Easter Coromandel Trip, 1999, written by Peter MacIntyre, Martin Powell and Robin McPhee

Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th (by Peter MacIntyre)
Finally I have committed to paper the events of the first couple of days of the trip.
Well I am sure that it is common knowledge by now that the weather gods certainly came to the party and due to this good fortune, me (Peter MacIntyre), Trevor Butler, Peter McMillan and Michael Ryland had a great two days, exploring the islands and reefs around Opito Bay.
Day one with light winds saw us go out wide.  The selection of spots was perfect, with plenty of tide running, bait galore and Kingies! Trevor landed a nice specimen of 13kg and I lost one of around 20kg.  The visibility was excellent, around the 50ft mark out wide. Following our spearfishing, we picked up a few mussels and crayfish and headed home for a seafood dinner and rums, wines etc.
Day two dawned much the same as Day one, and the visibility was again excellent as we headed out wide. Trevor speared a nice John Dory, but the highlight of the day belonged to Peter McMillan, who landed his first Kingfish, a nice 11kg specimen.  Peter and I were schooled by a large group of Kingies, an awesome sight, which is always a highlight. Following this, we again picked up some crayfish and headed home.
In summary, a great time was had, with good company.  Here also thank you to all the others that turned up. I assure you, it doesn’t rain all of the time on the Coromandel!

Monday 5th (by Martin Powell)
The day started well, weatherwise, but sea conditions were such that we could not undertake any waterborne activities.  The decision was taken to spend the morning doing some work around the house.
We attempted to get the motor mower going as the grass was in desperate need of a trim.  Unfortunately, the mower was "dead" and a loaner had to be acquired from a friendly neighbour.  I then took to the "lawn" with a vengeance while Lu and Peter Mac disposed of the clippings and did some fantastic work on tidying the ferns and other garden plants.
While the garden was getting a spruce up, Trevor, Klare, Bondi and Robin worked hard on unpacking gear and inflating the deflated "rubber duckie" on loan from Mike Penfold (which unfortunately never made it into the water!).  Attempts were also made by Bondi and Trevor to get a 4 stroke outboard working for the aforementioned inflatable, but to no avail.  Like the motor mower, it was as dead as a dodo.
After all the hard work was completed around "home" a number of us went for a drive to one of the bays that the early birds had been frequenting the previous few days.  The bay itself looked great, but the sea was uninviting and the weather not so great.
Later in the afternoon, Bondi, Robin and I went down to the "park" with Phoebe for a game of rugby (well, throwing and kicking a rugby ball!).  Bondi and I learnt that Robin either has very poor eyesight, or was never taught to catch a ball as a boy, because he dropped almost every one that came his way!  I think the dog caught the ball more often than he did!!
The day for Andrea and I with a trip to Whitianga, in the rain, for a meal to celebrate Andrea's birthday.  When we got back, the rest of the gang had produced a fabulous cake that went down well with coffee (or was it beer!)

Tuesday 6th (by Martin Powell)
This was probably the worst day of the whole trip, as it rained continuously from morning to night.  After moping around the house, feeling depressed about the weather, we decided to head over to Whitianga and wander aimlessly around the shops.  This we managed with ease!  Unfortunately, the variety of shops was rather limited, so it didn't take long for us to get bored with that and we went for lunch.
Lunch was taken at a small but trendy wee café behind the library.  We had some trouble getting us all in (some decided to go elsewhere), but for those that stayed (you know who you are!!) it was well worth it.  Food and drinks were good and we even partook of some great desserts.
After lunch, I volunteered to be the driver for Andrea, Klare and Lu who were all keen to hunt out the pottery shops scattered around the outskirts of town.  The rest of the gang paid a visit to an old club member who lived in Whitianga.
The evening was spent at "home" listening to classic records (yes vinyl!), eating, drinking and telling stories, while praying for an improvement in the weather and the sea conditions the next day.

One of the Other Days (by Robin McPhee)
A while back a few of us went on a dive trip.  “Shock horror!” ... I hear you exclaim. “A dive trip! How novel!  Anybody would think we were actually interested in that sort of thing”.  But fear not... this was no ordinary dive trip... this was a Wellington Underwater Club dive trip.  Yes! -  this was the same club that organised to go sea kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds. “Fair enough”... you say, “At least it is something on the water”.  But rather than go snorkel in the Marine Reserve, we went to look at bloody bird sanctuary instead!!! (I don’t remember tramping and bush walking being listed as aims of the club anywhere!). This is also the same Club that gets its biggest membership turn outs at go-karting and skiing events. 
So from that introduction you might guess that there wasn’t much diving done on this dive trip.  Well you would be right, but it wasn’t our fault... honest, it was the bloody weather.  Everyone went up with the idea of getting wet and enjoying some slightly warmer water diving.  On arrival, we were further lulled into a false sense of security by the few who had gone on the trip early. They were saying things like: “flat seas, great vis., kingies everywhere, ... blah, blah, blah”.  “Right!” we thought, “we’ll be into this ... like a robber’s dog ... first thing tomorrow morning.”
And then things changed.  Up came the wind, in came the swell, down came the rain, out went the visibility, through the roof went any chance of diving, and whoa, not a go-kart track or a bird sanctuary anywhere nearby.
Well that is my recollection of the build up to my first dive at Coromandel.  I was supposed to be writing about a particular day, one that I was designated to write up, but this far past the event, my memory is getting a bit selective.  It was a day or few after the rain started that Trevor though he knew a Bay that might provide enough shelter to get a dive in. We were getting a bit desperate by then.  Unfortunately there was no ramp at the bay so we had to launch Trevor’s boat from another beach a few miles around.  “No problem!” said Trevor, “We can stop off on the way and get a feed of mussels form rock X”.  Like a mug, I volunteered to go with Trevor and get the mussels and take the boat around to the bay where we were going to dive, me with my sea-legs, what was I thinking!!!  Anyway, after much juggling of cars and drivers, three of us set off in the boat and the others set off in cars, all to meet around at the sheltered Bay.

