Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Buses, trucks, taxis and at least 7 million kilometres
My bus and coach driving career started at Eastern Buses, Auckland in 1964. Below is a summary of the Eastern Ford fleet during the 1950s and 60s courtesy of the Omnibus Society website:
Eastern Buses, Bucklands Beach, Auckland. 5 Buses all with NZ Motor Bodies bodies. #7 (and probably #6 and #8) initially registered to Thomas Herbert Hadfield trading as Eastern Buses. #9 and #10 probably registered initially to Eastern Buses Ltd.

Chassis Nbr/VIN
Original Reg
Later Owner
Later Reg
P.103 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
694TF B33+11F; No LTSA record

No LTSA record

Eastern Buses Ltd
P.104 (1956)
694TF B33+8F; Initial reg to Thomas Hadfield

Eastern Buses Ltd
694TF B33+8F; Initial reg to Thomas Hadfield

Caves Buses Ltd, Whakatane

W Thatcher, Whakatane


L B Henderson, Porirua


R Squire, Porirua


M H & V M Carter, Palmerston North

Movan; LPG; CoF exp 10/07

P.107 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
C84BFS B33+8F; LTSA says first reg 1952
A V Beehre, Te Aroha
Date on LTSA is nonsense

S Rea, Waihi


J Gardiner, Waihi


Registration lapsed


P.108 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
C84BFS B33+9F; No LTSA record

P.109 (1956)
Eastern Buses Ltd
C84BFS B31+7F; No LTSA record
Probably re-registered

This is how my bus driving career started in 1964, at Eastern Buses, Bucklands Beach, Auckland, New Zealand and driving the above buses. After doing the driving test in a 1930s Bedford OLB they put me on the city run with #6. It had a wooden frame on a Ford chassis, but with a Chev straight 6 engine. The transmission was a 4 speed with an Eaton 2 speed axle. The service brakes were hydraulic and the parking brake was a Cardan shaft which was almost useless. It had a less than full span front axle which made it take corners like a keel boat. It was a bit of a challenge. I can remember many times meeting Brent Timperley in #7, which leaned even more than #6, on a narrow S bend near Pegion Mountain. We had to be careful not to clip the roofs as we passed. We were only supposed to clip tickets.
A 1946 Ford bus from the same batch as the Eastern Fords.
Note the narrow wheel base at the front.

After a few months I was promoted to the 1950 built #8 which was a nice one to drive and had the full span front axle. It also had a Chev engine which was on its last legs when I took it over. They asked me to take it quietly and not to worry about running late. That worked well until I took some holidays and returned to find a Bedford engine being installed. I was as proud as a dog with two tails until one day when one blade of the cooling fan parted company. The blade came through the side of the engine cowling, nicked my trousers and left an imprint up the wall, across the roof and down the other side.

I drove #7, #9 and #10 quite a bit too, but #8 was the best of that bunch. Later they promoted me again to a Thames Trader and a Commer with a TS3 two-stroke. They also had two shiny new Bedford SB3s which were used on charters and tours. In those days Eastern did day trips from Auckland to Rotorua for the Government Tourist Bureau. We were given a written commentary to learn a few minutes before departure from the cruise ship.

In the latter part of 1966 I moved from Bucklands Beach to Otahuhu and went to work for the Passenger Transport Company (PTC).

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Sunday, 14 September 2014


New Zealand's first female cabinet minister was a firebrand with a heart

During my recent ERCP procedure (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-pancreatography to remove some gallstones from the bile duct) at Waikato Hospital, I stayed two nights at Hilda Ross House in the hospital grounds and I remembered the name from the days of my youth. Back then Hilda Ross was a name that every New Zealander knew.

As I was being prepared for the procedure I asked one of the young nurses if she knew anything about Hilda Ross. She replied that she didn’t, but went away to Google Hilda Ross and came back with the information that Hilda Ross had been a local politician, but had never been a nurse, so she wasn’t sure what her connection was with the hospital.

I resolved then and there that it was time for the Hilda Ross story to be told again. The Hilda Ross’s of this world should never be forgotten.
Dame Hilda Ross

Grace Hilda Cuthertha Nixon (1883-1959) was born at Whangarei, New Zealand, the daughter of a fireman, and was educated in Auckland and Sydney.  Back in Auckland she became a music teacher and conductor. In 1904 she married Harry C Ross and they settled in Cambridge and then Hamilton, where he started a furniture business. Hilda continued teaching music and her life was rather normal to that point. They had four sons but only two survived infancy.

