‘We are making it very clear to them that they are not welcome here’

100 miles offshore from Raglan, in the Tasman sea onboard R/V Tiama

It is midnight, a dark evening, some stars, no moon. A light sailing breeze makes it easier for the 5 oil free seas flotilla boats to stay close, circling around the Anadarko drilling ship. The drilling ship sits on the very same spot that we occupied with the flotilla boats for a few days before they arrived. It was a nice peaceful place then, with lots of marine and bird life around us, now it is an industrial factory site, complete with stinking exhaust gases drifting our way, loudspeakers bellowing and the ocean lit up like downtown Auckland.

Flotilla facing the NBD

And right in front of them is the little sailing vessel Vega, doing its thing. For the last 3 days and nights she has been stalking this huge 220 meter long drilling ship, going back and forth, back and forth. Tonight during my night watch onboard Tiama I have been trying to mirror Vega’s tacks up and down along side the drill ship, albeit from a much further away. It takes Vega about 8 minutes to travel at the slowest speed they can do, from one end of the exclusion zone to the other end, then they turn around and go back the other way again for another 8 minutes.

After keeping pace with them for 2 hours I was getting very bored and slightly dizzy. I take my hat off to the crew of Vega for their stamina, keeping this up for 3 days and nights in a row, with no stopping in between. At this stage they are showing no signs of giving up either.

They always sound upbeat on the radio when we talk to them, they are living in a 500 meter bubble around the drilling ship that we, the other flotilla yachts cannot enter – the forbidden zone. One of the crew onboard the boat is Jeanette Fitzsimons, our very own peoples granny. She has been such an inspiration for all of us here, with her clear thoughts and strong stand, and she is there on Vega, doing her thing. Amazing.

We can only wave from afar and send support over the radio. In the meantime the Texan cowboys who are operating this thing pretend to be blind to the presence of little Vega in their exclusion zone and it’s just business as usual. But it’s not business as usual, not by a long shot. You can hear the tension in their voice when they are forced to talk to Vega over the radio and this strong little boat, with its staunch crew, is really a pain in the butt for them. I would not be surprised if it is actually stopping them from getting on with the actually drilling, who knows?

Some of the skippers and crew of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla have tried to ask the Texans some questions but our request are all answered with “no comment”. This brings back memories from when the US nuclear powered ship tried to enter our waters and their captains had the standard reply that they could not confirm nor deny if they had nuclear weapons onboard. This seems to be a similar story.

Anadarko is not willing to show us their oil spill response plan, what are they trying to hide? One could come to the conclusion that they cannot confirm nor deny that this whole deep sea oil drilling is a very risky operation.

Guess you just have to take their word for it that it’s safe, yeah right……

Vega and her crew are doing a fantastic job bearing witness and slowly but surely getting on the nerves of these Texan Boys who are such a long long way from home. We are making it very clear to them that they are not welcome here.

Enough ravings for one night, it is late. Good night.

– Henk, Skipper R/V Tiama