Adventurous trip back to uni

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 20/02/2014
Kathryn Holmes
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
SET SAIL: Otago University student Kathryn Holmes, 23, before she set sail in the family yacht Scoot to go back to Dunedin. 

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Student Kathryn Holmes' sailing trip back to Otago University from Nelson was "quite an adventure", featuring big southerly seas, engine troubles and bouts of seasickness.

Kathryn and her sister Anita, who sailed the family yacht Scoot from Nelson to Dunedin, where Kathryn lives aboard, battled strong headwinds for much of the voyage.

"We had to fix the engine twice at sea. Otherwise, Scoot survived the battering really well," Kathryn said.

Anita attends Canterbury University, and was to have been dropped off during a planned stopover in Lyttelton, but she ended up sailing the remainder of the distance after a crew reshuffle in Canterbury.

The passage from Nelson was helped by extra crew, but after the trip to Canterbury took longer than planned, they decided to step ashore at Lyttelton rather than continuing on to Dunedin.

Kathryn was to have sat a couple of time-critical exams during the stopover, for papers she tackled through Massey University over summer, which were crucial for completing her geography degree. Instead, she had to stop at Kaikoura and drive from there to Christchurch to do one of them in time.

Prior to that, she made a brief stop at Port Underwood to give the crew a break from extremely rough weather, but the engine on the Cavalier 32 yacht "choked and spluttered" upon leaving.

"It had picked up air and just needed bleeding," Kathryn said.

"We had a similar scenario dodging a cruise ship in the middle of the night off Oamaru, but it was easily fixed."

When it looked like she wasn't going to make the exam on time, they pulled into Kaikoura, where her father Pat Holmes, a Nelson boat broker, stepped in and helped to sail Scoot to Lyttelton.

"We were so slow around Cape Campbell, but we had Dad on standby and he met us in Kaikoura, and I drove to Christchurch to sit the exam. Dad sailed on to Lyttelton, and it was the hardest thing watching the boat sail away."

Kathryn said she was "not the most focused" during the exam.

Afterwards, the two sisters set sail on their own for Dunedin.

"It was quite an adventure. We had really rough weather with lots of southwesterlies, up to 40 knots at times.

"We arrived in Dunedin at 3am last Saturday."

The 23-year-old linguistics and geography student has just started her fifth and final year at Otago. She will finish a postgraduate honours degree in linguistics, an interest that evolved from the family's global sailing journeys while Kathryn, Anita and their brother Michael were growing up.

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Scoot is the yacht the family downsized to after their last overseas voyage, to South America in 2009.

With the blessing of parents Pat and Clare, Kathryn first sailed south last year and lived on the yacht in Dunedin. She and a few friends then made the return trip to Nelson for the summer holidays late last year.

Living at Dunedin Marina was economical and convenient, she said. It was a seven-minute bike ride to the university and Otago Museum, where she works in the cafe.

She was now busy getting organised for the year ahead.

"I'm still settling in here. It rained the first couple of days, so I couldn't dry anything out."

Kathryn said sailing was an interest that was impossible to let go of.

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

- The Nelson Mail

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