As a founding member of the Dandy Dozen she gave concerts to raise funds for welfare organizations and childrens health camps. She started taking an interest in womens and childrens welfare and people who were disadvantaged and sick.

In 1918 she was involved with people and families affected by the influenza epidemic. In 1931 she organized committees to dispense aid to people affected by the Hawkes Bay earthquake. During the depression she served as an ambulance officer and later became the commander of the St John nursing division. In 1927 she established the Waikato Childrens Health Camp League. For many years she attended the annual camps where she cooked the breakfasts and organized evening concerts for the children. She was appointed a voluntary child welfare officer and in 1939 she was appointed a justice of the peace and regularly presided at the childrens court.

During World War II she established, and became commandant of the Hamilton Womens Auxiliary Volunteer Corp and was president of the Hamilton Ladies Patriotic Committee. When her husband died in 1940 she embarked on a career in politics.

In 1941 she was elected to the Waikato Hospital Board and in 1944 she rattled the establishment by becoming the first female to be elected to the then Hamilton Borough Council and the next year she became deputy mayor. But later in the year she resigned her posts and contested a by-election for the Hamilton seat in the New Zealand Parliament, and parliament would never again be the same.

Sitting on the Opposition (National Party) benches she became a hard-hitting campaigner for the rights of women, children and the underprivileged. When the National Party won the 1949 general election she was appointed to cabinet, the first New Zealand female to break into that male bastion. She became the first Minister for Women and Children and Minister of Social Security.
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As the only female minister, her cabinet office was frequently crowded with visitors and she was a major factor in Sydney Holland’s National Party gaining and holding onto power from 1949 to 1957. Many people declared that it didn’t matter which party she represented, they would vote for any party that included her. Hilda Ross was a forthright MP who didn’t suffer fools and her sharp tongue was felt by many a bad parent. She always told it the way it was. She was constantly in demand as a public speaker.

In 1951 the American Mothers’ Committee named her New Zealand Mother of the Year, and in 1956 she was made Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE), just the third New Zealander to receive the title, in recognition of her public service.

In 1952 and again in 1959 she represented New Zealand on the world stage; first at the Geneva UN Convention on Women and later at the Parliamentary Association Conference in the West Indies. She died, aged 75, a few weeks after returning to New Zealand and her parliamentary duties.

Throughout her career in politics, as with her long years of volunteer community work, the press always referred to her as Mrs H C Ross (her husband’s initials) because that was the tradition at the time. But she made a great compromise, for an uncompromising woman, when she changed her name from Miss G H C Nixon to Mrs H C Ross by reshuffling her given names.
It’s a great pity that young Hamilton women today have no knowledge of who and what Dame Hilda Ross was. They owe her so much.

Monday, 8 September 2014


The recollections, observations and contemplations of the generations

Back in 1950 old people used to say:
I remember the horse and wagon that we used before we got a car.
We used horses to pull farm machinery before we got a tractor.
When we got a car it had to be started by turning a thing called a crank handle.
As kids we used guns before the introduction of gun licences.
We lived in a house that didn't have a refrigerator, electric stove or any other electric appliances - we didn't have electricity!
This country was built on immigration, but now I think they should close the door.
On the rare occasions when we used a telephone it was in a red box at the end of the street.
Allowing ball-point pens in schools will ruin handwriting and lead to a generation of illiterates.
Those atomic bombs that were dropped over Japan have changed weather patterns forever.

Back in 1975 old people used to say:

When we finally got a television it was a black and white and only had one channel.
Electricity is responsible for cancer and changing weather patterns.
Allowing pocket calculators in schools will lead to a generation of illiterate young people.
My ancestors came here from Europe and they never relied on governments hand-outs. They just worked hard. But please, no more immigrants. This country is full.
We always took an interest in world affairs, not like the young people of today, but the first time someone mentioned euthanasia we thought they were talking about some place between Europe and Asia.

Flick forward 50 years from 2014 to 2064 and old people will say:
I remember when a computer was an old fashioned gadget that you carried in the palm of your hand and we used it to communicate.
I remember when it took 24 hours to fly from Auckland to London while flying at only 30,000 feet, and without going into orbit.
I remember when oil was used to lubricate and power most things and we worried about what it would be like in a world without oil, and for years now we haven't needed oil.
But I don’t like all this new technology. It’s responsible for most of the disease and sickness, and the changing weather patterns all over the world. Already this year we have had three thunderstorms and last week there was a tornado in Kansas that killed some people.
I remember when the world had only 5 billion people and people said that that was as many people as the world could sustain. But I think now that we have 12 billion that is enough.

