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No. 59 (June 1967)
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An Adventure at Sea

It was on January 28th 1930 that my father Wiremu Rudolph sold my 32-passenger boat Raurimu to George Wairama. George pleaded with my father for some days for me to take Raurimu to Ahipara. My father agreed, as I had a Marine Certificate. My father told George to prepare for the journey. George said everything was ready on board—fuel, food, oil, life jackets, life buoys and lights.

I went down early next morning about 6.00 a.m. I had to walk about two miles to get to the boat. George and Stevens were waiting for me. On my way I remembered that I had not said my prayers. I got on board the boat and we travelled down to Whangape harbour. We anchored there for ten minutes. The two men on board with me were George Wairama who was the new owner of the boat and Walter Stevens the mechanic.

George called out, ‘Pull the anchor up,’ for us to go out of the harbour. I said, ‘No, not yet! The sea is still unsettled,’ but George made us go out. We went out alright. As soon as we got out of the harbour, George put his fishing line out in the water.

We passed Herekino harbour, and I said to Stevens, ‘Something is wrong with the engine,’ and then I noticed Stevens was seasick already. He asked me to take the wheel, so I did. He said he would go and look at the oil cups. He went out of the engine room, and returned 15 minutes later. I asked him what was he doing, not tending to the engine. He did not reply; instead he cursed furiously while I was saying my prayers. I asked Stevens again what the matter was. He kept on cursing, then told me that the tin of oil which was bought from the store the day before had been emptied and filled with salt water.

We travelled for about an hour and the engine stopped, so we anchored out. Then I scooped all the oil from under the engine, put it through a funnel into a bottle and put that oil in the cups of the engine. We were there for two hours before I could start the motor again. We again travelled for an hour and again the engine stopped, so we anchored again. We tried and tried to start the motor—but no go! Stevens the mechanic was very seasick. George was not as sick as Stevens was.

The waves were coming through the skylight. George and I started baling the water out, and after a while he said to me that my back was covered with blood. I felt with my hand and noticed it was covered with blood. The mark is still on my back. George called out not to bale any more, so we went to the back room where Stevens was lying seasick on the bunk. I said to my crew, ‘Get ready in case of emergency,’ so we all put on our life jackets and tucked our clothes in my suitcase with Stevens' watch—the time being 5.20 p.m. George threw overboard the suitcase, which was wrapped in a life jacket, and also some benzine.

George then pulled his line in a little, said ‘There's nothing on it,’ and threw it back in the water again. Stevens called out, pulled it in, and to our surprise, there was a huge shark on the line. It just came up without any trouble, did not even pull the line, and lay on the surface beside the boat. Stevens grabbed my iron spear to kill the shark. I tried to take the line away from Stevens, and we struggled with it. Stevens wanted to kill the shark. He said, ‘This b. thing will eat us in the water.’ I told him not to kill it or else there would be more trouble for us, and George told Stevens to listen to me as I was the Captain.

At about 5.30 p.m. the rope of the anchor broke, and I saw my crew jump overboard. I stayed with my boat. The boat turned right over. When I came to the surface I heard Stevens calling to George, ‘Where is Huia?’

I replied, ‘Here I am.’

They shouted back, ‘Go for your life.’

I went under again, came up and saw high rocks. Looking back, I saw a large wave coming, so I dived under the waves and when that wave had passed me I found myself clinging to the rocks. After a brief rest I climbed the rocks. I saw George coming in

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with the waves towards some rocks well out. I saw him trying to stand on the rocks, but the next wave knocked him right over again.

I walked down to the beach, picked up my suitcase and the benzine, and unwrapped my clothes. Stevens' watch was still going and some of my clothes were still dry. The time was 5.40 p.m.

It was full tide when I landed, but the tide was going out when George landed. I went out to help him. His face was cut from the timber of the boat. He asked me to watch for Stevens. He knew I was saying my prayers all the time even when we were working on the boat. After he had a rest, he told me he would go to the settlement to break the news.

I cut my life buoy rope with a sharp rock, and joined it with the leather strap from the suitcase to make a long line. I went out as far as I could, and called out to Stevens to grasp the life buoy as he was floating with only his life jacket on. I threw the life buoy out three times before he managed to get his hands in it. I dragged him towards the rocks and caught his right hand. I pulled him onto the rocks and massaged his body. The water poured from his mouth and nose. I tried to pull him to his feet but he was too weak to stand. There was no life in him, so I carried him like a baby to the warm sand. I stripped his clothes off, dug a hole in the sand, and placed him in the hole and buried him with the warm sand which I had gathered with the suitcase.

At dusk George came back with a crowd on horseback. They asked me, ‘Where is Stevens—any sign of him yet?’ I pointed to the hole, where only his face was showing.

The crowd went over to Stevens and spoke to him. Stevens moved and realised he was naked. He said some bad words for taking his clothes off. The crowd clothed him, and he went to Ahipara gum fields.

The following day I was brought back to my home at Pawarenga.

I remember this happening, when I found out that by saying my prayers, I had saved my own life and the lives of the other two men, as I could not swim myself. My prayers to Our Lord were answered.

by Cecilia (Huia) Perkinson