03 July 2007

A Chapter from the Past

One of the jobs I had when working in the hospitality industry was on the boats...and not in the way you think, either

I worked in the restaurant of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland, New Zealand. Andy, the chef who ran the restaurant, also had another sideline...providing the catering for Thomas Cook Cruises, a company which ran cruises around the Auckland Harbour. There were day trips, evening trips, barbecues and picnics on some of the islands, cocktail cruises, private functions...you name it, they did it. So in 1985, my youngest daughter and I spent the whole summer on the water...wonderful.

Downtown Auckland..."Manu" is moored at Admiralty Steps.

However, I had a lot to learn and I learnt it very quickly on my first trip out on the harbour. I was dropped at the wharf, along with the food, crockery, cutlery, chafing dishes, portable bain maries and all the other assorted gear we needed for a cruise with about 80 guests. I set it all up and was waiting to greet people as they boarded. My first mistake was to wear high heels and I soon found out why.

As "Manu" was reversed from the wharf, it crossed the wash of another vessel which had left just before us. I was carrying a large silver platter of canapes and handing them around in the salon. As the boat started rocking, I automatically put one had behind me to grab the pole I had noticed. I didn't find the pole, but felt fabric and hard muscle. I turned around and to my mortification, I had groped some young guy's backside. He turned around and gave me a look of astonishment...my face lit the salon up, I stammered an apology and couldn't get away fast enough. Trouble was, there was really nowhere else for me to go...the boat wasn't that large.

I made the mistake of telling the other staff what I had done when the cruise ended and I eventually got back to the restaurant. Needless to say, I was warned every time after that not to grope the guests...

One boat the company owned was a cataramaran that could take about 30 guests and one Saturday I had a late afternoon cruise and barbecue to Rangitoto Island, which sits right in the middle of the harbour, guarding the city. It's a volcanic island, supposedly extinct, but as Auckland is built on seven volcanoes and New Zealand is over the Pacific "ring of fire" fault line, nothing can be taken for granted in that respect.

Rangitoto Island...the extinct volcano guarding Auckland.

Anyway, the cruise was a Christmas party for a smallish company. Free drink, free food and a good time was had by all...until the trip home. It was about 10 pm and I was behind the bar serving drinks with another lady, Diane, when this huge Maori guy came up and swept everything off the bar. The barman pushed me and Diane behind him, screamed at us to get out and grabbed a baseball bat. I had the presence of mind to grab a cask of wine and Diane and I scrambled up to the bridge. The skipper and mate looked rather astonished at the sudden invasion and we explained what was happening. I had looked back as I disappeared up the stairs and could see the barman standing on the bar swinging the baseball bat.

The skipper radioed the Harbour Police in Auckland and they were waiting when we eventually docked. It was a very long trip back, however we had the cask of wine...paid for by the company who'd booked the party...which helped somewhat. Once we got back to Auckland, the skipper wouldn't allow Diane or I off the boat until everyone had gone and it was safe for us to do so. The police took this guy, who was totally out of control, threw him in the paddy wagon and took him to the cells. We later found out that, as well as drinking, he'd been high on drugs as well. It wasn't a very happy ending for the other guests who were stuck in the salon with this maniac...some of the women were crying and the maniac's girlfriend was terribly upset. I think it was probably the end of that romance. We did receive a letter of apology from the company and of course realised that this guy didn't even work for them, he was an invitee...as I said, I think his girlfriend was glad to see the back of him.

That had to be one of the scariest nights of my life...scarier even than "Captain Crash".

Captain Crash had been hired to skipper one of the vessels and the first time he took a boat out, he backed over a mooring rope which tangled in the propellor and cost the company a bit of money to get that fixed. D'uh! You usually make sure the mooring ropes are coiled neatly out of the way before moving...

One evening, my daughter was on the cataraman he was skippering. They were on their way home and she was clearing up. She took one of the portable bain maries and went out onto the pontoon and emptied the water out, coming back inside immediately. She no sooner got into the salon than there was a hell of a crash and the cataramaran rocked wildly. This idiot, Captain Crash, had run into another yacht! He actually ran over the top of it...fortunately it wasn't occupied. So they limped back to port and he had to give an explanation to the police, etc. If he had hit the boat a minute earlier, my daughter would have been knocked overboard...she had a lucky escape.

