OCEAN ADVENTURE: DIVING IN TONGA

By: DON MCINTYRE, Photography by: DON MCINTYRE

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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It’s time to pull your head out of the virtual sand and get back into the real world, says Don Mcintyre.

OCEAN ADVENTURE: DIVING IN TONGA
OCEAN ADVENTURE: DIVING IN TONGA

Trade-a-Boat always enjoys Don's adventures but it is important to note that the views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the publisher's.

Summers for me are always rather frantic and flash by in a whirl of sensory overload. I jump off my boat in a peaceful Pacific paradise bound for civilisation to prepare for the Antarctic leadership 100 passengers crave as they enter the great unknown of the frozen continent. Two months later, with a wider girth born from five-star dining on a la carte meals, I fly back to civilisation craving beans on toast and a time to unwind with no people. It is at times quite surreal but this year more so than ever!

On the same day we saved the life of a French solo sailor below Tasmania, I lost a great friend to
a climbing accident in France. Funny, but I was a little mad at him for that as he was finally finishing his 22ft oceangoing adventure yacht and had just beaten the odds after an 11-year battle from a life-threatening illness. He was an adventurous Frenchman too, living the life he had, so I suppose the equation balances.



IN MULTIMEDIA WORLD

Life is precious and yet now everywhere I go I see people glued to their phones, or should I say their multimedia real-time live-life substitute! They do not interact with the person next to them and from what I see heavy users are losing life skills.

Apparently there is now a medical term for the phobia many people face if they are ever separated from their only means of contact to the outside world… their phone and social media network. What the $%#@! The outside world is waiting for them – just look up.

Once upon a time in a land called Australia we were worried about the impact of real-life experiences being replaced by reality TV. That is history now and I think it is going to get worse. I regularly see babies playing with iPads.



MCMANSION MANIA

As I fly over the new subdivisions, I no longer see backyards. The McMansions take up the whole block – no trees. When I was a kid I climbed trees and fell out of them and learnt from my real-world experience. I understood what personal responsibility and risk taking was and is.

Nearly 25 years ago, Tim Macartney-Snape, the solo Mount Everest mountain climber once said: "Children growing up in our society today, may well be emotionally and physically disadvantaged, because they are not encouraged to explore the physical world outside our artificial environment. We could actually be creating individuals so inept at taking care of themselves, that they require a degree of protection that impinges on what we regard as their freedom."

Wow! Mobile phones and even the internet basically did not exist then. Today, the insurance industry and liability dictate how we live, as someone else is "always" to blame and should have made you "aware" before you stumbled!



THE REAL WORLD

When I finally stepped off the plane in Australia at the end of summer I did what I always do, go buy a Trade-a-Boat. But what the… my February Ocean Adventure column was missing? A quick call to the editor revealed that for the first time it was pulled right at the last minute when about to go to press. It was considered a bit "hot" legally.

Having previously instigated one of the largest defamation claims the NSW Supreme Court had ever seen in 1989, and won, I fully supported the reasoning. I quickly realised that my peaceful Pacific lifestyle has divorced me a little too much from the real world – oops! Nonetheless it is a story worth telling. So here is the short, radically "cool" version of the "general plot", without prejudice of course.

Much of Tonga’s past maritime history has been lost. Many old sailing ships "killed" and plundered by Tongan warriors for iron and cannon hundreds of years ago remain hidden beneath the ocean. In 2009, an anchor believed to belong to William Mariner’s ship the Port au Prince was discovered in Ha’apai. This discovery was widely reported around the world as the Port au Prince is a famous treasure ship. The dive company Fins ‘n’ Flukes, who made the discovery, turned it into a successful tourist attraction for divers.

In August last year, the discovery of the actual wreck of the Port au Prince in Ha’apai was announced and made headlines internationally. It was exciting news.

This wreck and the stories surrounding it changed the course of Tongan history forever. The wreck site is of national significance and is woven into the very making of the nation and should be considered a National Treasure and subsequently a Heritage site. This wreck deserves a full archeological survey, investigation and accurate documentation, with every item recovered going through a detailed conservation process to ensure the artifacts are preserved correctly.

Ultimately a site-management plan could be developed, which may allow it to be utilised as a world-class heritage dive site.

I have more to say on this and you can read all about these events on our bluetreasure.me blog.

I and my team of friends on ICE are humble guests in the Kingdom of Tonga. I respect and admire the rich cultural heritage and tread gently wherever we go. I love everything about the Friendly Isles.

In the years ahead I will work with the people of Tonga to uncover some of this lost maritime history in a responsible, accountable and transparent way. I will always place great importance on the cultural and environmental sensitivities of any wreck site.

I will never claim a wreck or anything on it for us, as they are all owned by the people of Tonga, but I will do everything possible to stop the senseless damage of their historically significant wreck sites.



LOVE A DUCK

I am in China again, about to lay the keel of a new McIntyre 78 Motor Sailer from Seahorse Marine. They have just launched two 382 Diesel Ducks and one is for longtime Australian cruisers, Ernie and Jan Reading.

I first met Ernie about 25 years ago, supplying desalinator parts when I operated McIntyre Marine Services in Sydney. He had just launched his self-built Adams 45 yacht Rebecca Jane II and was about to head off over the horizon, which he and his wife have been doing regularly ever since. They have traveled extensively around Australia and through Asia.

Now that Ernie’s hairline is receding at a pace equal to the onset of a new grey colour, the urge for a helm chair and windscreen wipers in a competent trawler yacht brought him to China! He and Jan had been invited onto a couple of Seahorse DD462s while cruising Asia and they were impressed.

When they visited the yard last year, they had the option of a two-year new-build or take a nearly complete DD382 spec boat, the little sister. Having just completed a 12-month rebuild of their existing boat in Thailand they decided no more building, so put a deposit down on the DD382 and put their boat on the market for $198,000.

There is another Australian couple here also building a sister ship to ICE (a DD462), bringing the total now to four Australian owners of these competent adventure ships. So if you want to buy the little sister to ICE, a DD382 in red, there is a spec boat on the dock now, with keys in the ignition. All you need is $500,000 and you are headed for that horizon, with everything you need to enjoy the peaceful Pacific paradise.


Originally published in Trade-a-Boat magazine #438, April 2013.

 


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