Sailor makes surprise visit home
AB Raihania, a Royal New Zealand Navy communications operator, sailed into Otago Harbour aboard inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Rotoiti, marking his first visit to the city in five years.
The 22-year-old, who grew up in Dunedin, surprised his aunt, uncle and three young cousins who were unaware he was in town.
He called at their South Dunedin home, where his grandparents Hine and Hiri 'Syd' Waititi also live.
A shocked Dene Waititi, AB Raihania's aunt, answered the door and welcomed the young sailor home with a huge hug."He was the last person I expected to see," she said.
AB Raihania was raised by his grandparents and attended George Street Normal School, Macandrew Bay School and Logan Park High School before moving to Hastings at the age of 15.
He joined the navy four years ago but had only recently been posted to HMNZS Rotoiti.
His grandfather was at work when AB Raihania arrived yesterday, and his grandmother had flown to Gisborne the day before, unaware she was missing a visit from her grandson.
But Harmony and Marshall Waititi and Taumana Pene were delighted to see their cousin, whose visit was a timely distraction from doing the dishes.
International travel attracted AB Raihania to the navy, with which he had journeyed throughout Southeast Asia."My favourite place was Vietnam. I joined to see the world, and I love it," he said.
HMNZS Rotoiti was berthed at the Birch St wharf beside HMNZS Taupo, another of the navy's inshore patrol fleet.
Both were deployed from Devonport to complete training in southern waters and had spent 12 days at sea around Campbell Island and Fiordland.
Rotoiti's commanding officer Lieutenant Layamon Bakewell said the core crew of 25 personnel on each vessel undertook "cold weather trials" in 7degC water as well as internal onboard training.
Patrols and routine checks of southern waters were also undertaken.
Crew checked every marine reserve in Fiordland for fishing boats and crayfish pots, but there was nothing illegal to report, Lt Bakewell said.
Rotoiti and Taupo are scheduled to depart Dunedin on Monday morning.