"I want to go where the captain sits."

Greg Rieger's words could have been those of his late son, as the father retraces the steps his teenage boy made on board the Spirit of New Zealand sailing ship.

"That's what Hamish would have said," he says. "He would have been right up there in the action."

Hamish boarded Spirit of New Zealand in August, 2015, as part of a youth development programme.

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The inspiring journey was just a few months before the 17-year-old's life was tragically cut short on January 23, 2016, when he was snatched by a rogue wave while watching the large surf at the blowhole on Moturiki (Leisure Island) and swept out to sea.

Three years on, Greg is standing on board the steel-hulled, three-masted barquentine ship for the first time alongside his wife Donna and daughter Eliza-Jane.

"I feel okay at the moment," he says.

He stares out to sea as the ship sails slowly past Mount Maunganui.

But it isn't long until he is put to work, just as his son was.

Greg's hands tug hard on the rope to hoist the sails - Donna is on the slack line and Eliza-Jane is recording the moment on her cellphone.

"Two, six, heave," the crew shout as Greg pulls harder.

The movement is repeated until each sail is up and the ship starts to roll over the waves as it moves parallel to Matakana Island.

Donna is among those who become seasick.

"That's where Hamish learned why people ate so many ginger nuts on board," Greg says.

More stories about Hamish's sail on the Spirit are shared between the Riegers and the crew as the ship follows the curve of the rolling sea.

"I bet you Hamish would have climbed that mast too," Greg says as he watches one of the crew members make his way to the top.

It is the memory of his son's motivation and fearlessness that reminds Greg why he is on the ship.

When Hamish died, Greg vowed to complete 12 half-marathons in 12 months to raise funds for the "I Ride With Hame" project, which he and Donna set up to create scholarships for the Spirit of Adventure Trust.

The Spirit of New Zealand docked at Port of Tauranga. Photo / George Novak
The Spirit of New Zealand docked at Port of Tauranga. Photo / George Novak

The pair has raised $28,000 to get children on board the Spirit of New Zealand since Greg completed his last half marathon in May this year.

"Now, I have a new challenge," Greg says.

He plans to complete six marathons in two years, starting with the Rotorua Marathon in May next year.

"I'm going to keep going, I won't stop."

The Spirit of New Zealand
- The Spirit visited Tauranga from November 13-15
- There were about 40 adults on board as part of its Oceans of Hope voyage - an international sailing organisation for adults with multiple sclerosis
- The Spirit arrived from Auckland prior to going to Napier
- The tall ship is a steel-hulled, three-masted barquentine from Auckland
- It was purpose-built by the Spirit of Adventure Trust in 1986 for youth development
- It is 42.5m in total length and carries a maximum of 40 trainees and 13 crew on overnight voyages.