When I was about 10 we had some family friends with a holiday house in the Marlborough Sounds. To get there you had to catch a ferry across the Cook Strait from Wellington Harbour at the bottom of the North Island to a little town called Picton at the top of the South Island. From Picton you hopped on a water taxi that would take you to the holiday house in the sounds. One Easter they invited us to join them for a week.
We all caught the Aramoana Ferry that would take around 800 passengers and headed into the Cook Strait.
Crossing the Cook Strait can be a frightening voyage because it is one of the roughest and most dangerous passages of water in the world. It’s the only gap between the mountainous main islands so the strait acts like a huge wind tunnel. It’s very unpredictable as a southerly gale can blow up a big swell almost instantly and that’s when you can have a rough trip.
Our trip over on the Aramoana Ferry was unremarkable with calm seas and beautiful weather and outside you could see the porpoises swimming along with the ferry like the scene at the beginning of James Cameron’s Titanic. A little over three hours later we arrived in Picton and after collecting our luggage made it on board a water taxi for the ride to the Marlborough Sounds. My mother’s friend jokingly said, ‘Count heads’ and the taxi took off but my father decided he would count heads and there were meant to be 12 of us but he could only count 11. Back on the dock was my little sister who somehow, amongst all the confusion, had been left behind like that scene in Home Alone. It happens!
When we arrived we walked up the dirt track to the house that was perched on the hill overlooking the sounds. There weren’t enough bedrooms for all eight children so we slept in tents on the front balcony which was much more exciting. We spent the week swimming in the frigid waters, playing cards, eating marshmallow Easter eggs and listening to the adults talk about all the damage the possums were doing that were not native, had been introduced by Australians and were an out-of-control pest problem.
On the morning we were leaving it was a beautiful day. There were blue skies and just a slight breeze. My father listened to the radio and heard that the crossing could be rough as strong winds and storms were expected. Em and I were out on the balcony and dad approached with a box of pills and told us we would need to take a one to stop being sea-sick on the voyage home. He handed us a pill each. But Em and I looked at the beautiful weather and thought that was a load of rubbish so when he wasn’t looking we threw our pills over the handrail.
We caught the water taxi back to Picton then boarded the Aramoana bound for Wellington Harbour. The journey from Picton through the sounds was lovely and we ate the gourmet fare that you could buy on board that included a meat pie and sauce with peas and mashed potato. Then the ferry reached the open water and instantly the conditions changed. The wind picked up, the clouds came over, the rain poured down, waves crashed into the sides of the ship spraying water up over the windows and the ship started listing dangerously from side to side. The outside doors were locked for fear of losing passengers overboard. Em and I were sitting on a bench with our meat pies, tomato sauce, green peas and mashed potato churning around inside us. Everyone near us was sitting quietly with looks of pure fear as they gripped onto the sides of their seats and went from shades of white to shades of green.
When the ship listed badly to one side all the glasses in the bar slid to one end and crashed and then all the bottles fell out and crashed also. Then they closed the bar. The ship was barely making any progress and once we were halfway the captain had to choose between turning around and heading back to Picton or carrying on to Wellington Harbour. And this is not a voyage that has been without incident with the SS Penguin sinking in 1909 killing two-thirds of her passengers and the Wahine sinking in 1968 that resulted in about 60 deaths. The captain decided to press on towards Wellington.
As the boat listed and rolled Em and I were now thinking about those pills we chucked over the hand-rail. We promptly joined many others in throwing up our pies, sauce, peas and mash all over the lino floor. Stewards were running around with buckets of sawdust and they poured the sawdust over the vomit to prevent anyone from slipping in it.
Many hours later after one of the longest recorded crossings and one of the roughest, we arrived in Wellington Harbour. We were very grateful to have made it.
I later had many more journeys across the Cook Strait and always, packed my pills with me!
Hmmm, what to cook after an episode of seasickness! Something sticky and sweet might take your mind off a horror voyage.
Makes: About 20
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Very inexpensive and you may find you have everything required. I only needed to buy patty cases!
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tbspns melted butter
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup milk
- brown sugar and soft butter for filling
- patty cases
- Pre-heat oven to 220C.
Fill 2 muffin trays with patty cases.
In a large bowl add flour, egg and butter. Add half of the milk. Stir with a metal knife. If not forming a dough, add more milk. The dough needs to be sticky so you get a light pinwheel. When in a ball turn on to a floured surface using your hand to pat into a long oblong shape. Roll out until 2cm thick. Spread liberally with butter and top with 1cm of brown sugar. Roll up. Cut into pinwheels about 2cm wide. Place in patty cases.
Bake 10-15 mins or until slightly golden and puffy with the butter and sugar having formed a caramel.
Enjoy while still warm.
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