It's the sailor's life for busy student

23:59, Feb 05 2014
Kathryn Holmes
STUDENT FLAT: Otago University student Kathryn Holmes, 23, sails the family yacht Scoot to and from Nelson, and lives on the yacht while attending university in Dunedin.

With the start of the university year drawing near, Kathryn Holmes is about to migrate south with her books and student flat, which is a yacht named Scoot.

The 23 year-old is due to set sail from Nelson for Otago this Friday, with her sister Anita who she will drop off at Canterbury University on the way, plus a couple of other friends keen to gain some sea miles.

The stop-over in Lyttelton will also be necessary time ashore for Ms Holmes to sit a couple of time-critical exams for summer papers she has tackled through Massey University to complete her geography degree. The exams have to be sat on a certain date, which fell in the week the journey south was planned.

The linguistics and geography student is about to embark on her fifth and final year at Otago University. She will finish a post-graduate honours degree in linguistics, which is an interest that evolved from the family's global sailing journeys she has grown up with.

The last one was in 2009 when she spent her gap year sailing with her family to South America. "I loved meeting everyone and the different languages they spoke."

Her love of geography was borne from the same background, and she has developed a focus in environmental management.


Ms Holmes got permission to take the family yacht Scoot, a Cavalier 32 that the family downsized to after their last overseas voyage. The small yacht is bedecked with memorabilia of exotic destinations the Holmes family has visited.

With the blessing of her parents Pat and Clare, Ms Holmes sailed south last year with the help of her dad, and lived on the yacht in Dunedin. "I was going to live in a van and on the off-chance I mentioned to mum and dad about the boat and they were keen."

Ms Holmes and a few friends, including one who had planned to hitchhike, made the return trip to Nelson at the end of last year.

"It was a bit more of an adventure as I was with friends and I was the captain. On the way down, dad was the captain."

Not only was the journey an adventure, living aboard was also a far more economical way to get by as a student. The berth and live-aboard fee at the Dunedin Marina was $60 a week, and monthly power bills ranged from 60 cents to $4.50 a month. That covered the cost of supplementary power for the yacht's fridge, computer and stereo when the solar panel ran out of juice on those Dunedin days when there was not quite enough sunlight.

The trip to uni is a seven-minute bike ride from the marina.

"I really enjoy living on board in Dunedin. It's warmer and cosier than student flats. I had snow on the boat last winter - it was piled up in the cockpit.

"I do get a mixed reaction at uni when people ask, ‘what's your flat like?' It's usually a conversation stopper but most think it's cool."

Ms Holmes said a Wellington med student lived on his boat nearby, which was a bit like having a flatmate.

She said sailing was an interest that was impossible to let go.

"It's always a real challenge - even in good weather, then turning up at a new place - you never lose that thrill."

Scoot will be ready to sail from Nelson on Friday evening. They plan to arrive in Lyttelton by Tuesday, in time for Anita to return to engineering studies.

"Scoot is well set up so things don't tend to go wrong. She's really comfortable at sea," Ms Holmes said. She expected Cook Strait to present the most challenging conditions, "because you never know quite what's going to happen".

The Nelson Mail