was within the rules to have the mountain come to Mohammed and their boat swung by to pick them up from the shoreline.
It was at this point our team discovered the earlier skullduggery that had occurred, but at least we now got to replenish our energy stores whilst it was hotly debated which team had cheated the least. I think in the end, and upon reflection as we headed back to the safety of the harbour and a meal at Swashbucklers, that the winner on the day was Auckland. We were all reminded that this city is about much more than the land we work on, it is also about enjoying the rich experiences to be had at sea and pushing yourself out of a comfort zone or two.