There is a familiarity about HMNZS Otago that might
make even the most resolute landlubber feel at home.
The offshore patrol vessel is berthed in Dunedin, with which
it shares the placenames such the Octagon, Baldwin St, Queens
Gardens and Castle St.
True to its namesake and home port, Otago proudly
makes a feature of some of the city's most popular places,
albeit slightly adapted.
Baldwin St is steep, but takes the form of a stepladder
The Octagon is where crew members gather to eat, the Queens
Gardens provides room to relax, and typically younger trainee
sailors find themselves bunking just off Castle St.
Otago has a core crew of 36 and about 80 bunks in
The captain, Lieutenant-commander Rob McCaw, said it often
accommodated trainees, due to the extra space. The crew, from
throughout New Zealand, included three leading seamen from
the wider Otago area, he said.
Lt-cmdr McCaw (32) joined Otago as its captain last
September, after a year as captain of its sister ship, HMNZS
Asked if he was related to New Zealand's favourite rugby
player, Lt-cmdr McCaw was vague.
''Mate, we're all related,'' he said.
''There is a lot of family down these ways. A few years back,
for a family reunion, we had about 30 McCaws biking the Otago
Central Rail Trail, which was carnage but awesome. I call
Devonport home, as this is my 15th year in the navy.''
Lt-cmdr McCaw said he enjoyed life at sea with the crew,
which he said was a ''good mix''.
Able Steward Specialist Bonnie Allott (22), of Invercargill,
was the only vegan on board.
''I'm also the only vegetarian I know of in the navy,'' she
Although her food choice set her apart, it was not a problem,
''Sometimes, the chefs make me something special. I love
vegetables; anything like vegetable stir-fry is good,'' she
Others tucked into ''simple food, cooked well'', the four
Otago chefs said.
Cooked breakfasts, complete with eggs, sausages, baked beans
and spaghetti, were served as well as cereal, yoghurt, fruit
Chicken, steak, wedges and cooked vegetables were popular, as
was anything chocolate for dessert.
Although there were fewer women than men on board, the only
difference between crew members was rank, ABSS Allott said.
Able Marine Technician Nicole Van de Pas enjoyed plying her
trade as part of the Otago crew, except when sailors
took tools out of the technician's room and failed to replace
Asked how long was too long at sea, she said three weeks.
Most trips on Otago between ports lasted two weeks,
For Sub-lieutenant Simon Shirer, the navy provided a perfect
balance between life at sea and on land.
While vessels underwent maintenance in the dry dock, he
revelled in the stability of office work and being able to
lounge on the couch at home - a luxury after the relatively
tight quarters aboard ship.
A few months on land made him hungry for adventures at sea,
and when the ship left port, he relished the camaraderie of
the crew, he said.
Otago recently took MetService scientists and
Department of Conservation (Doc) workers to Campbell Island
and the Auckland Islands in the sub-Antarctic, then made a
second trip with Doc workers from Bluff to the Bounty Islands
and Antipodes Islands before berthing in Dunedin.
Doc integration co-ordinator Stewart Genery said the vessel
and its crew had surpassed all his expectations.
''We don't want to leave; it's been amazing. The crew are
superb. Nothing has been too much of a hassle,'' he said.
Tucking into his last dinner in the mess, Mr Genery said the
food was ''great'' and that he hoped to make a second journey
with the navy one day.
Those keen for a closer look at Otago can do so when it is
open to the public this afternoon from 12.30pm to 4.30pm at
the Birch St wharf.