Flick forward 100 years and old people will say:
The world has almost 15 billion people and it hasn't sunk after all, but there is no room for anymore.
I remember when the big worry was global warming but then it turned out to be a natural cycle and because the world is now warmer it can produce more food and people are healthier. Life must have been hard in the old days before cars had autodriver.
But something just isn’t right in 2114. I don’t know if it’s in the food or the quack doctors that we have now, but quite a few people don’t even live to 90 or 95.

Now back to 2014 and reality:
We have always had to have something to worry about, even if that means worrying about all the wrong things. And that is a fact that will never change, because everything changes, except the laws of change.

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Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Right or wrong, we thrive on theories of secret plots against the people

From the beginning of time, humans, by their very nature, have been born to believe that somewhere evil forces are plotting illegal acts that will benefit a privileged few and be harmful to the vast majority. Sometimes these theories are absolutely correct, sometimes they are partly right and partly wrong, and other theories are totally without foundation.

Conspiracy theories frequently involve people in high places including politicians, business leaders and bankers, religious leaders, racial groups, scientists, high-ranking military leaders, the world of medicine, and pressure groups. Some conspiracy theories persist for centuries; others fade from popularity almost as quickly as they appear.

It is also highly likely, even highly probable, that many conspiracies go completely unnoticed except for those directly involved in the plotting. Other conspiracies, top secret at the time, may be exposed years later due to diligent investigation, witnesses coming forward, or publication of previously secret documents.

One of the most persistent conspiracy theories for over two hundred years has been the claim that the Rothschild family has been in control of the world economy. Unfortunately, the conspiracy theorists can’t agree on some pretty basic theories; control of banking, government economic policy, wars and armament manufacturing, or share markets. Some theorists claim that the Rothschilds control all of those, but wars don’t sit well with any of the other things that the Rothschilds are alleged to control.

The Rothschilds are descended from Amschel Rothschild, a Jew who established a banking business in Germany in 1760 and expanded the business through his five sons who settled abroad. Today, the Rothschild businesses are smaller and less influential than they were during the 19th century and they are concentrated on finance, mining, farming, wine and charities. The Rothschild verdict: Not true.

The Rothschild conspiracy leads us to the next enduring conspiracy theory; that the world of finance and economics is controlled by the Jews. Anti-Semitic theories include claims that Jews control world banking (usually through the Rothschilds), Wall Street, Hollywood and the news media. Ancient claims include the killing of Jesus, poisoning wells and drinking the blood of Christians. It is also claimed that the Holocaust was created by Jews to justify creating the state of Israel. It has also been claimed that Jews plotting with Freemasons are planning an evil form of world government. The Jewish verdict: Not true.

It was claimed that in 1933 a Business Plot existed to assassinate US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. According to retired General Smedley Butler, testifying before a House of Representatives Special Committee, who said that wealthy businessmen had plotted to form a veterans fascist organization to oust the president in a military-style coup. The conspirators wanted Smedley as their leader. It is debatable how close the plot came to fruition, but the committee found the claims to be credible, even though the news media threw cold water on the scheme at the time. The FDR verdict: True.
Franklin D Roosevelt

Global warming has been a hotly debated subject for the last 30 years with many people claiming that a conspiracy exists to use global warming as an excuse for raising taxes and imposing a dictatorial form of government. With regard to taxes, the truth is that most governments wanting to retain power will do anything to avoid raising taxes, including cutting back on spending. Meanwhile, the global warming debate and how to fix it is mostly just hot air. The climate is getting steadily warmer and sea levels are rising, as they have been for thousands of years, but the science that connects that to the activities of man is flawed. The global warming verdict: Partly true and partly false.

William Shakespeare may have been the first, but certainly not the last, writer to be accused of not being the author of his own work. Authors are frequently asked, “Did you really write that yourself?” Most authors can truthfully claim to have written the books that carry their name, but with some exceptions. All authors rely on others for manuscript assessment, editing and research. However, there is one genre that stands out as usually not being the author’s own work and that is the celebrity autobiography. Most leading businessmen, sports people, movie stars and adventurers have special talents in fields other than writing. In the literary world ghost writing autobiographies is known to be a lucrative business. The writing verdict: Partly true and partly false.
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Vaccination is another debate that rages on. Many claim that a conspiracy exists between scientists, governments and the medical profession to hide the truth about vaccination and links to autism. While it is known that some vaccinations (and medications generally) can have side affects, scientific testing and development have reduced these to an absolute minimum to the point where it is almost certain that having a vaccination is many times safer than not having it. Similarly, the debate between prescribed medications and herbal remedies is really a question of deciding between proven safety and effectiveness, or the scientifically unproven. The verdict on vaccination dangers: Untrue. Don’t put your child at risk by refusing vaccination.

