Wellington mayor tempted by the strait

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown prepares for the Cook Strait crossing she will be attempting as part of a group of 10 next February.
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
WATER ADVENTURE: Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown prepares for the Cook Strait crossing she will be attempting as part of a group of 10 next February.

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Looking out from her Island Bay home, the lure of Cook Strait has proved too much for Celia Wade-Brown.

Wellington's mayor is training to paddle her way across the 22-kilometre stretch as part of a group led by Adventure Wellington.

But with one rescue already behind her, the training has not been without its hairy moments.

Ms Wade-Brown is preparing to be one of 10 kayakers to paddle across the Strait in February, after the original trip in November was postponed due to bad weather.

In October, she was part of a group of eight training for the crossing that got into trouble in Lambton Harbour. Four tipped out, and had to be rescued by police.

The mayor was not one of those who tipped out, but said training in tough conditions was necessary to prepare them for Cook Strait.

The view from her Island Bay home, past Taputeranga Island, inspired her to make the journey. "It's a compelling stretch of water, but has to be treated with considerable caution."

She has been training at least twice a week, and has completed a solo trip from Island Bay to the city in preparation.

She has also completed an overnight trip in the Marlborough Sounds, a round trip of about 32km.

Ms Wade-Brown said she loved the challenge of kayaking, and Wellington was well suited to it with lots of different spots for different weather conditions.

"I have been out there seeing dolphins and orcas and rays . . . It just tests my nerve."

But safety was a priority, she said. Lifejackets and safety equipment were essential, as were basic skills training and refresher courses.

"And lots of water and chocolate."

Adventure Wellington trustee Heather Allott is organising the trip, and said every group member would have to undergo a fitness test before being allowed to make the crossing.

Fergs Kayaks is also helping organise the trip, which will be accompanied by a safety boat.

General manager Dave Annear will be one of the instructors on the trip, and said everyone would be in twin kayaks which were more stable and easier to paddle on long journeys.

There was a specific "weather window" that would have to be met for the trip to go ahead, but the kayakers were purposefully training in tougher conditions to ready themselves.

"When we do the training we're trying to push people's boundaries."

The crossing was expected to take four to six hours.

The kayakers would camp overnight at the head of Tory Channel and continue to Picton the next day. The trip is planned for February 9.

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- Fairfax Media

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