My happy place is sailing or boating on Lake Taupo. You can get fantastic days when it's calm and the weather's nice and you're away from everything. There might be a few people around the sides of the lake, fishing or doodling or doing whatever, but you can be sailing across the lake with the whole place to yourselves.
I have a 25-foot trailer sailer and my wife and I will go off sailing for a week or two when we can, usually over the summer months. Sailing's a fantastic way to travel -- you just put the sail up and off you go.
The western bays are the nicest place on the lake, especially if you get round there in January through to March, and you get one of those calm, sunny days. You can leave any time in the morning without any great plans and without a deadline. At the end of the day you'll just pull into a little bay somewhere and anchor. I enjoy that.
It's a fantastic place on a nice day but it can be very mean and unpleasant if the wind gets up. It changes quickly, and I quite like that -- it's got that raw element. You can't take it for granted. It's not a small lake where you can easily escape to the other side or find shelter.
You've got to be prepared.
I grew up in Auckland, and I've been sailing since I was very young, initially with my father and my brothers. We used to have a bach at Weymouth, on the Manukau Harbour, so we'd put our old clinker boat in. I'd always be the one bailing with a plastic bottle, because the yacht had lots of holes in it and would be filling up.
I'm a geologist with GNS Science, and geology is my passion as well, so I'm always looking at rock formations while I'm out on the lake. It's a pretty amazing place -- it must have been a huge eruption 2000 years ago, to form a lake that size. There are always interesting things to look it, though it's not the type of geology I study -- I'm a sedimentologist and I'm not really into volcanoes, professionally.
I can also leave work behind. You basically tune into the yacht and what it's doing, how fast it's going, and the way you need to turn it. You're not thinking about day-to-day activities; you're thinking of the simple elements of the wind on the sail and your speed through the water to get to where you're going. It consumes your thought processes rather than worrying about the mortgage and all the other things you're always worried about.
It's a very relaxing place and I've had lots of good times there over the years.
Dr Browne discovered a set of dinosaur footprints in Nelson, which are on display in the Auckland Museum's free Dinosaur Footprints exhibition, on until next Sunday. For details, see www.aucklandmuseum.com
-- as told to Bronwyn Sell