This week’s mega short-story challenge

This week’s writing challenge is from a photo I took of the inter-island ferry Aratere that plies between Wellington and Picton.

Use the photo to inspire a 150-200 word super-short story – a proper one, with beginning, middle, end and punchline (all super-short stories gotta have a punchline) – and post it on your blog, with the prompt photo and a link back to this blog for others to pick up and join in the fun.

The MV Aratere, looking like she's been washed down with Humbrol Rust Finish.
The MV Aratere, apparently washed down with Humbrol Rust Finish.

The name Aratere means ‘swift path’ in Maori. She was built for the run in the late 1990s, but trouble began on her maiden voyage in 1999 when the first passengers had to walk off via the vehicle deck because the passenger gangway didn’t work. Then the ship began stopping dead in Wellington harbour and drifting without power or steering. Heavy reinforcing had to be added to the bows because they weren’t up to the punching they got in Cook Strait, one of the roughest stretches of water in the world.

A few years ago, she was sent to Singapore to be lengthened. She returned to New Zealand complete with a small infestation of Singaporean rats, which gave our bio-security authorities a headache. She still kept breaking down and drifting, dead, in harbour every so often. And then there was the debacle with an onboard effluent tank that ended up being vented into Cook Strait. But the main problem was that she rode differently, with the result that one propellor eventually fell off. It was cheaper to fish the propellor off the sea bed than to buy another, and off Aratere went to Singapore to have it refitted. On the way back, one of the engines broke.

The Maori for ‘lemon’ is rimona, incidentally. The comedy of errors puts me in mind of the Kirki, a crude oil tanker that lost its bow off Australia in July 1991. And yes, you need to check out this clip:

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


6 thoughts on “This week’s mega short-story challenge

    1. It’s part of a series by Kiwi comedian John Clarke – who’s been living in Australia for decades. Very dry, very laconic, and very funny, often taking the mickey out of some contemporary event and a politicians’ response to it. I had some dealings with him nearly 15 years ago when the (serious) film company he owns with Sam Neill were looking at making a TV show out of one of my military histories (‘Desert Duel’, in fact). The proposals foundered on the usual lack of funding that besets all Good TV Ideas, but it was nice to know my stuff had drawn his attention and approval.

    1. A great story! Heh! It’s intriguing – the waters between the North and South Islands are among the roughest in the world – it’s a product of the geography, Coriolis effect and so forth. The first generation of inter-island Ro-Ro ferries that took to those waters in 1961 were designed specifically with those sea states in mind. The last was delivered in 1983 – and left Wellington just last week after 32 years and 52,000 crossings. The subsequent ships, some of which are second-hand, haven’t been so designed. And one of them has a bow door, which is a specific fatigue hazard in those sorts of seas. Whenever my wife and I see it in harbour we habitually make the same comment… “Hope the front doesn’t fall off”.

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