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By Kristy Apisaloma, AA Tourism Editor
It’s not every day you get the chance to sail on board a majestic working tall ship. As my two colleagues and I arrived at Russell to embark on a day trip on the R Tucker Thompson, our curiosity was burgeoning. The setting could not have been more perfect – the clouds were dispersing, helped by a gentle breeze, and sunshine was sweeping over the aquatic playground of the Bay of Islands.
The first glimpse of the ship was a sight to behold – the 85ft-long gaff-rigged schooner looked as though she would be more at home on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean than at the wharf in Russell. Once on board, the beautiful kwila hardwood decks finished elegantly with flashes of brass, looming rigging and masts, and the deceptively spacious interior added to her magic. The kids were in awe and looked up as if they expected to see Jack Sparrow himself swinging from the rigging. Although she was launched in 1985, the authenticity of this ‘tall ship’ gives you the impression that you have been transported back to the 19th century.
After a few words from the friendly crew we were off to wherever the wind would take us, motoring away from Russell before setting the sails in all their glory. Relaxing to the gentle swaying motion of the ship and watching the mainland slip past suited me perfectly, but if you wanted to you could harness up and ride the bow or climb the rigging, or even take the helm. The kids on board were in their element! You could also learn the ropes, literally, and help the crew set the sails. That’s the beauty of the R Tucker Thompson – you can be as active or as relaxed as you want!
Looking up from the decks below was a mesmerising sight – you couldn’t help but feel the majesty and grandeur that the ship in full sail evokes. After a cuppa and a delicious jam scone for morning tea, we headed for the stunning Motuarohia/Roberton Island, where we were able to disembark for either a swim in crystal-clear water or to explore the island. The quickest way to get into the water was by swinging off the deck on the ship’s rope swing, or you could take a ride to shore in the dingy. My colleagues and I opted for the latter. Waiting for us when we returned was a mouth-watering barbecued lunch, and a cold drink to enjoy on the homeward stretch. A perfect setting for a lager if ever there was one!
A little bit of sunburn wasn’t the only thing I took away from this trip (sunscreen and a hat are essential!) – the experience was definitely one to remember, and it’s heartening to know it’s for a particularly worthy cause. After all, it wasn’t all about sailing in the Bay of Islands on a gorgeous summer day, as the ship’s primary purpose is charitable work in youth development. During the winter months underprivileged kids also get to experience the R Tucker Thompson on life-changing ‘nautical bootcamps’.
The ticket price includes a return ferry transfer from Paihia to Russell; various sailing options are available. For more information, visit www.tucker.co.nz or call 0800 TUCKER (882 537).
Download a discount voucher to save 10%* with R Tucker Thompson.
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