What lucky soul will rule our briny deep?

Otago Harbour from the Kitchener St reserve. Photos: David Loughrey.
Otago Harbour from the Kitchener St reserve. Photos: David Loughrey.
A fur seal eats a large octopus.
A fur seal eats a large octopus.
Looking along Portsmouth Dr from the Kitchener St reserve.
Looking along Portsmouth Dr from the Kitchener St reserve.
A view of Dunedin from Vauxhall.
A view of Dunedin from Vauxhall.

The Otago Regional Council is interviewing for the reinstated role of Otago harbourmaster. David Loughrey wonders what maritime imaginings and grand plans might figure in the mind’s eye of the successful candidate on their first day.

On the day of their ascension to the role of harbourmaster, that lucky person might let gravity pull them down Stafford St from their new office at the regional council, down that ribbon of warm tarseal across the Jetty St overbridge to that frisky salted pool that laps on the shore by the harbour molars.

"Harbourmaster; now there’s a title!", they might think to themselves.

They might say it quietly  under their breath — "Haar-bourrrr-maaas-terrr" — before looking around guiltily and slightly ashamed to make sure they weren’t being watched.

The harbourmaster might look nor’west up their harbour, the harbour of which they are master, and consider matters.

A fair old wind would be sweeping past Waverley and muddying the harbour waters, as fair old winds often do, whipping tiny flecks of spray sea into the harbourmaster’s hair.

The harbourmaster’s trousers would balloon as the flurries tickle their cuffs and swirl up their legs, and their jacket would puff up with the spirited air.

The harbourmaster would pull their sailor’s hat low over their eyes and become lost in reverie, as they stood swaying, inflated, in the wind.

They would list in their mind nautical terms picked up in their long career on the ocean waves:  quarterdecks and boatswains; bollards and bobstays; companionways and capstans; pilot boats and Plimsoll lines.

They would consider introducing wonderful new rules to make the harbour safer, like regulating the flow of the tides, so high tide is at exactly the same time every day and nobody is ever caught unawares by unexpectedly shallow water at Ravensbourne.

They might dream of rules to stipulate exactly the timing and height of the busy harbour waves that lap upon the shore, so no child will ever have their tiny socks soaked by an out-of-control surge of seawater as they gambol innocently on the gentle beach.

But those matters would best be left for the office.

For now, the harbourmaster could just enjoy the view.

Required experience: a master of a Foreign Going Ship (Master Mariner) Certificate issued under New Zealand Maritime Rules or equivalent recognised by the Director of Maritime New Zealand.

On the day of their ascension to the role of harbourmaster, that lucky person might swing past Portsmouth Dr, and watch the seagulls hovering in mid-air as the wind roars up the harbour.

They might contemplate the trees and shrubs that huddle with their backs to the wind but exhibit a stubborn, ruddy good health despite their circumstances.

They might observe the shrubs lovingly caged in green netting by Dunedin residents with a protective botanical bent.

The harbourmaster might take a motorcar as far as Vauxhall, and stop for a minute by the slender jetty and remember past times when they were only master of a Foreign Going Ship, perhaps a ship heavily laden with containers and boasting some enormous maritime engines, but still merely a ship.

The harbourmaster might stare thoughtfully across the harbour to the city of Dunedin, a city the harbourmaster has recently been told is one of the world’s great small cities, and consider how much larger and more wonderful a harbour is, compared to a ship.

They might watch the wind lifting the top off the more ambitious waves and wonder how safe is such unregulated movement of water in the context of navigation in coastal waters.

The harbourmaster might consider introducing whitecap exclusion areas where calm waters are required to prevail and no inexperienced sailor will be alarmed by the restless seas that slap the fibreglass hull of their P-class yacht 20m out from Portobello Rd at The Cove.

They might note with mild alarm a fur seal hunting an octopus near Challis, and consider the efficacy of a system of fur seal passes to control their ingress and egress, perhaps with a cap in numbers during the octopus breeding season.

The harbourmaster might rub their chin and sigh a little at the thought of such excellent challenges ahead.

But those matters would best be left for the office.

For now the harbourmaster could just enjoy the view.

If from a military marine background, the harbourmaster should have held a Major Fleet Unit Command and have had Naval Staff or HQ Joint Force Experience.

On the day of their ascension to the role of harbourmaster, that lucky person might stop by a boat shed not far short of Macandrew Bay and amble quietly down some steps to the harbour’s edge.

They might dip their toe in the cool waters, and feel a pleasing sense of mastery over this, their dominion.

The harbourmaster might think back to their time in command of a major fleet, where a flotilla of warships cleaved the mighty seas as they protected their country from sea-borne evil-doers.

They might consider how much more timeless and substantial a harbour is compared with a fleet of warships.

The harbourmaster might bend down and pick up a stone to skip across the tense rippled surface of the huge salty pond and wonder how sustainable the skipping of stones is with a finite resource.

They might consider a skipping stone limit, and a gold-coin payment for each stone skipped by non-residents to preserve numbers of skippable stones.

The harbourmaster might wink at a passing cormorant, and do a quiet little jig on the shoreline after checking there are no passing cars, they may clap their hands in delight at the thought of being the sort of harbourmaster who brings in a host of new ideas that change the paradigm of harbourmastery in a way historians will describe as epoch-making.

But those matters would best be left for the office.

For now the harbourmaster could just enjoy the view.

* From the harbourmaster’s job description.

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