Back on deck

Apologies for the deafening silence the last couple of weeks. I’ve been commuting into town to earn my keep. But it was worth it: I got out on the water twice a day on the ferry, and the Auckland Anniversary Regatta a few weeks ago brought a flock of tall ships into port. Good old Soren Larsen was around for a while, and I felt sure that the Spirit visited us briefly. I recognise her profile. Now Windeward Bound, the brigantine that famously recreated Matthew Flinders’ epic voyage, is tied up at Princess Wharf. She (like Endeavour) looks frighteningly small to venture out into the Tasman, let alone halfway around the world.
As if that weren’t enough, one day I pounded around the corner to come face to bow with the QE2. She may no longer be the biggest ship in the world, but she’s still one of the most elegant, for my money, looking for all the world like a Cunard Deco poster. I shouted aloud in excitement. I’d only seen her once before, dwarfed by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but she towered over the Hilton on the wharf. Six men were abseiling down that famous funnel, painting, like tiny Action Man figures.
The next day I heard her horn, sounding the departure – it was deafening, even all the way down at my office in Westhaven (about a twenty minute walk).
The following morning, her berth was taken by Aurora, a megalithic white office block of a ship: she accommodates 1,950 passengers, has an atrium with a “Lalique-style waterfall” and three swimming pools (including one with a sliding glass roof). The day after, the brand spanking new Diamond Princess arrived, all 116,000 tonnes of her. Both seemed even more monstrous than QE2, but less dignified.
The ferries turn and dock right next to the big ships so we get a tug’s-eye view of the hull.
My personal favourite is the relatively miniscule Clipper Odyssey, which looks like an elegant version of those wonderful coastal tramps that ploughed their way from Hong Kong to Vladivostok via Shanghai in the ’30s. I imagine Marlene Dietrich singing Brecht in the piano bar at cocktail hour.
I grew up watching ships come and go – “under the hook,” as they say in Port Melbourne. Nobody throws streamers anymore, which I’m sure is much better for the environment, but really rather sad.

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