Two Kāpiti College students were part of the Tuia 250 commemorations — an event which marked 250 years since Captain James Cook and his crew showed up at Tūranganui-a-Kiwa and called it Poverty Bay.
Ashleigh Hill, 18, and Stevie Shipman, 16, were among 40 students from around the country aboard the youth focussed Spirit of New Zealand ship which was part of the flotilla including the replica of the HMS Endeavour.
The students, featuring a wide range of ethnicities, joined the ship in Tauranga before a five day voyage to Gisborne for the formal ceremonies.
After everyone was clear about the health and safety rules, they set the sails and the ship set off into the darkness.
"Everyone got really sick," Stevie said.
"They said it was one of the worst storms they had on the Spirit of New Zealand."
"And we were both on top bunks," Ashleigh said.
"There was no sleep."
Time of board was spent learning how to sail the ship, navigation, practicing waiata, eating meals, conversing with shipmates, cleaning, team activities, trying to conquer sea sickness and more.
Shower facilities brought a bit of trepidation.
"They made us jump off the ship into the sea," Stevie said.
"The water was freezing."
At one point they were alongside the HMS Endeavour when they heard a countdown and a fake explosion came from one of the historic ship's cannons.
"All I saw was this big explosion — I thought I was going to die.
"It was so scary," Stevie said.
The final day was special and everyone was up in the early morning hours to prepare for the historic commemorations in Poverty Bay.
Stevie had a special moment as she had been on night watch and helped steer the ship, via star navigation, into the area.
"That was the highlight of my trip."
The commemorations were special, and emotional, and also "acknowledged the Polynesian navigators who came over to Aotearoa hundreds of years before Cook, and the recognition that cultures came together and how society is moving forward," Stevie said.
The last night onboard, before everyone went their separate ways, they sang waiata back and forth among their groups, before an emotional and spinetingling haka.
"It was definitely a good way to end," Ashleigh said.