Earlier this month, the superyacht community in Auckland, New Zealand, held a fund-raiser to assist the people in Christchurch, which was devastated by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in late February. Some $55,000 was raised through the efforts of YachtAid Global and Superyacht Support Ltd. One of the highlights of the event was an on-stage interview with Hamish Watson, a Christchurch native and chef aboard the 183-foot Benetti motoryacht Galaxy, which was in Auckland at the time of the earthquake.
Unfortunately, as so often happens with news of disasters, media outside of New Zealand long ago bumped the Christchurch recovery efforts off the daily broadcasts and moved on to devastation elsewhere, most recently in Japan. For Watson, though, the challenges in Christchurch remain at the forefront. He continues to fly from Christchurch to Galaxy whenever the yacht’s owner or charter clients are onboard, but otherwise, he spends his time cooking lunches and dinners for 150 to 200 rescue workers a day. He has been doing so for several weeks.
I had the opportunity to interview Watson about two years ago in Genoa, Italy, after he produced a seven-course dinner for twenty-four guests. It remains one of the most memorable gourmet experiences I’ve ever had aboard a charter yacht, and it moved me to hear that a chef of his caliber is now applying his culinary skills to help so many people in need.
Hamish has been kind enough to send me an update on what he has seen and experienced in Christchurch during the past few weeks. Here is what he had to say:
“I was in Christchurch at my parents’ place about 20 minutes west of the city at the time of the earthquake. It was obviously large at home, but I soon realized that it was worse in town because although we still had power, all the regional radio stations had stopped broadcasting. I couldn’t tune in to anything. Everyone was accounted for at home apart from my sister, who was at work in Christchurch. My father drove in to check on her, as all phone systems were jammed, although text messages were coming through sporadically. I received a text message from a friend in central Christchurch who asked if I could help her, so I went into town, too.
“Driving into Christchurch was one of the strangest and strongest memories I have of the whole event. Massive piles of liquid were all over the roads, burst water mains, people running, standing, crying, everyone on cell phones trying to contact loved ones. Traffic was gridlocked. A trip that normally took a half-hour was an hour and a half. The closer to the city I got, the more the houses were completely trashed. Whole sides were gone from some. Others were a pile on the ground.
“When I arrived at my friend’s house, she was pretty upset. The house was structurally fine, but the inside was a mess. Pantry items were all over the floor, TVs were on the floor, broken glasses and crockery were everywhere. Shelves had fallen over. The fridge had moved. I helped her pack up some clothes and essentials and took her to stay at my parents’ place. We left the house as it was, since there was no running water to clean up and we didn’t want to be around for aftershocks.
“A couple of days later, my girlfriend and I cooked up a whole lot of food to help out the St. John’s Ambulance Organisation, which is based not far from where we live. They were rushed into Christchurch to help with the rescue and recovery operations, and to support regular ambulance crews that were completely swamped with the workload. A few days later, I got a call from one of the organizers asking if I’d help cook for the crews at their base. So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been cooking about 40 to 50 lunches and another 100 to 120 dinners for them. They offered to pay me, but that didn’t feel right. Four volunteers from the community help me at every service with things like basic food prep and doing dishes. Donations from the community have been amazing, including whole lambs, cattle beasts, vegetables, and time. I would like to stress that there are a lot of other volunteers helping out as well as me, but it’s a good feeling knowing that you’re doing your bit.
“The captain and crew from Galaxy have been awesome. I happened to be in Auckland interviewing second chefs for our crew on the day that the superyacht industry held the fund-raiser. It was amazing and humbling to see so many people react so quickly and generously.”
I can’t help but offer my sincere congratulations to Watson for all that he is doing, and to the captain and crew aboard Galaxy for supporting him in his efforts. If you would like to know how you can help the people in Christchurch, contact YachtAid Global.
And if you would like to support a charter yacht that supports the communities where it cruises, then consider Galaxy for your next luxury charter vacation. She is part of the fleet at Camper and Nicholsons International, taking 12 guests at a weekly base rate of €255,000. Any reputable charter broker can help you book a week onboard.