Well at least the cars had an uneventful trip to the Bay.  We set off with Trevor at the helm, driving the boat from wave top to wave top, seeming to forget that he was the only person with 3 bracing points and foot holders as well.  The rest of us held on as best we could, trying to think positively and reminding ourselves that kidneys actually work better if they have been juggled and jarred around a bit, and thankful that Trevor had a rubber boat.
From wave crest to wave crest we rode on, at least from the tops of the waves we could see where we were going.  Off in the distance was a little island.  I asked Trevor “Is that the spot?”  He said it was a way past there.  I had a sudden feeling that I might not want to be here anymore.
By the time we roller-coasted our way to rock X with the mussels on it, I knew I didn’t want to be there!  The rock was awash as humungous swells ripped backwards and forwards over it (well, there was at least, a bit of white water).  My brain can’t have been working to its usual lightning-fast assessment of the situation speed (maybe it was the seasickness creeping up on me), because for some reason I though I’d be better off in the water, getting surged every which-way by the swell, than sitting gently in the boat getting slowly raised and lowered by the sea. 
So in we went to get a feed of mussels for tea that night.  In between surges the water de-bubbled enough to see the rocks and you could snorkel down and grab 2 or 3 mussels between both hands.  Then the surge would come back and you would lose all vis in the white water and the power of the surge would push or pull you every which way and rip you and the mussels you were holding from the rocks.  Fortunately we had decided to go in lightly weighted (I like to think it was that lightening fast brain of mine), so as the surge treated you like a turd in a toilet bowl, you would gently float to the surface (this was good!! ‘cause you sure as hell couldn’t see through the white water & bubbles to swim up).
After doing this for a while, my stomach started giving urgent signals to my throat (without even asking my brain), about something it had to deliver... and it was going to be a wide load (damn!! I knew I shouldn’t have been suckered into that whole sausage swallowing contest at breakfast).  Fortunately we had enough mussels, so I was able to crawl back on to the boat and according to tradition I made an offering to the great sea god “Hueeie” as thanks for the bounty of kaimoana. I thought this was pretty good of me because I don’t even like mussels.
So we headed around to the sheltered bay, Trevor was right. There was virtually no swell on the north side - the only downer about the place was the intermittent showers, no sun, winds gusting up to 40 knots, and ratshit visibility.  So we all thought this must be the place to dive ... and we did.
Peter McMillan and Bondi went out to the head of the bay, where a great school of kingies swam past Bondi as he was untangling and loading his speargun (well there may have been 1 or 2, but great school reads better). Alas, the kingies were not seen again.  But it was enough to entice me back into the water, so in I went and got my gun ready, thinking all the time “If there is a fish anywhere within sight, I’m going to nail it”.  As it was, there was never any fish in sight (apart from triplefins when I plowed head first into the bottom). The visibility was terrible - I couldn’t see past the end of my gun, even with my mask with corrective lens in.  I think for Bondi to have seen those kingies they must have swam between his legs and past his nose, thinking he was a piece of flotsam.
By this time I was getting just a little pissed off with the whole thing and decided to give up, so I hauled myself up on a rock to rest and build up my strength for the swim back. The distance looked like about a k and a half, felt like 4 or 5 k (remember someone had robbed me of my breakfast a bit earlier), but was probably 5 –8 hundred metres.   I was hoping Trevor might have seen me, as he was ferrying scuba divers out and back from a spot further out, and I would have taken the easy way back to the beach, but again it was one of those days when things like that were not going to happen.
So after seeing Trevor wizz past for the 93rd time, I was resolved to swim back. Fortunately by that time, Peter and Bondi had also given up duck-diving in the pea soup of the heads and decided to duck-dive their way back to the beach.  You had to admire their persistence!  So back in the water I fell, (didn’t have enough energy to jump), and started to swim back, setting myself little targets to get to along the way.
First was the nearest rock outcrop, then the next outcrop, then a mooring float, the next float, etc until the beach.  Also to take my mind off the distance, counting 100 fin strokes face down, then 100 stokes on my back, then another 100 sideways, etc., etc., on and on.  By the time I got to the beach I was a poohed unit.  To make matters worse, Bondi and Peter were still duck-diving - I think in the hope that they might accidentally run their speargun points through a fish at some stage, and Trevor was whizzing past in the middle of the bay, going to pick up and return with scuba divers.
I can’t remember if the scuba divers got any crayfish. I think Bondi or Peter may have accidentally run through a fish or two while duck-diving in the murk, my usually lightening fast brain was running oh so slowly.
We got back to Peter MacIntyre’s bach, left our dive gear out in the rain to rinse, and adjourned to inside, where people organised a cook-up of the mussels and other stuff.  So we finished off the day with a few beers and wines, and giving true and accurate accounts of our experiences of the day, the way fishermen do.  I did try a bit of mussel for dinner that night but for some reason it left a bad taste in my mouth. Fortunately a beer soon got rid of it, along with a rather eclectic taste of music found in the bach on these funny oversize black CD type things - LP’s, I think they’re called - perhaps some of the older members of the club remember them.
This is an account of only one day of the trip - a day that had a profound effect on me - Robin McPhee

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