Kerikeri's Sofia Kuczera, a deckhand on the new Rainbow Warrior, is
following her passion for the oceans and her father's adventuring footsteps.
The ship moored in the distance - named Sylfia, a combination of her name
and that of her brother Sylvan
- is one of
six steel-hulled sailing ships her father built.
warrior follows her Rainbow
young Northlander working on board the newest Greenpeace flagship is
following her father's love of the oceans.
Kerikeri's Sofia Kuczera is a deckhand on the new Rainbow Warrior, which
stopped at Matauri Bay in January 2013 on its maiden voyage to New Zealand.
paying its respects to the first ship to carry the name - now on the seabed
at the nearby Cavalli Islands, after it was bombed by French secret agents
almost 30 years ago - and to the old ship's guardians, the Far North hapu
[sub-tribe] Ngati Kura.
Whereas the first Rainbow Warrior was a cramped and ageing fishing trawler,
its latest incarnation is a 58-metre, steel-hulled sailing ship
purpose-built with the latest in green technology and paid for by worldwide
new ship will wage environmental battles across the world's oceans, but
during its January 9 welcome Captain Joel Stewart told the kuia and kaumatua
[tribal elders] gathered on board that Matauri Bay would always be its
24-year-old Sofia, serving on the Rainbow Warrior is a privilege and "an
has sailed on Greenpeace ships for the past three years and currently works
three months on, three months off. She is called on to do "anything and
everything" but is mostly charged with keeping watch while the ship is under
The new Rainbow Warrior
anchored amid the Cavalli Islands
new ship she has so far travelled from Spain's Canary Islands to the US, the
US to Brazil, Argentina to South Africa, and South Africa to Mozambique.
the Rainbow Warrior's massive, one-off rig backed up by diesel-electric
e-drive engines, "it's a whole different level of sailing," she says.
an honour to be part of the crew. That's because of the history of the
Rainbow Warrior but also because it's a state-of-the-art green ship. It
really is a privilege."
also enjoys the sense of family on board.
crew come from so many countries and so many walks of life, but they're all
so passionate and dedicated to the cause."
Kaumatua [tribal elder] Nau
Epiha greets crewman Angelo Musco of Sicily with a hongi [traditonal
greeting] on board the Rainbow Warrior
think a 24-year-old would be new to ocean-going environmental activism,
you'd be wrong. Sofia has more than a decade of sea campaigns behind her,
starting in 2001 when her family took part in a flotilla protesting against
nuclear waste shipments through the Tasman Sea.
2011 she sailed in a flotilla fighting plans by the Brazilian multinational
Petrobras to drill for oil off East Cape; before that, in 2009-10, she took
part in campaigns in the Mediterranean on the Arctic Sunrise, another
Greenpeace vessel, and the second Rainbow Warrior, a ship she first laid
eyes on as a 13-year-old in the Tasman Sea protests.
then it was clear to me that that is where my heart lies. It's definitely
the job for me, and it was even more exciting when I got to join this ship."
after all these travels, I realise how privileged and lucky we are in
Aotearoa with our natural environment. We've been offered this amazing gift,
and it's our duty to protect it."
duty includes fighting plans to open Northland up to mining, she says.
Kaitaia's Hori Chapman plays
the ukelele on the way out to the ship
puts her love of the sea and passion for the environment down to her father,
the late Bernard Kuczera.
known in Northland boating circles, Mr Kuczera built six steel-hulled
sailing ships, each bigger and better than the last. The ship Sofia grew up
on and sailed in the Tasman flotilla, Nanu, was built using sails, winches
and other bits and pieces salvaged from the first Rainbow Warrior.
Kuczera disappeared at sea off the Bay of Islands in May 2012, aged 63, and
is presumed drowned.
and her family sailed his last ship, Sylfia, to Matauri Bay to greet the new
Rainbow Warrior and is certain he would have been proud.
