Dylan and the fantastic sea voyage
For one little Bluff boy, following the journey of a family friend from Liverpool to the southern tip of the South Island has been a big adventure.
All good stories need a little bit of fantasy and imagination, and when English artist Adele McMahon told a little white lie to Dylan Jaques, who celebrated turning 7 yesterday, about how she would be making her way to Bluff for a visit, so began an imaginary sea voyage.
Drawing on her own childhood memories of when her father, a sailor in the merchant navy, would return from the sea and tell his tales, Ms McMahon has created a living story for Dylan and his siblings.
"Following a telephone conversation with my friend's son, I joked that I would paddle all the way to New Zealand in my little boat to see him," she said.
"He believed me and I thought it would be fun to pretend to really do it."
Four months later, after calling into exotic ports, facing perils at sea and encountering strange characters, that imaginary voyage came to an end when Ms McMahon sailed into Bluff on Saturday.
When The Southland Times spoke to Dylan by telephone last night, he shyly responded "yes" when asked whether he was excited about Ms McMahon's arrival, whether he had enjoyed the postcards she had created for him and whether it had been a nice birthday present to have her visit him in Bluff.
What made the story truly come to life were the lengths to which Ms McMahon went.
"I asked if people could help me by sending postcards from the countries I intended to visit on my journey," she said.
"The response was fantastic and for the past three months postcards have been arriving at the Jaques' Greenhills address from all over the world."
Help to keep the pages of the adventure turning even came from the Bluff community.
"For the countries I couldn't get someone to actually send a postcard, I created one and with the help of some Bluff residents - who delivered the postcards - managed to keep sailing."
As a photographic digital artist, Ms McMahon even created photographs of her "voyage".
"With a little digital manipulation and the help of the students I was teaching . . . in Liverpool, I have documented my trip."
The original plan was to ship the small paddle boat she has used as her prop to Bluff and sail into the harbour but logistical complications - explained away as a shipwreck - meant that was not possible.
Instead, Bluff man Peter Leask helped write the final chapter of the amazing journey by bringing Ms McMahon into Bluff Harbour on his boat on Saturday.
"I've made up a story about being shipwrecked off the coast of Australia and hitching a lift with a fisherman for the last leg of the journey."
Adding to the story, Ms McMahon arrived in Bluff several days before she was scheduled to make port but, luckily, she was stowed away, out of sight of the Jaques children, by complicit Bluff residents while she completed the final touches to her living adventure tale.
While there had been overwhelming support for her project, Ms McMahon said there were also a few people who felt she was not being honest with the kids.
"I think they will forgive me and I don't think there will be any long-term damage. After all, everyone loves a good adventure story."
Photographs from Ms McMahon's journey can be viewed at facebook.com/PaddleBoatProject
The Southland Times