Tag Archives: Six Boats

Meet ‘the Heems’

As I began researching the possibility of taking on this journey, I started to look at the sort of vehicle I would need, and how it needed to be configured. I needed somewhere comfortable to live, but the other requirement was essentially… a fully spec’d office.

My van

The Heems’

On the road I needed the essential comforts of home. In addition, I would be writing a book, writing a blog, and filming for the blog (and perhaps a documentary). I needed to be able to edit text, images for illustrations, audio and video. I needed computer power… with quite a bit of grunt for the image and video processing, a printer, and a proper monitor, mouse and keypad. To maintain sanity, (I would be travelling alone) I also needed TV, radio and music. I needed electricity, lots of it; for my fridge, computers, TV, lights, sounds etc. And an absolute essential, was a reliable internet connection.

It took a while to settle on the size of van I needed. It had to be a compromise between large… for convenience and comfort, and small… to get into some of the more remote locations I would visit.

I eventually settled on the type of van that tourists hire when touring New Zealand. They’ve been around a long time, and seem to be well thought out in terms of squeezing all the important creature comforts of home into a compact space.

I named my van, somewhat obviously, ‘Heemskerck’. Immediately I realised that this would cause dreadful confusion in my writing… was I talking about Tasman’s ship? or was I talking about my van? I hadn’t even finished applying the lettering before my van not only had a name, but also a nickname… ‘the Heems’.

The Heems had the all essentials for comfortable living; toilet and shower, fridge-freezer, gas cooker and grill, sink, and hot water (gas) but was hopeless it terms of providing somewhere to work; that I had to sort out for myself. It took me about six months to convert… and all that time, I was living in it. Anyone who has ‘done up’ a house while living in it will know just how uncomfortable that can be. When the space is as small as a campervan it becomes nearly impossible. The van contains everything I need, and when it’s all nicely packed up it is easy and comfortable to live in. But as soon as I pull out my tool boxes, and start working on a job, then suddenly everything is in the way, and everything I need is behind, in or under something else… and everywhere I need to put something down already has something else there.

wire cutters

My best wire cutters

I pulled onto the campsite at Piha on July 19th 2013… mid-winter in New Zealand. The van was cold, dark and powerless. In order to prepare for someone to fit my alarms and reversing camera, I’d bored some holes for their cables. One of my holes had gone straight through all the interior power and light cables. I’d also managed to cut off power to the water pump, so I only had water from a container. Here’s a picture of my best wire cutters.

solar panels

Solar panels and satellite dish

Over the next few months I gradually built up ‘the Heems’ to be what I needed, whilst also researching and preparing the book.

The first job was… power. I needed electricity, in remote places, and for extended periods… so my van is completely self-sufficient with solar power and has a lot of battery storage. Even in winter I have enough solar power to keep my batteries topped up. I am one of the few people that has solar powered computers, printer, TV… even my electric tools are solar powered!

My next major task was to build the office. It raised quite a few eyebrows on the campsite when most of the rear seating was ripped out and heaved through the door. My office desk spans the whole width of the rear of the van, and has a deep lid over it. The lid is hinged along its length, and has my bed above… a proper bed, not a thin foam mattresses. The office remains all set up under the lid while my bed is down. In the mornings I flip the bed up, and voila! the office is open.

I use a smartphone for my internet connection, but to get a signal in more remote areas, I use an external antenna mounted on a pole. Finally, for my sanity, I have a satellite dish on the top and a TV. The dish gives me not only TV but also radio… anywhere in the country, and that is a real life saver on occasions.

A few alterations to the storage arrangements completed the re-construction. By the end of it I had turned a fully functional mobile holiday home for four, into a home-office for one. I was ready for the road at last!

How to read this Blog


In this blog I am reporting on six different journeys; Abel Tasman’s, the four Waka’s and my own. In my journey I travel to all the key locations present in the others. I tell each story, up to the point that they co-incide. Abel Tasman’s story is told sequentially, through his diary, but this is not always possible with the other journeys… there would simply be too much driving involved.

coinciding paths

The journeys of Abel Tasman and the people of the Kurahupo, to the point of their co-incidence.

Take Abel Tasman’s 18th December 1642 for example. He was in Golden Bay, inside Cape Farewell at the top of the South Island. On that day he met some Maori. They were descendants of the Kurahaupo, who had traveled from Tahiti, then Rarotonga and then to New Zealand. They had landed at the North Cape (northernmost point of the North Island), then sailed down to Mahia (mid way up the east coast of the North Island), then overland through Hastings, Taupo and down the Manawatu River. From there they had moved to the Marlborough sounds at the top of the South Island, and finally, west into Golden Bay.

I simply can’t travel to all the places in that journey AND follow Tasman’s path simultaneously; he is traveling north, they are going south. For me to visit the places in a sequence that explains the story well I would have to travel alternately between the far North and the South for each post. This blog is therefore, of necessity, not in the best order to build up the stories sequentially and have them coincide at a set day and location in Tasman’s journey. I can only do that in book form.

This blog is presented in the order that I visit the locations. I will do my best to get as close as possible to a comprehensible order, but on occasions I have to leave it to the reader to assemble the parts into their correct chronological sequence.


The ‘categories’ selection bar.


Entries in this blog are normally presented ‘newest first’. This will work well for anyone following the blog regularly,but is not so good for someone joining the journeys part way through. To help new visitors, setting the post order to ‘Oldest first’ allows them to view the posts in the order that they were published; that is, ‘Oldest post first’. This panel appears at the very foot of the page.



The ‘categories’ selection bar.


Entries in this blog are organised into ‘categories’. There is a category for each journey. If you want to follow just a single journey, then clicking one of the category headings “Abel Tasman” “The Waka’s” or “My journal” will present you with only the posts relating to that track. The Category “The Waka’s” is further divided into four; Kurahaupo, Tainui, Mahuhu and Matawhaorua. Picking ‘All posts’ removes the filter, and shows everything. On desktop computers and laptops the categories are shown in full just above the main pictures. On mobile devices they are found by touching the bar marked ‘categories’.


category banners

Category banner for ‘Kurahaupo’ posts

In order to help the reader understand the relevant position of each post in the overall story-line, each post is headed with a banner indicating which journey it is a part of.


Tasman’s journal, as it appears in this blog.


Abel Tasman left us a daily Journal, and I quote this in full before exploring the events of the day. His journal entries are presented like this.


The Maori ‘diary’ as it appears in this blog.

Unfortunately, we have no equivalent daily record for the Maori/Polynesian travelers, so I have devised one. The daily ‘events’ of the Polynesian/Maori travelers are also presented in diary form. The detail of the diaries are a fiction, we simply don’t know precisely what happened every day, but the generality is correct, and it is presented wrapped in supposition based on our understanding of the Maori and Polynesian social forms. The Maori/Polynesian ‘diary’ looks like this.


Words with a green background can be clicked to hear their pronunciation


Many of the words used are Maori and Old Dutch. To help you understand these correctly I have joined an audio track to important words, so that you can hear them pronounced correctly. Click on a word that has a green background to hear it spoken.

It works like this. Any text highlighted in green has a sound clip attached to it. For example if you wanted to hear how to pronounce , then you would just click on it.


Please feel free to use the “Contact me” form or “comments” to ask about any particular aspect of any of the journeys. I will try and respond to your inquiries and address missing information or errors. The ‘Contact me’ form is found under the ‘About’ category. It also includes a map indication of where I am at the moment.