Tiama at sea

ofo flag

Yesterday afternoon both James Rust and I received phone calls from our friends in the Oil Free Seas Flotilla, asking us to join them on the beautiful Tiama, at sea. As we had just been down in Bluff a few days earlier bidding Tiama and her crew farewell, this came as a bit of a surprise to us. In a whirlwind, by 6.30pm that evening we were on a small old ferry from the early 1900’s on our way out to meet and board Tiama.
We were welcomed aboard Tiama by a few people who hold a revered celebrity status within the Oil Free Otago working group, Bunny McDiarmid, executive director of Greenpeace New Zealand, who, due to her epic debating performance on The Vote is the official “girl crush” of one of our members; Jeanette Fitzsimons, former leader of the Green Party and New Zealand’s ‘most trusted politician, turned grassroots activist; and Henk Haazen, the mighty warrior of the seas, and skipper of Tiama. The other crew members on board who we have just met are the talented sailor and videographer, Pascale, who is documenting the stories of the trip (www.oilfreeseasflotilla/blog), and Barclay, who is following a long line of family tradition of protest at sea.
The best, and most notable, aspect of the crew is how normal they are. They all cook, clean, take turns on watch, and have the same personal concerns about deep sea drilling that we do. Sorry to let you down fans, but the sailors of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla are everyday people like you and me, taking a stand to protect our oceans, climate and way of life from deep sea oil drilling, in between cups of tea.
James was allocated watch shift with Pascale from midnight to 4am, as we sailed up the coast of the North Island. He says, “It was beautiful moonlit end to a long day, gliding through calm seas, learning the ropes in the dark, and hearing epic tails from Pascale’s adventures, of getting stuck in the ice sheets for 6 months; of killerwhales hunting narwhals; and that time she came to realise that punching a shark in the nose to get her catch back,(while it had worked)was probably not the best idea.” At 4am, Barclay woke me up for our watch shift, from 4am to 8am, sunrise! I spent the early morning learning to tie off some sailing knots, and being shown how to mark our location on a chart. As the sun came up we saw some albatross cruising around the boat. Barclay and I chatted, watched the stunning morning unfold, and made coffee and porridge for the rest of the team. Today has been total luxury, with sun, sandwiches and smooth sailing.
James and I both feel that being out here on the ocean is strengthening our resolve, and confirming our mission out here to protect it.  Tomorrow we will meet the other boats of the flotilla at ‘point x’, and who knows what will happen. I’m excited and privileged to have the opportunity to come to sea to represent Oil Free Otago in defending Aotearoa from Anadarko and deep sea oil drilling. This is especially close to home right now, as after they drill here in deepwater Taranaki, they are headed down south, to drill off the coast of Dunedin in January. We will do our best to send the message loud and clear, “No deep sea oil drilling in NZ. The people of Otago say No.”
This is just the beginning, but Anadarko should be worried when they meet the people of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla, because we represent so many others who are joining the growing wave of opposition to deep sea drilling, and we are a force to be reckoned with.  -Niamh O’Flynn Oil Free Otago

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