We met the evening before Sam was about to cross Cook Strait. Not in a ferry like most of us, but in a tiny sailing dinghy.
It was an early autumn evening in Picton. The sea was glassy. We ate greasy barbecue food outside the motel as the sky turned cobalt.
As adventurers go he wasn't exactly Ranulph Fiennes, but Sam probably had a better sense of humour. We drank beer and laughed a lot.
Sam had only just learned to sail. He would be alone for 12 hours on one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world. He was frightened, he said, but it would be foolish not to be. Sam explained that his condition made everything dangerous. It was hard to believe.
He seemed to have the resilience of thirty people. The next morning the sight of him coming down the wharf dubbing his two little girls on his wheelchair gave you a sense of the man. The exceptional was normal.
Every day, an adventure. When his support crew hauled him out of the little yacht in Wellington, grinning fit to burst, I thought of the albatross we saw on the strait running madly along the water just to get airborne, then soaring. RIP mate.