My happy place: Being on the sea

By Bronwyn Sell

Ray Ferenczy, volunteer master with the Voyager Maritime Museum and Wahine survivor.

Ray Ferenczy loves sailing and being at sea. Photo / Janna Dixon
Ray Ferenczy loves sailing and being at sea. Photo / Janna Dixon

My happy place is on the water. I've been with the Maritime Museum for four years or so, working my way from deckhand, to mate, to captain.

I love being on the sea. There's the technical aspect of sailing heritage ships, and then just being out there with the wind and the sea and nature, and tackling the various challenges that come up. There's a lot of problem-solving and decision-making to do, particularly when you get into the command side of things. When you've got six good people working as a team it's a lot of fun.

My ideal day on the water is when you get a good stiff breeze coming from the right direction for what you want to do and you can go for it. A lot of it is all action, particularly in the closer areas, where you're doing a lot of manoeuvring. But even on the long boards, as we call them - going up the coast - if the wind is blowing well in the right direction and you're just scooting along, it's exhilarating.

The sea has been a lifelong interest. My first job was with the Union Steamship Company.

I started with them about 17, as a junior officer and worked my way up to chief purser. Then I became a branch manager in Fiji.

I've had a wonderful career that has been out of the ordinary. I was shipwrecked once in my life, on the Wahine. I was senior assistant purser. That was as close a squeak as I've ever had - having ended up in the tide for some time before being picked up.

When you're young you generally come through things pretty well. I was back at sea the next day.

The Wahine was a beautiful ship. Circumstances were obviously very tragic - and unique. It's not often you get two cyclones colliding like that with a ship right in the middle of it, stuck in a place where it can't turn around.

One thing that's come out of it for me is a very sound appreciation of safety at sea. I can't say I love the sea. There's a saying that if you "love" the sea you're lying, because it's actually a very hazardous place in a number of respects. But you can love being at sea, and I do.

* The Voyager Maritime Museum is open daily. Free admission for Auckland residents, with proof of address. Heritage sailings operate Wednesday to Sunday, at extra cost. The latest exhibition is Kermadec. Ph (09) 373 0800.

- as told to Bronwyn Sell

- Herald on Sunday

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