Waka anchors down during rough weather

Waka crew staying put for now

Last updated 09:08 05/06/2013
Fairfax NZ

One of the waka crew members talks through the night's ordeal but maintains the vessel never felt like it would capsize.

Waka 1
Phil Reid/Fairfax NZ Zoom
The first crew members from the stranded waka arrive on shore.

SlideshowAnchored waka, Island Bay

View Anchored waka, Island Bay in a larger map

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The skipper of a waka stranded for the night in wild weather off Wellington’s south coast has spoken of the ordeal.

From on board this morning, Frank Kawe said the 22-metre long Te Matau a Maui waka tried to to get into Wellington harbour last night, but was unable to because of the poor weather. 

‘‘It was pretty rough, very bumpy.’’ Torrential rain lashed Wellington yesterday and gales reached speeds of 126kmh.

After deciding against heading to the harbour, Mr Kawe decided to head to Island Bay with the other 13 people onboard.

‘‘It was always a bit of a back-up plan, if it got too rough,’’ he said.

Once safely inside the bay, the crew set about making the waka as secure as possible, before settling down for the night.

‘‘It wasn’t the best night’s sleep. We were always checking the anchors and the ropes.’’

The waka was never in any danger of capsizing, he said.

‘‘If it got too bad we could have just jumped down onto the beach.’’

One member left the waka this morning, due to a family bereavement.

The rest planned to stay on board till the weather cleared, before heading into Wellington Harbour, Mr Kawe said.

‘‘Maybe another 24 (hours).’’

Crew member Belinda Averill said the sea was very rough but ‘‘I couldn’t have felt safer’’.

The waka, a double-hulled sailing ship, sailed from Napier to Wellington to mark Matariki.

It is anchored about 2m from shore.

Maritime police did not want to tow the waka in from Island Bay last night, in case it flipped.

Weather also affected flights in and out of Wellington Airport with many cancelled last night, while power was cut to homes in Titahi Bay.

According to the airport website, flights into Wellington from Hamilton, Palmerston North, Taupo, Gisborne, Rotorua, and Westport had to be cancelled.

Many were rescheduled for this morning.

A flight from Timaru was diverted to Palmerston North, while some flights from Auckland, Tauranga and Nelson were delayed.

Flights to Blenheim, Rotorua, Whangarei, Hamilton, Gisborne and New Plymouth were all cancelled.

The rain, which is expected to continue today, could keep 35 slip-affected residents out of their Kingston homes until the end of the week.

Saturday's slip affected eight homes, including three that could be demolished because of their perilous position.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said staff were helping displaced residents arrange accommodation, with those unable to stay with family or friends being put up in motels until at least tonight.

It had been hoped some could return to their houses yesterday or today, but that was now unlikely before the end of the week.

"There's no way we'd put people back into the houses before the storm has passed."

The focus now was on keeping the slip site as stable as possible during the storm.

"We want as little water as possible cascading down the actual slip face . . . we don't want a waterfall."

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A 20-tonne digger was at the foot of the cliff in case it was needed to divert damming water, and pumps and hoses were installed in the stormwater systems to divert as much water as possible, Mr MacLean said.

Engineers were assessing the slip site and old records of the subdivision were being reviewed to determine the cause of the slip. Among the issues being considered was whether the site had been created by infilling land.

Meanwhile, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research figures show last month was much wetter than usual in Wellington.

The May climate summary, released yesterday, shows 161 millimetres of rain fell in the city - 145 per cent of normal for the month. Rainfall was below normal in parts of Hawke's Bay.

The Cook Strait ferry Aratere's early morning sailing from Wellington was cancelled due to the weather.

- The Dominion Post

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