When the fishing trawler Easy Rider set off from Bluff on Wednesday, the nine crew and passengers on board were in high spirits and looking forward to fruitful muttonbirding and cod-fishing expeditions.
"All the wives were on the wharf, and they waved out to their husbands, saying 'Good luck, and see you, and have a good season'," said deckhand Dallas Reedy (44), the only one of the nine to have yet returned from the trip alive.
The weather conditions were not too rough, the ship's load was well secured and, despite suggestions otherwise, the vessel was not overloaded, Mr Reedy said from his hospital bed yesterday afternoon.
But he said those onboard could not have foreseen two freak waves that suddenly struck the vessel from the side and tipped it over before sinking it near the northern tip of Stewart Island just a few hours after it had departed.
Mr Reedy was sitting at the back of the boat with a couple of seasick passengers he had just met when the first wave struck the vessel's starboard side and "washed me to port side through the boat".
"While I was there, I think another wave hit us and tipped us right over. It happened within 10 seconds. I heard the rush, saw the water and it just blew me straight over the side of the boat."
Mr Reedy was suddenly thrust into a lonely, gruelling 18-hour ordeal in chilling waters in which he thought he would die along with the others.
He talked and sang old songs to himself and to the empty petrol container he clung on to and named "Wilson" in the manner of the Tom Hanks film Castaway - to try to keep himself going.
After the rogue waves struck, Mr Reedy initially managed to scramble on to the upturned vessel and stayed there for two hours - tapping on the hull to try to get a response from those who were inside the boat's wheelhouse but getting no response.
Then the sound of rushing air signalled the boat was sinking "like the Titanic".
When the petrol container popped up, Mr Reedy - without a life jacket - grabbed it and emptied it so he could use it to keep himself afloat.
For the next 16 hours, he called on all his army and diving experience to get through.
He also thought about the amazing survival story of a former school classmate, Robert Hewitt, who survived at sea for four days and three nights off the Kapiti Coast near Wellington in 2006.
As the hours piled up, Mr Reedy felt himself fading.
He began making peace with his situation.
"I wasn't scared. I thought 'Oh well, I am about to find out what's on the other side'. I was ready to cross over, and that's made me a lot more relaxed. I talked to myself and to Wilson."
But something made him hang on. He wanted to be there for his two sons' 16th and 18th birthdays next week, and to see his wife again.
"We have just had our 20th wedding anniversary, and I wanted a few more.
"Towards the end ... I didn't have anything left in me. I was ready to go - and I heard the boat coming."
A young man standing on the back of a rescue boat had spotted him about 6pm on Thursday.
"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. I couldn't have lasted another night. When they pulled me out of the water, it was like coming out of the womb, being reborn."
Mr Reedy did not see the bodies of any of the other eight people on the Easy Rider. He later learned one body was recovered from nearby.
"I don't feel guilty about it that I lived. I wish I had been able to do something else for my mates. But I fought for my life. I really wanted to live."
Mr. Reedy has provided sufficient details about the circumstances surrounding the encounter -- probably the very best informations that one can reasonably expect. Of course it still do not have the kind of information we would like to have, e.g. the size of the wave -- but who can remember thoswe things when life is on the line? Please read the original article for the names of the victims. This is a real tragedy with one lone survivor. God bless him!
Mr Reedy is still recovering in hospital from the effects of his ordeal, including hypothermia.
He had an emotional meeting yesterday with the families of the eight victims - some of whom asked him what their loved ones were doing prior to the capsize.