Arrival of the Rorke Family in New Zealand (1976)

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Arrival of the Rorke Family in New Zealand (1976).

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In 2007 Tauranga historian Jean Euphemia Finlayson (Jinty) Rorke told the story of her arrival in New Zealand with her family. Jinty passed away, aged 71, on Wednesday 5 February 2014 following a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

October 1976 we were en route from Fiji to New Zealand on board our yacht Palantir. Not a bad voyage, although we had one nasty gale, during which our 2 and 4-year-old daughters disported themselves in the cabin, holding onto the handrails, and shrieking with laughter as waves reared up and cascaded down on top of us. 

Eventually we caught a brief glimpse of Cape Brett. The clouds on the horizon closed over, and the longed for land vanished, failing to reappear, no matter how long we sailed on. Then as night fell we spied the flashing light of Tiritirimatangi. Then, oh dear, it too vanished. Was it a power cut, were we drifting backwards, or was Aotearoa being carried away from us? (Later we heard that the light on Tiritiri had indeed failed that night!) 

In the morning a light westerly carried us past Great Barrier Island, which looked idyllic with its white sand beaches and green hillsides. Then the Mercury Islands, another night sailing along the Coromandel coast past Slipper Island, and finally an early morning radio call to the Port of Tauranga, to say we would be arriving that day. “What time?” they asked. “Midday” replied David, fingers crossed, hoping that the breeze would hold. We skirted the Matakana bar and sailed into the channel between Mauao and Matakana Island, so reminiscent of the passes we had negotiated into the lagoons of the Tuamotu and other coral atolls of French Polynesia. 

Tauranga resident and long time radio ham John Wightman stood on the base track around the Mount, waving to us as we entered, a mere 15 minutes late. This was lucky indeed, as waiting on the dock in Pilot Bay was a group of customs and immigration officials, complete with drug sniffing dog. Kirsty and Cathy became very excited at the thought that a dog would come on board, but were disappointed when it was led away without a sniff. We must have looked unlikely drug runners. 

Formalities over, we sailed on up the harbour and anchored off the yacht club building (now the Harbourside restaurant) just north of the railway bridge in the middle of the afternoon. There was, of course, no road bridge and the main yacht anchorage was off The Strand. The view from the CBD was made much more interesting by all the small boats.

Photograph Credit: Jinty Rorke.

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