The cruising community was saddened to hear that Michael Churchouse had died on September 5, writes Jim Lott.
Michael’s ocean sailing life began in the early 1970s when he joined the crew of a ketch sailing from Fiji to Auckland. Michael had just started studying astro-navigation, which was essential before satellite systems or EPIRBs had been invented. During the voyage the skipper, who fancied himself as a navigator, became completely lost and Michael took over with his rudimentary knowledge, managing to achieve safe landfall.
After a distinguished career as a senior cytologist in hospital laboratories, the lure of distant places became stronger. Michael and his wife Judy and their two sons purchased the 31ft John Lidgard designed yacht Shantung with her unstayed ‘junk’ rig. They cruised extensively, especially to little known diving spots. The Auckland Islands and Kermadecs were just two examples as they set their sights on a circumnavigation.
Shantung was taken to their Howick home for a major refit, wooden dinghies were built, always with ideas that differed from what was in vogue. Fibreglass and PVC took second place to wood and copper.
In 1989 Michael joined the crew of the yacht Victoria racing from Auckland to Japan. He made sure that all on board understood his strong affinity for cruising rather than racing. He was dismayed when the skipper refused to stop each time he hooked a fish, and sailing past Truk Lagoon without stopping for a dive caused head-shaking despondency, at least until happy hour.
In 1994, Michael and Judy headed to Micronesia and Japan seeking places never sailed before. Arrest in Russia, living in Aleutian villages and countless challenges led to Panama and on to the Mediterranean. In many places their son David joined them while his brother Ian remained in New Zealand. South through Suez and coping with the complex bureaucracy in India were endured as they continued their circumnavigation the ‘wrong way round’ in their junk-rigged sloop. After eight years they arrived back in New Zealand via the Timor Sea.
Shantung was sold and the family purchased a native-tree nursery in Putamahoe. Michael joined the team at Yachting New Zealand as safety and technical officer with responsibility for managing the yacht safety inspectors throughout the country.
Inspectors well remember the Inspectors Quarterly newsletters he sent out with updates and interesting nautical snippets. He retired in 2015.
Michael and Judy wrote and published a book of their voyages and entertained many groups and organisations with tales of their many adventures.
Fair winds, Michael.