Location: Lyttelton Harbour, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand.
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, light winds.
Number on Trip: 15 people.
Time on Water: 1.5 Hours.
Comments: New Zealand is one of the last remaining countries still importing phosphate from the illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara. Josie had organised a land and sea protest, which had intended to blockage the Federal Crimson, the ship carrying the stolen phosphate. Ravensdown delayed the ship’s arrival time and then let the ship sit at anchor offshore for several days before sneaking in to Lyttelton Harbour after dark on Sunday night, so our plans had to change. This meant only those that could take Monday off with little or no notice were available to take part. Lauri was keen to take part and I was happy make sure she was properly looked after. We sorted our gear the night before and discovered that Lauri’s buoyancy aid had shrunk. I drove out to our storage locker and picked up her canoe polo BA, but that had also shrunk, so in the end I let her use my one, while I would wear her small one.
The day dawned, sunny and warm, a great day for a paddle. We loaded up the boats and drove out to the planned launch point to meet up with the rest of the group. There was a good size group at the boat ramp when we got there, but the planned extra sit on top kayaks hadn’t arrived. After waiting a little longer, we kitted ourselves out with Western Sahara flags and launched in to the harbour. Our little group included, an inflatable double kayak, a stand up paddle board and a number of kayaks (sea, sit on tops and us in our white water boats). It was a beautiful day for a paddle and the harbour was flat with little wind, so we easily covered the 800 metres to where the Federal Crimson was berthed.
The ship was massive and red, and as part of the protest we attached a large Western Saharan flag to the side of it using some powerful magnets. Once this was done we all cheered and sang a protest song, while our accompanying yacht sailed back and forth, with the photographers on the deck taking photos and video. We then paddled to the stern of the ship to join in chants with the shore based protest. As the trailer full of kayaks had arrived, those that had been previously disappointed at being unable to be part of the flotilla (all dressed up but with no boat to paddle), were able to join us on the water.
One paddler climbed out of his boat and onto the ships rudder. While he was posing for photos, his sit on top floated off and under the jetty, followed by other paddlers. We’d been told not to go under the jetties by the organisers but it was necessary to follow the drifting boat. There was a bit of drama returning the boat to the guy on the rudder but the group chasing the boat managed it in the end, all the whilst the authorities looked on.
Once paddler and kayak were reunited, we returned to where we had placed the flag on the ships hull for more photos and chants. Removing the flag was a little tricky as the magnets holding it in place were very strong. An overzealous tug left one of the top magnets stuck high above the heads of those in kayaks, but fortunately it was rescued by the stand up paddle boarder. From there, we paddled back across the harbour to the boat ramp. There were a couple of police officers waiting and they issued a warning to the person who had been standing on the rudder. We had a debrief, packed up our gear and then Shane turned up with some much welcomed food. We had a good morning, it was good to catch up with people, enjoy the sun and to bring awareness to an important issue. Thanks Josie and all those involved to bring about such a successful protest.
The Press ran a story on the protest and that is available here.