The death of Princess Diana has been the subject of a persistent conspiracy theory ever since that tragic 1997 day in Paris. This is probably the classic case of some people being prepared to accept anything rather than the truth. Tens of thousands of people die every year in car crashes while fewer are murdered, and even fewer are murdered in some pre-planned plot. This tragic crash has been investigated thoroughly and it has been subjected to rigorous judicial processes and no evidence of foul play has been forthcoming. But the claims of a conspiracy and cover-up persist. The Diana verdict: False.

The moon landing in 1969 is another conspiracy theory that refuses to go away. It is claimed that it was all staged in Hollywood and that Neil Armstrong and his team were just actors. It has been claimed that America lacked the technology at the time to land on the moon. But these people seem to be putting a lot of faith in the Hollywood technology of the time. Logic must have told them that it would be impossible to launch a rocket from a flat earth, send it to the flat moon and bring it back without the batteries going flat. The moon landing verdict: True. It happened. Get over it.

The Roswell conspiracy may include some of the same people who have denied the moon landing. If so, they seem to be contradicting themselves. First they say that space travel was impossible in 1969, but then they claim that space travel existed 22 years earlier when a flying disc and bodies were found at a ranch in New Mexico. The presence of security at Roswell is said to be ‘proof’ that a UFO landed there. The Roswell UFO verdict: False. Stop drinking that stuff.

The New World Order is another conspiracy theory that refuses to go away. It is said that a mysterious group of elitists (eleven in number) is planning (some say they have already done it) to take over the world and impose a tyrannical one world government which will make them richer and everyone else poorer. There is just one thing wrong with that theory: How could 11 people be rich in a world of 7 billion poor people. Everything the eleven owned would be worthless unless others could also aspire to some ownership too. The New World Order verdict: False, fanciful and farcical.

From the 1930s to the 1960s asbestos manufacturers were accused of keeping secret the knowledge that their products could cause cancer and other respiratory diseases, in order to avoid prosecution. A law suit against a manufacturer in 1932 failed. However, in 1962 it was established scientifically that asbestos could cause cancer. The asbestos verdict: True.
Truth is stranger than fiction. And for some people fiction could be exciting if, on a hunch, it could be true.

Friday, 29 August 2014


Should a nine-year-old be taught shooting for safety?

The United States has one of the highest murder rates in the developed world, and the rate is inflated by the high rate of gun murders. If the United States had gun control laws similar to other developed countries it is likely that America’s overall murder rate would decline sharply.

America’s annual murder rate stands at 4.7 murders per 100,000 of population per year. That compares with Canada (1.6), United Kingdom (1.0), Australia (1.1), China (1.0), New Zealand (0.9) and Singapore (0.2).

Elsewhere, countries that do better than the USA include Malawi, Mauritius, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cuba, Chile, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. All the above countries have a murder rate per 100,000 of population that is significantly lower than the USA.

Most of these countries have tighter gun laws than America, and generally they have federal gun laws rather than state or county gun laws.

Crime rates, including murder, are generally lower in countries that have a higher standard of living, political and economic stability, and lower unemployment. On that basis the United States should be at, or near, the top of the world list for low murder rates, but it fails to make even the top 70.
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The difference in America is the ratio of total murders to gun murders. If the gun murders are subtracted from the total, the rate is closer to normal for a developed country. It is interesting to note that the statistics do not include accidental gun deaths, or shootings in what may be claimed (or believed) to be self-defense.

It is a fallacy that carrying a gun for protection will make the carrier safer. People who carry guns for protection are more likely to die by a gun than people who are unarmed. Furthermore, a person who carries a gun is more likely to be charged with murder than a person who does not carry a gun.

So why would anyone want to teach their nine-year-old child how to handle a gun of any description?

If they want their child to learn how to hunt animals, I believe they would do better to teach their child to be kind to animals. If they want their child to learn self-defense, they should teach their child how to avoid harmful people and harmful situations.

Would they also teach their child about road safety by encouraging the child to play on an interstate highway?

