Month: December 2014


I have been waiting for some inspiration for a last blog of this calendar year. Thanks to those who have read during the last year; special thanks to those who have commented here or on Facebook.

We are leaning towards Christmas and I most wish I could make some construction to hold some light and life of Christ. A luxuriant king sized bed but at once so simple and no more complex or pretentious than a wooden animal feed box. No design dreamed by me seems suitable; all structurally flawed. The waiting remains.

R.S. Thomas’ poem ‘Kneeling,’ a favourite, feels particularly apposite.

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great rôle. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.


First things

Marsden Memorial Church, Matauri Bay

On 20 December 1814, Samuel Marsden arrived in Matauri Bay and came ashore and there he first preached the Gospel.

Of course, we don’t quite tell the story like that. The current prevailing narrative is all about a joyous church service on Christmas Day.

The encounter at Matauri Bay is arguably more significant than the one at Oihi Bay. No doubt Marsden prayed at Matauri too. It is possible he actually prayed plenty as he stayed overnight on shore, without Ruatara or his other Maori companions – and it was a tense situation. But the words of his prayers are not what is remembered today.

Five years earlier ‘the Boyd incident’ had left dozens of people dead and a great deal of animosity behind. Inter-tribal and inter-racial relations were deeply damaged by what occured on the Whangaroa Harbour in 1809. But Marsden’s fearless presence amongst tribal leaders and warriors from across the area helped broker a new peace and, frankly, paved the way for the mission at Rangihoua – a mission that may not have happened without Matauri first happening. Here at Matauri was Marsden showing a christianity engaged (at great personal risk) and working hard for peace and justice.

It is St Francis of Assisi that is credited with saying, “preach always, and, if you must, use words.” At Matauri a great message was preached through Marsden’s presence and action.

It might be argued that the Matauri story has even more to offer church and nation than the celebrated church service at Oihi on Christmas Day. Matauri is certainly a part of the story that needs more attention and honouring. I certainly count it an honour to have been there today. I pray what occurred there in 1814 might inspire us all.






Just a quick reflection of the hikoi. I have been more tired today than I expectected.

It was a very satisfying physical achievement. My kayak is 30 years old and at Labour Weekend it was under a bach, dirty, and unused for a couple of years (photo). The kayaker is older still and … well, I’ll avoid the litany of physical failings. Needles to say it is a while since I have done 6 – 8 hours of physical activity in one day, let alone day after day. It was good, however, to be in the midst such a challenge again. So, a good thing done.

There was a host of things to think on while we paddled or rested on remote beaches: Reading historical journals (of Bishop Selwyn in particular); the environment – splendid, beautiful; and scared by humans, and the indigenous wildlife – playing with dolphins a real highlight.

Spiritually the slower pace of self propelled travel allowed the Spirit to restore reassess some parts of my life.

There are a good number of people to thank: people who sent messages and texts one way or another (some on this blog); my father who became honorary admiral of the fleet for a couple of days; Jayson Rhodes; Sarah Stevens and Rich; Mitzi; and Jane.

Most of all my thanks go to John, my companion along the way. I have studied friendship seriously while at Yale. Such study is no real substitute for getting on with it. Aelred of Rievaulx writes of ‘friend cleaving to friend.’ Because of the risks and challenges involved in such a trip at see in little boats we have simply had to cleave to one another. Kayaking demands ‘rafting up’ (coming alongside each other and holding onto each other to provide stability) to rest and look at maps etc. It is great metaphor for life together.

Thank you. Thank God.

on the last day

We made it! A slow and gentle day. Having eaten most of the food there was just less to pack into the kayaks and we got away at usual time in spite of not rising until 5:30. The wind dropped away to nothing for the final stretch across the bay to Rangihoua and Oihi Bay.

It was great to be greeted by Jason and Rich in a little boat. Familiar smiling faces.

I was little choked-up to see the Marsden Cross, journey’s end and a marker of our church’s beginning, more choked up as John and I embraced.

I expect to write a longer and final reflection on our pilgrimage tomorrow – when some sleep has been had – but during the journey I have been reading some of Bishop Selwyn’s letters and one particular quote has charmed me. On his first passage to New Zealand and writing back to SPG regarding his arrival in Sydney he had these words: “After a most happy and prosperous voyage, which the Almighty seemed to bless in a peculiar manner the Bishop and his party …”

Selwyn’s words captures so much of what I want to say about our little passage .. and they are so much better than anything I can think of in current idiom.

Looking from Moturua across to Rangihoua

Looking from Moturua across to Rangihoua

Journey's end

Day 7

Pilgrim's shell

Pilgrim’s shell

Hole in a rock.

Hole in a rock.

Cape Brett

Cape Brett

Saint Nicholas’ Day and one full of gifts. We made it into the Bay of Islands, through the ‘Hole in the Rock,’ paddled with a dolphin, saw Orcas (we were so wishing they would come see us), had coffee (we were invited onto to the yacht Matrix by skipper Noel Vautier), had our last dehydrated meal, and Rangihoua and Oihi are in striking distance for noon tomorrow.

Much to think and reflect on today: Bishop Selwyn once found himself becalmed at Cape Brett and ordered the lifeboat over so he could row to Paihia. No sooner had he done so and the breeze came up. However in Paihia he the rowed around to Waitangi to walk to Waimate North. Such prodigious energy!

Likewise we visited a second ruined whaling station at Deep Water Cove. The work of whalers was described at the time as ” generally desperately dangerous requiring skill, courage,strength, and endurance.”

