My trips to Port Underwood as a child. Ruth Simonsen
My first trip was 72 years ago on my Great Grandfather Tim Daken’s boat, The Jack. I was 3 months old and was bought over to visit myGrandparents at Whangataura Bay.
From when I was five years of age my father came to help Wilf Crump shear his sheep at Ocean Bay each year, and we had the front bach rent-free for around 3 weeks.
Our journey started on the banks of the Opawa River where our farm was. We would hear Ivan Guard’s mail boat the Midlothian coming down the river and we knew that our holiday was about to start. We would wind our way down the rest of the Opawa River then over the Wairau Bar into Cloudy Bay.
I don’t know if Ivan didn’t like children, because all 6 of us were put into the cabin and OH if we even thought of being sick we would get the evil eye from him.
After crossing Cloudy Bay we would round the point into Ocean Bay and Wilf would be waiting for us in his boat to take us ashore.
In those days there were three Baches in the bay. One on the beach on the left hand side of the Bay that the Lucas Family used and two further back on the right hand side of the bay. The back one was not used, as it was stored with all the school equipment from the Old Ocean Bay School.
Our bach was very basic, a veranda with 2 bunk rooms off it, a sitting room and a kitchen with only a wood and coal range and a sink. When we arrived the beer was put into the creek, the meat safe hung in the tree, then Dad would erect a canvas shower outside for us all. We had a long drop for the toilet. Every second day we would get our supply of milk from Albert Guard. The great social occasion was the cricket match between Ocean Bay and the rest of the Port.
After shearing had finished Dad would take us fishing and we caught so much fish we lived on Butterfish, Blue Cod and huge Moki, that were so large that the heads and tails had to be cut off for them to fit in the oven.
When the people in the bay decided to drag for flounder, during the day we would collect drift wood and then at night light a bon fire on the beach. Dad would row out casting the net, then all hands on deck as the net was pulled in, my brother and I would wade into the water when the net was in close to the beach and turn the spreaders. We would then try to count how many fish was in the net but it was impossible as there were so many. In those days we could wander round the rocks and see crayfish feelers sticking up through the kelp, we used to flick them up onto the rocks. Dad always had a kerosene tin with him and he used to cook them up on the beach in the salt water from the bay.
In the January of 1954 when the Queen was coming to Blenheim, we
had to cut our holiday short to go back t0 town to see the Queen. It was one of the roughest trips I can ever remember and we were put off at Monkey Bay. Ivan helped Mu and Nana and my baby brother off and then the rest off us were told to jump when Ivan yelled at us. It was very scary with high seas and the rocks were wet the -Midlothian heavinq-up and down and Ivan standing behind us yelling at us that if we didn’t jump he would pick us up and throw us over onto the rocks.
We finally all got off ok and arrived at Blenheim to see the Queen, but all we saw was a little hand through the window, we all said what a waste, we could have been out in the dingy mucking around at Ocean Bay
We had many happy years holidaying at Ocean Bay we visited all our Daken relations that still lived in many of the bays in the Port. Mum would tell us about her life in Port Underwood when she was a girl living with her Grandparents. Telling us about her long hikes to school from Whangataura Bay up over the Tongue to Whangakoko Bay.
My Dad loved Port Underwood and was in his element when he was weaving nets, teaching us to fish, and showing us where sea horse colonies, scallop, and oyster beds were, and what fish was caught on each point in the Port etc.
The Port is still very much the same weather wise and we still scuttle back when a southerly comes in as we did in those days in the 50’s and 60’s. We still obey what my father used to tell us as kids when fishing in our dinghy “If a puff of cotton wool comes over Cape Campbell get inside the bay pronto.”