I never understood the worship of the small, metal box that is the car. Give me a towering, majestic wooden ship anyday. That soft whisper of the bow-cut sea. The flap of the sails as they unfurl and the wind fills them. The creak of the old timbers. Which is why, every time I see the R Tucker Thompson tied to the wharf in Russell or Paihia, I have to go and touch her and stare at her for a while.
The ship isn’t old, but it looks old. Old and new at the same time. When you see her, you are transported back to the Bay of Islands of the 1800’s when Russell was the Hellhole of the Pacific, the Maori were up in arms, and the missionaries had their work cut out for them. You can imagine the heavily-laden merchant ships, and the bloodied boats of the whalers sailing through the bay.
In modern times the R Tucker Thompson has a more serene role. She takes tourists around the islands, stopping on beaches for picnic lunches and mooring up in turquoise waters so that her passengers can perform swashbuckling rope swings into the sea. Profits go towards a life-changing Youth Development programme. It’s on my List of Things To Do When I Have More Money. Till then I’ll have to content myself with touching and staring… and watching reruns of ‘Master and Commander’.