Kuczera built his first ship in a coal mine shed 600km from the sea in his
native Poland. Curious to see the world he fled the then Communist state in
1978 and eventually wound up in Kerikeri.
was an extraordinary man, a great sailor and boat builder and an amazing
father. He shared his love of the oceans with me and my brother. The ocean
is our backyard and our father always told us, 'You must protect your
backyard'. So it's natural for us to stand up and fight to preserve our
environment," Sofia says.
ocean is home and when I'm on the ocean I definitely feel like he's here
with us. This was his favourite place."
First published in The
Northern Advocate, January 2013.
Memories of a fallen
One minute Steve
Sawyer was celebrating his 29th birthday.
Next minute the ship he was crewing was on the
bottom of Auckland Harbour, sunk in New Zealand's only international
terrorist attack, and his friend was dead.
The former Greenpeace campaign director was one
of the original Rainbow Warrior crew members on board the
organisation's newest flagship when it visited Matauri Bay in
January 2013 at the start of its first visit to New Zealand.
Returning to the first Rainbow Warrior's grave
amid the Cavalli Islands dredged up a lot of memories for Mr Sawyer,
many of them sad.
The bombing of the
Rainbow Warrior in 1985 is New Zealand's only terrorist attack to
On night of July 10, 1985, the crew held a small
celebration on board for Mr Sawyer's 29th birthday, then hosted a
meeting in the fish hold for skippers taking part in the protest
flotilla to Mururoa. The meeting finished at 11.30pm and the crew
left at 11.40pm for another meeting at Piha. The first bomb went off
Mr Sawyer learnt of the bombing when he arrived
in Piha and raced back to Auckland, where he found most of the crew
in the police station opposite the wharf.
The victim was Fernando Pereira, a
Portuguese-born photographer and father of two who left home to
avoid military service in what was then a dictatorship embroiled in
nasty wars in its former colonies.
Mr Sawyer described Mr Pereira as the life of the
party, good for a laugh and a song, but also an excellent
always took care of business, and that was his undoing. After the
first bomb went off he went down to his cabin, presumably to get his
camera - then the second bomb went off and he was trapped."
Mr Sawyer also recalled how the Rainbow Warrior
came to be scuttled at Matauri Bay. After the bombing, once it
became clear it wasn't worth fixing the 30-year-old trawler,
everyone in New Zealand had an opinion about what should be done
with the ship. Some wanted it cut up and turned into commemorative
coins, others wanted it hauled onto Queen St and turned into a
many of us felt a deep connection to the boat and wanted to give it
a decent burial," he said.
The first proposal, from the New Zealand
Underwater Association, was to sink the ship at Slipper Island off
the Coromandel coast. However, when he and other Greenpeace members
visited local marae it became clear kaumatua [tribal elders] were
against the plan and the association had not done "due diligence".
They returned despondently to Auckland, but that
night Matauri Bay resident and former Tai Tokerau MP Dover Samuels
phoned to say he had "the perfect place".
Mr Sawyer, who no longer works with Greenpeace
but is still involved in climate change campaigns, boarded the new
Rainbow Warrior in Whangarei for the trip to Matauri Bay.
He was impressed with the 58-metre steel-hulled
ship's green technology, ease of handling and "truly impressive"
Steve Sawyer, a crew member on the
original Rainbow Warrior when it was blown up by French agents, on
board the newest Greenpeace flagship
Now living in Amsterdam, Mr Sawyer said New
Zealand had been an environmental leader for much of the past 30
years. That was now not the case, as exemplified by the country's
"appalling approach" to recent climate talks at Doha.
that won't last, and New Zealand will go back to punching above its
weight in terms of population and GDP," he said.
The captain of the new Rainbow Warrior, American
Joel Stewart, said the vessel was well designed and constructed, and
performed well under sail.
It had a core crew of about 15 and took 40 days
to sail from Colombo in Sri Lanka to Whangarei, New Zealand,where it
It could do 11-12 knots under sail but averaged
7. The sails were backed up by a diesel-electric e-drive allowing
greater speed and increased wind angle.
The Amsterdam-registered ship was equipped with
state-of-the-art waste and wastewater systems and non-toxic bottom
The steel hull was made in Poland with the rest
built in Germany.
"It's a real pleasure to sail, and very exciting
to have it under full sail - and it's a real honour to work for
Greenpeace and help further is goals," Mr Stewart said.