NZ Rules The Waves

Russell Wharf

(published in Savvy Magazine, August 2013)

Take a look around next time you’re in a busy place. Those three people in the supermarket queue, for instance. According to statistics, one of them regularly goes fishing. And, see that table of eight in the cafe? Apparently, one of them owns a boat. With a population of four million, that’s… (hang on while I reel in my maths from the deep)… 500,000 privately-owned boats in New Zealand!

Northland undoubtedly has its own fair share of the boat quota. With a whopping 3200 km of coastline, 200 metres for each person, Northlanders are never far from a beach or a boat ramp. Never far from catching a Snapper for tea.

As someone who moved here from Britain, the huge amount of interaction with the sea came as a surprise. In comparison, Great Britain, subject of the famous line ‘Britannia Rules the Waves’, has only one boat for every 107 people. We never knew anyone with a boat. Going out on the water was something you might do when braving a rare trip to ‘the seaside’ – too cold for most of the year, and too crowded in the few days when it wasn’t too cold. You usually had to queue for a long time, and then felt sick for a long time afterwards because the sea was always too choppy.

We waited for six months before we decided to join the ranks of the Northland boat-owning population, and invested in a tiny ‘tinny’. Two years later, I still can’t look when the fish has to be spiked, but I’m getting very good at eating it. So, when you’re scrutinising that supermarket queue, guess what? One of the three people standing there might even be me.

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