Sunday, 24 August 2014


Sentenced to hang, an accident gave Bob the chance to run for his life

Sixteen-year-old Bob Asker has been framed, convicted and sentenced to hang for murder, but then they have to try and catch him. A Twist of Fate has suspense, mystery and intrigue all the way to a stunning conclusion.

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Like everyone else in New Zealand the Reynolds family knew all about the murder, trial and escape, but they wanted to hear Bob’s version of events. They talked until afternoon when Bob suddenly nodded off to sleep, mid-sentence. Two hours later his hosts woke him for a hot bath, dinner and a real bed with a mattress, pillow, sheets and blankets, luxuries he had not experienced for six months. He slept for twelve hours and woke in the morning just as sixteen-year-old Janet Reynolds was leaving for school.
‘Did you have a good sleep?’ she asked.
‘Yeah. Too right. I slept like a baby. By the way, I’m Bob Ask…’
‘No you’re not!’ she hissed. ‘You’re Bob Doyle, remember?
‘Yes. That’s right. Thanks for reminding me. Who are you?’
‘I’m Janet. Hey, I like you. You’re nice,’ she giggled.
He smiled.
‘So are you. Everything here is nice and especially you. How would you like to fall in love with a murderer?’
‘Enough of that,’ Edna chastised them.
Janet laughed.
‘He’s only kidding, mum.’
‘I know. But you’d better be off to school. You’re going to be late, girl.’
‘See you tonight then.’
‘Yeah. See you tonight.’
Author Peter Blakeborough