Believe it or not, the company gave him another chance...this time it was my turn for the drama. Another night cruise, we stopped at Devonport, one of the marine suburbs on the harbour and the guests disembarked to do something, I can't remember what it was. So we had a fairly relaxed evening until they came back. There were a few people fishing on the wharf and we had been talking to them while waiting for the guests to come back.

They eventually did so and it was time for us to head back to Auckland. However, Captain Crash was at the wheel, wasn't he? We reversed out, he swung the nose around...and hit the wharf, got tangled up in the fishing lines...and we were stranded. Lovely! So again, he radioed back to Auckland. Of course they were getting worried about us, because by this time it was quite late. Another boat came and took the guests off, but I had to stay with all the gear. I think I finally got home about three o'clock the next morning...only about five hours late.

Funnily enough, that was the last we saw of Captain Crash. I think that Thomas Cook Cruises felt he was just a tad expensive for their budget.
I didn't scan those photos in very well, did I? Just a bit crooked, wouldn't you say?


Walker said...

I came by to thank you for your comment on Emme's post and to say how sorry I am about Oscar and how he went.
Pets know how to make us smile when we need one the most as all friends do.

Now, I never got the chance to go to Auckland and by the looks of it I missed out, it looks beautiful.
I was in New Zealand a year and a half ago, mostly in Wellington and went up to Rotorua as well and a place called Hamilton.
Everything I saw was beautiful but I still want to know how the sheep stand on the side of those hills without falling off.

I am sure one day you will hear about captain crash doing down with his rowboat after backing into a dock.
Sounds like it wasn't a job but more of and adventure everytime he was driving.

Have a nice day

Gattina said...

That job would have suited me too ! Working on a ship, lol ! You know the company with which I always travel is Thomas Cook !! That's funny but I didn't know that they do cruises as well. Here it's a travel agency with almost flight and hotel accomodation. While I am typing, Rosie is busy to run and jump after a fly !

Peter said...

Hi Robyn, (or is it Lee in disguise?) what an intriguing little glimpse of your past, very interesting.
I see you went and visited Walker, did you read any of his Red Dirt story? three episodes so far, very well written.

Merle said...

Hi Robyn ~~ What fun times that made a good story. So you have lots of stories in your past also, let's have more.
Thanks for your comments, glad you liked John little dogs, they are nice
Glad you liked the Best Ass in Town joke. It was a good one.
Take care, dear friend, Love, Merle.

"Early Bird" said...

I think I'm a wee bit sea sick after reading this post :}
No really...I enjoyed every word!

Liz said...

Did you ever get to hear the Navy Lark, back in the fifties/sixties? Captain Crash sounded as if he had come straight from that show. 'Left hand, down. Oo-er.'

And you really expect us to believe you mistook a bottom for a pole?!!

TorAa said...

What memories and experiences you have from your time at the Auckland local cruises. Captain Crash - hehehe - and that scary drunk and drugged one - and you with high heels - LOL.

Great post

Remiman said...

I love the groper story. I'd stick with your rendition if I were you. ;-)
I'll just bet that these stories you've shared are just the tip of the iceberg, if you get my drift.
Fun times for "shore" to look back on.
Remind me to tell you about my deep sea fishing excursion some day.

Lee said...

"Captain Crash's" real name wasn't "Maurice" was it? He sounds just like a guy I had working for my on Hinchinbrook Island!

Good story, Robyn...brings back lots of memories. There's no doubt about it...the hospitality industry breeds some great stories! :)

Val said...

First time visit to your blog and I am treated to some good stories in this post.

I quite like the photos with a slight slant, it looks quite natural. I thought you had done it on purpose and wondering how you did it.

meeyauw said...

You have the greatest stories, Robyn. And the settings are always so exotic. These were especially great. I love Captain Crash's name, but the stories there were a bit scary. Thank god your daughter was OK and you were OK. I'm surprised the company took so long to get rid of him!