Raring to go down to the seas again

Evohe captain Steve Kafka prepares to head to the subantarctic islands again, following...
Evohe captain Steve Kafka prepares to head to the subantarctic islands again, following maintenance on his vessel. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Over the past 35 years, Steve Kafka has become one of the world's most experienced sailors, tackling some of its most hostile seas.

Yet the 62-year-old says he was not born into sailing.

It was something the former London property developer came to love after buying his first and only vessel - Evohe - in 1984.

``She's a fantastic sea boat, but I couldn't have told you that when I first bought her.

``I didn't know much about boats then. I learned as I went.''

He bought Evohe to go cruising with his family, and he ended up sailing around the world for nine years.

During that time, he and Evohe were involved in ``quite a few close-shaves'' as he learnt the ropes.

``Usually it was because of my own stupidity. She's saved my life a few times.

``She's taken a few knocks but she's never let me down. She's very strong and very good in a heavy sea.''

During his travels, he arrived in New Zealand and loved it so much - particularly Dunedin - he decided to call it his ``base/home'' in between sailing trips.

``I joined up with Natural History New Zealand and we did a few projects making shows about marine biology.''

Since then, he has taken researchers and film-makers to many places where some sailors dare not go.

He said the Belgium-made yacht's 25m steel hull could accommodate 12 passengers and seven crew, and was well-suited to transporting and supporting expeditions to remote locations.

All essential systems are duplicated, including two main engines, and it carries substantial fuel reserves, produces its own freshwater and is equipped with large freezers, enabling it to be self-sufficient for several months at a time.

In recent years, it has been engaged in projects around the South Pacific, South Atlantic and Southern Ocean with expeditions to South Georgia, the Antarctic Peninsula and New Zealand's subantarctic islands.

Mr Kafka said he had even managed to transit the Arctic from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, via the Northwest Passage.

``I love the subantarctic.

``It's got its challenges, but that's part of the joy of sailing it. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.''

The vessel has been on the slipway in Dunedin this week, getting some much needed maintenance, in preparation for summer work in the subantarctic islands.

``I look after her, she looks after me,'' he said.

Mr Kafka was relishing his return to the high seas after spending the past few months on dry land.

At the beginning of November, the vessel would head to the Auckland Islands, where the crew would count yellow-eyed penguins, and later in the season, it would transport sea lion and albatross research teams to the Campbell Islands and Antipodes Islands.

``I'm really looking forward to getting my sea legs back on,'' he said.


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