Monday, 06 July 2020


Kia ora Miriam - welcome home!

Tougher than expected, but totally worth it!

That’s how Cook’s Beach local, Miriam Dawson, reflected on an unforgettable experience on board the replica HMB Endeavour as the tall ship sailed into New Zealand waters early last week.

Miriam spoke to The Informer from onboard last Thursday as the ship made her way south, down the Coromandel’s east coast towards Tauranga, where the 50 plus crew returned to dry land after more than two weeks at sea.

“We’ve just gone past Hahei now and it’s pouring with rain. Mum and dad went out to the edge of the pa, they were waving at us but I couldn’t see them. It was nice to know they were there though. I did manage to spot mum jumping around on the shore when we up at Opito Bay,” laughed Miriam, whose parents are Phil and Claire Dawson of Richardsons Real Estate Cooks Beach.

The Endeavour took shelter in Opito Bay on Wednesday as strong winds prevented her from getting into port. She finally docked in Tauranga on Friday morning, completing her journey from Sydney to New Zealand for the Tuia - Encounters 250 commemoration.

Miriam said the trip had exceeded her expectations in every way possible. Signing on and being accepted as a trainee crew member, she said she knew it would be mentally and physically tough.

“It was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” she said. Aside from the physical demands, Miriam said the complexities of bringing together 50 strangers with different cultures and backgrounds together on a boat were also challenging.

“I was particularly lucky with the people on my shift. The expertise was just incredible. We had an astrophysicist, an expert in celestial navigation, an ex-SAS paramedic, an event planner for Australia’s 250 year Cook commemorations, I learned so much. We had what we called the ‘Stern Philosophical Society,’ the stern being the back of the boat, where we had some really interesting conversations. I made some lifelong friendships and I am just so grateful,” she said.

Miriam’s keen interest in local history is one of the reasons she applied to join the Endeavour crew and her grandfather, Cyril Dummer’s story made her feel personally connected to the journey. “I thought about my grandfather a lot throughout the voyage. He came out to New Zealand as a ‘ten pound Pom.’ So, to replicate some of the experiences of those explorers who led the way for people like my grandfather was very rewarding,” she said.

“When you look around you 360 degrees and see nothing but water, you get a sense of how remote those sailors must have felt, often not knowing how long it would be until they saw land. Living and working in such confined spaces, we were climbing 43-foot masts with harnesses, they had nothing. We had a motor on the ship so we could cope with challenging weather conditions, they were just out there at the mercy of nature. Getting a small taste of what it must have been like really gives you an appreciation of what they went through.”

The experience of sleeping in a tiny hammock in the same confined quarters as multiple snorers meant sleep deprivation was another thing for Miriam to contend with onboard. “Luckily I didn’t have any seasickness though. There were some that suffered from that a lot, so we drew smiley faces on the bottom of the buckets for them to try and cheer them up,” she said.

A keen sailor from a young age, real estate agent Miriam has had extensive experience on the water, even holding a national sailing title when still in high school. But after two weeks of constant motion, she admitted she was looking forward to testing out her land legs again. The first thing she planned to enjoy after getting off the ship was a cup of coffee. “You can’t describe that feeling when you enter New Zealand waters, you come down around Cape Reinga and you know you are home,” she said. The highs and the lows of this epic voyage will stay with Miriam forever.

“We had some really horrendous weather, we had lunches where the whole pot of soup tipped over, we lost a generator, but it has all been fantastic, to have this new understanding of our history and where we come from is amazing, I feel really lucky to have had this experience.”

The Endeavour will remain in Tauranga until Thursday this week when she sets sail for Gisborne. She will be part of a flotilla of six vessels, including two Maori waka hourua (double-hulled canoes) and a traditional Tahitian vaka, that will visit around a dozen New Zealand sites that are significant in the history of first encounters between Maori and Europeans in 1769. The flotilla is scheduled to arrive in Mercury Bay on 18 October.

Pictured: Cooks Beach local, Miriam Dawson, onboard the replica HMB Endeavour in Sydney.


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