Early mariners and early missionaries saw our country from a vulnerable place and it required a good deal from within them.

So, we are resting up on Urapukapuka tonight. I have tied a scallop shell to the front of each of our kayaks. Pilgrim vessels.

Day 6

What a day!

It began with decisions about go on or not. My health was not ‘100%’ as we say in kiwi culture understatement.

Anyway, we decided to proceed gently and see how were going. John was fantastic getting us on the water and underway.

The first part of the day went well passing through the Rimiriki Islands off the Whirinaki Penninsula.

Lunch was taken after four and half hours of paddling.

I had bought part of a block of cheese from the very kind campground manager ( getting low on some provisions) and it this aided the general feeling of bliss.
We had run out of superlatives for the beauty of the coastline.

After lunch we set out with the possibility of Cape Brett. Not to be. We slogged in what must have been 20 knot gusts for 2 hours – sometimes paddling full tilt but going nowhere. From just north of Bland Bay to the entrance of Whangamumu Harbour had taken way longer and way more effort than it should have. Humbled again.

In the harbour we paid a short visit to the old whaling station – active at the turn of the 20 Century. It was impressive as a feat of human endevour and courage on one level but there is no doubt that the whole business was ghastly.

Having decided that we would stay at Whangamumu tonight, there was a lone dolphin in the bay. I had a great paddle with it. I even managed an extra turn of speed with the dolphin trying my bow wave (not!). John jumped in and swam with it. Very special.

Now kumara in foil in the fire – to be as cooked as we are feeling after a long day.

Old boiler from old whaling stationWhangamumu whaling station

Day 5

Just a short distance today. We made it to a spectacular camp ground on the Whananaki Peninsula called Otamure. The bay is overlooked by a carved Po, of Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea. The carving, in a modern style, has the figure clutching fish and crayfish under his arms.

It is all too perfect here and the wind obliged by getting up and making paddling tough and before we knew it the tent was up and we were staying the night. The kayaks looked good on the beach too – shame to move them.

Frankly, we were both a little tired too. 5 hours paddling this morning in and out up the coast. Perhaps too slowly, but the cumulative effects on the previous day’s efforts on this desk jockey come insatiable attendee of meetings is probably the explanation. At least Anglican worship has me sitting down and standing up and general pew aerobics, otherwise I would have to say my job was completely ‘sedentary’! Resolve of day: more worship. (Day in day out it has to improve my fitness?!)

As we paddled up the unspeakably beautiful coast I couldn’t help reflecting on our impact on the landscape. Some truly ugly holiday houses scar the landscape. Some beautiful looking and sympathetic structures too, but many are just evidence of a lack of care for our environment. Hardly a great crime. (Unless you are an architect! And some of my best friends are architects!) The greater crime might be the paucity of sea birds and what has happened to them. Seemingly so few gulls, terns, and the ever wonderful blue penguins. Where have they gone?
Kayaks at Otamure

Looking North from Pataua


Day 4

A little way into our hikoi now and simple things are having considerable attraction. It is a good sign that camping and life at a slower pace is working its magic of getting one to reevaluate what matters. The shower last night and a real breakfast – egg and bacon – were a real delight. At a deeper level the magic is happening too. I found myself singing ” we come from THE land down under” a few times. Splendid cliffs and a deep low swell from the east pressing against them. Truly impressive country and coast.

Another reasonable day with 8 hours of paddling although the last part was slow as we tired and slogged rather slowly into a rising northerly breeze which we weren’t expecting. We have called ourselves ‘the antiques roadshow’ as our bodies and joints complain.

The big delight of the day was crossing Bream Bay, our biggest stretch of open water on this trip. If the weather was poorer we would have had to hug the coast. So, Mangawhai Heads to Ocean Beach for early lunch. We left Ocean Beach happy and the water was genuinely blue for a bit. The afternoon turned out to be hard work but it was a great relief to come into the little river at Pataua. A truly beautiful place.

Day 3

” New every morning is the love.” – John Keeble

What a difference a new day can make. The picture doesn’t quite tell the truth of the day as we had swells at time that had John’s kayak disappear completely, but we have had a great day.
About 56 km covered and most of it actually heading to Oihi.

A bit over 8 hours of paddling and the body is complaining mightily as it is a little while since I have exercised for eight hours in a day. Superb to be in a Bach at Mangawhai. Dad has come down with some provisions, so better dinner tonight. Simple pleasures.

Hope for a another good day tomorrow. If the weather is kind we will be able to go straight across Bream Bay – if not, it will be some dog leg miles again.

Very happy and very tired and very thankful.

Day 2


“Quicken me in the power of your word.”

So reads the passage from Psalm 119 for midday prayer on Mondays. It would be no bad thing to have this petition granted but I find myself praying for quicker progress North. (I know that it is a different use of quicken!) We are making very slow progress towards our destination. The wind is such that we are having to hug the coast and that is far from the most direct route.

This morning we paddled steadily for four hours to our lunch stop Scandrett Regional Park. The wind actually died away for a time (hence risking taking the phone out for a photo of John) and it was lovely. Short lived as rain, a slight wind shift, and wind increase followed too soon. Not before we had the spectacular sight of dolphins absolutely flying in front of us chasing fish which they rounded up in against the coast. A thrilling sight. Unfortunately they were not interested in visiting with a couple of kayakers.

Lunch was weather for the ducks. We were visited by mum and seven ducklings. Very sweet.

This might be today’s post as we are likely to be stuck here, though we have made 21.5km today.