Article from Issue 22
Over the last couple of years or so there
has been some concern as to whether Channel one, Great Barrier Radio, would
continue with the fine service which it has provided to Auckland's
commercial fleet and recreational boaties who frequent the Barrier.
This privately funded, subscriber-based
marine radio service operating on channel one from Whangaparapara on the
Barrier was established by the island's renowned local identity, George
George needs little introduction to anyone
in the marine industry who needs to know. He is after all recognised as an
institution which developed from his early days as the island's policeman.
Seafarers will remember many a night when trying to seek shelter when George
would turn out, get into his vehicle, drive to a position which would give a
safe lead, and shine his headlights to guide a storm-tossed vessel through
safe waters to shelter.
Institution or not, humans are mere
mortals, and age has a habit of taking its toll. Unfortunately George is no
different, and in recent years his health has started to deteriorate, which
in turn has caused concern to all seafarers who have relied upon or use the
services of Great Barrier Radio.
On a recent visit to Great Barrier I took
time out to visit this old and respected friend, only to be greeted with
"Not so much of the old," which gave me heart that George, although a bit
slower, is still in fine fettle, and so we shared the latest scuttlebutt
over a cuppa.
"The control room is as it should be," he
said, "but it is in the operations room that you need to talk." And so it
was with much pleasure that I met Allison Cox for first time. At last there
was a face to the cheery voice we had experienced on the airways for the
past 12 months. Ali had taken on the task as radio operator of Great Barrier
What would make a young lady of the world
want to seek isolation at Great Barrier, I pondered. As though reading my
mind, she said she couldn't really explain exactly why she chose to move to
Great Barrier Island. But she liked the style of channel one. She enjoys the
lifestyle which Great Barrier has to offer, and she enjoys maintaining
contact with the sea.
On delving further, we find that she is
also no newcomer in the sea-going department, having spent five years with
the Spirit of Adventure Trust sail-training vessels, particularly the Spirit
of New Zealand. She has also amassed a fair amount of blue-water sailing,
and has sailed around the Horn to the Falkland Islands in a small yacht.
With a love of the sea and the need to take time out to complete her degree
by correspondence, she saw Great Barrier Radio as a challenge, where she
could maintain an active contact with the sea, continue her studies and
enjoy a lifestyle while maintaining an important link for seafarers' safety
and communication. From her own first-hand experience she has an excellent
knowledge of the Hauraki Gulf, its islands, bays, nooks and crannies.
In talking with her, it is easy to
understand why this young lady has already endeared herself to mariners from
all walks of life by the many compliments she receives. When we ask what the
key is to this success, Ali replies "Probably because I am a female, I'm
friendly, and I can relate to the problems or difficulties, the good times,
the humour, and the frustrating situations those at sea are experiencing.
"Men tend to treat me differently" she
says, "probably because I am a female. There is no aggression or macho
bravado which can sometimes prevail when men are explaining some problem or
other with another male radio operator."
From a seafarer's position it has to be
recognised that Ali has a very clear voice on the radio, she is unflustered
and professional in the manner in which she goes about her duties on air.
For the old hands who still want to have a chat with George, he is always
available in the control room and maintains a listening brief.
Great Barrier Radio provides an excellent
VHF coverage on channel one throughout the inner and outer Hauraki Gulf,
across the Mokohinaus and up the north-east coast and south into the Bay,
the Coromandel coast and the Mercury Islands.
At NZ Professional Skipper magazine we
encourage all commercial operators operating this area, and the wider
boating public who tend to use channel one, thinking it is a
government-funded service, to consider joining Great Barrier Radio and
support the fine service they provide. The annual membership fee is $50,
and payment may be made out to Great Barrier Radio, RD 1, Claris, Great
As they have just upgraded their radio
equipment at some significant cost, corporate donations and new members are