Two days later the Cessna landed again at Thames and Tom Laing walked to the Reynolds’ house.
‘It’s all arranged and ready to go,’ Tom said. ‘We fly again at first light.’
‘I really wish I didn’t have to do this, Tom. This is where I belong with my friends and family and the country that I know – the country that has treated me so well until recently.’
‘You have to put all that behind you now, son,’ Morrie said.
‘I know, but it’s going to be hard. I just wish everything could be put back the way it was.’
‘That can’t happen, Bob,’ Tom said. ‘You must never try to contact anyone in Matamata. Houses are being watched around the clock, phones tapped, mail opened. They won’t ever stop looking for you. The authorities don’t like being beaten.’
An hour before sunrise the Reynolds’ household was awake and sitting down to an early breakfast. Janet, sitting next to Bob, waited for a moment when the others were distracted and whispered in his ear.
‘I’ll be your link with home, Bob, if it’s all right with you.’
‘How?’ he whispered back.
She grinned shrewdly.
‘Newcastle post office, midday, first of January 1956. I’ll meet you there.’
‘Serious. I’ll be there and I’ll bring you up to date with everything at home. I promise.’
‘It’s a deal.’
They were interrupted by a casual sounding question from Tom.
‘What’s your date of birth, Bob?’
‘Twenty-second of April, 1938. Why?’
‘Wrong, Bob. Ninth of November, 1937, remember?’
‘Sorry. I forgot again.’
‘Have you signed your passport?’
‘Yes. Done that.’
‘The same as the signature on Ray’s licence?’
‘Excellent. Now remember you have an Australian passport and a New Zealand driver’s licence. How will you explain that?’
‘I was born in Australia and lived for a while in New Zealand.’
‘Where in Australia were you born?’
‘Griffith, New South Wales.’
‘Do you know anyone called Asker?’
Bob hesitated for a moment.
‘Okay, Bob Doyle, you’ve passed the test. Are you ready to go?’
Morrie Reynolds shook his hand and wished him luck. Edna hugged and kissed him. Janet kissed him too and whispered in his ear.
‘First of the first, fifty-six, Newcastle post office, midday.’
‘It’s a date, Janet.’
‘Okay. Break it up, you two. Gotta go,’ Tom ordered.
As Bob headed for the door he looked back for the last time.
‘I won’t ever forget the nicest family in Thames… the nicest family in the world. Thanks for everything.’
‘Good luck, Bob.’
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A few minutes later the Cessna was airborne and climbing on a south-easterly course. At three thousand feet Laing levelled off and Bob watched the indicated airspeed creep up to 140 miles an hour. It was a much faster machine than his father’s  Tiger Moth. Paeroa and Waihi slipped by under the wings and then they were over the sea. Anyone watching the aircraft cross the coast would have thought it was going to White Island, an active volcano fifty miles out to sea. An Auckland charter company had been conducting scenic flights to the volcano since it had become active again some weeks earlier. But twenty-five miles short of the island volcano Tom Laing changed course to the north. Other small islands appeared on the horizon ahead of them and slipped behind. The East Coast of the North Island was many miles away to the west. The sky was deep blue and the sea below was turquoise between a patchwork of isolated cloud shadows. Volcanic Mayor Island slipped passed the left wing several miles away and they were soon skirting around the Alderman Islands, the Slipper and the Shoe. Further on they passed to seaward of the Mercury Islands and Cuvier Island. It was a wonderful morning for flying. The air was as smooth as silk. Ahead of them Great Barrier Island lay on the horizon. Laing eased the nose down a little and the Cessna gathered speed on a long descent to the rocky coast. Bob was surprised at how mountainous the island was.
‘Are you sure there’s somewhere to land here?’ Bob asked.
Laing laughed.
‘Oh, yes. There’s an aerodrome at Claris, but we won’t go there today. Who knows who might be watching? No, we’ll use a topdressing strip. Don’t worry. It’s all arranged. The strip belongs to another of your supporters. They’re everywhere, Bob, and the local people on the island are so accustomed to seeing topdressing aircraft that they don’t take any notice these days.’
The Cessna rounded a headland between two sandy bays and Bob saw the airstrip extending up to the apex of a ridge a few hundred feet above the tide. Laing pulled the power off, raised the nose and lowered the flaps. A moment later the wheels brushed the grass and the momentum carried the Cessna to the top of the airstrip. A bearded man in his forties waited for them beside a late model Chevrolet.
‘I’m Mike Hall,’ he said when the doors opened.
‘Pleased to meet you, Mike. I’m Tom Laing and this is your trainee sailor.’
Hall held out his hand to the youth.
‘Well, I’m pleased to meet you, mister trainee sailor. Are you ready to go?’
Bob liked Mike Hall from first sight. He had the appearance of a rough diamond but underneath the fa├žade he could see a sharp mind, an adventurous spirit and a man of true loyalty to his friends and anyone in need.
‘Aye, aye, captain. I’m ready to go.’
Then Bob turned to Tom Laing.
‘I really don’t know how to thank you. Perhaps someday I’ll come back and be able repay you in some way. You’ve been a true friend.’
‘Good luck, son. I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be okay.’
‘Please tell my mother that I’ll be thinking of her every day.’
They got into Hall’s car and drove down the winding farm road passed the homestead and onto the road to Tryphena harbour.  Bob wished he could stay in New Zealand and learn to fly like Tom Laing and like his father. But he had to go. It was hard for his mind to keep pace with events. So much had happened in such a short space of time.
They arrived at the tranquil harbour and Mike parked the Chevrolet in the shed near his seaside cottage and without further preamble they got into a dinghy and rowed out to the Sinbad. Hall had already prepared the yacht for a speedy departure. He had only to start the auxiliary engine and haul up the anchor.
Within minutes they had left the shelter of the harbour, raised the sails and shut down the engine. Bob looked back with nostalgia at the receding landscape and wondered if he would ever see New Zealand again. A lump came to his throat as he thought about his mother, his friends, his younger brother and sisters, and his supporters, and Heather. If only the clock could be turned back – even for a little while – he would feel better. He watched the shore silently while Mike adjusted the sails and kept busy with numerous other tasks. He was pleased that Mike allowed him those few moments of privacy.
Above the sound of sails and rigging Bob heard a more familiar sound and turned his eyes in another direction. The Cessna, small at first, was skimming across the water on a course that would take it passed the stern of the Sinbad. As it drew rapidly closer Bob stood up in the cockpit and waved to the pilot. For a fleeting moment before the machine flashed passed he saw a hand waving back. It turned towards the mainland and he watched until it became a mere speck in the limitless sky. When he could no longer see it he turned his attention to the voyage of the Sinbad and to the future.
‘I’m ready for Australia, Mike. How long will it take?’
Hall came and sat alongside him.
‘Ten days, two weeks, maybe more. Depends on the winds. The Tasman Sea can be a bitch at the best of times. From here we’re going to sail around the southern end of the Barrier and head east until we’re out of sight of land, just in case anyone should be watching. Then we’ll sail north until we’re well clear of North Cape. Then we’ll go west until we’re within a hundred miles of the Australia coast. We’ll turn south again to Port Stephens. It’s a pretty isolated harbour with just a few scattered villages. No one will be any the wiser.’
‘Are you going to teach me how to sail?’
‘Sure thing, Bob. By the end of the journey you’ll be an experienced watch captain. We’ll take turns at the helm. Four hours on, four hours off.’
‘I’m looking forward to it, Mike.’
‘Good on you, lad.’

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