TRAGEDY OF THE ATLANTIC

In an era when shipwrecks were regular occurrences and safety standards non-existent, a tragedy half a world away laid the foundation for new safety protocols that protect mariners everywhere to this day.

As the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world spanning an area of more than 244,000 square kilometres, North America’s Great Lakes are rightly known as inland seas. Befitting their enormous size, those five connected waterbodies contain one of the world’s highest concentrations of shipwrecks, some vessels lost to horrendous storms, others to unseen shoals. Yet among them one tragedy stands out – not just for its appalling loss of life, but because those losses played a significant role in establishing the maritime safety standards that protect boaties today all around the world.

Launched in 1848 for the Michigan Central Railroad, the 1,047-tonne side-wheel paddle steamer Atlantic was a big ship for its day, stretching 81.3m in overall length and riding on a substantial 10m beam. Designed to ferry both passengers and cargo the length of Lake Erie between Buffalo, New York in the east, and Detroit, Michigan near its western end, Atlantic was a well-built vessel, constructed with 85 comfortable staterooms. The design also included high density accommodation below, in what was unofficially referred to as the immigrant class. In all, Atlantic was built to carry up to around 300 people, plus cargo.

The moment of collision between the two ships is captured in this contemporary print from Gleason’s Pictorial.

At the time of its launch, Atlantic was valued at US$110,000 – an enormous sum in its day, and one which reflected the fact that its owners expected the ship to provide many years of service plying the lake.

Despite her considerable size, Atlantic turned out to be a surprisingly fast ship, typically completing the Buffalo to Detroit run in somewhere around 18 hours. Considering the speed record for that route was not much less – just 16.5 hours, a mark set by Atlantic herself in 1851 – the vessel enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as one of the speediest vessels on the Great Lakes.

But speed records could hardly have been top-of-mind for Atlantic’s crew on the afternoon of August 19, 1852, as the ship commenced boarding in Buffalo under the command of captain J. Byron Pettey. Even for the lax standards of the day, the vessel was seriously overloaded – every cabin was full and the belowdecks immigrant class was jam-packed. Atlantic’s cargo hold was full of baggage and freight, including at least a dozen horses. What’s more, a further 250 or so passengers – most of them Norwegian, German and Irish settlers headed west in search of a better life – were embarked and left to huddle out in the open on the main deck, fully exposed to the elements.

Although it’s the second-smallest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie, displayed in this 1881 map, is still vast – more a sea than a lake

Beyond the heavy load reducing her speed, Atlantic was not doing the run straight through on this day, but making an additional mid-lake stop in Erie, Pennsylvania. There, the already strained ship was scheduled to take on even more passengers and freight, to earn the maximum possible profit for her owners.

Surely at least some of the people among the swarm of passengers waiting in Erie that evening must have recognised the clear danger as the heavily-loaded Atlantic arrived at the dock, lowered its gangplank, and not a single person disembarked. Yet dozens more piled on, oblivious to the obvious. In keeping with the standard practice of the day, no passenger manifest was filed with the Harbour Master and as a result, we will never know exactly how many people were aboard Atlantic as she prepared to depart for Detroit that night – estimates run from between 550 and 600 people, on a boat designed for half that number. What is known is that at least 70 people had to be left behind on the dock in Erie, after the vessel became so fully jammed with bodies that the crew had difficulty retracting the gangway.

Sandy beaches and rolling surf at Long Point.

Onboard Atlantic, baggage was piled everywhere on deck, and the newly-embarked passengers stood wherever they could – on top of luggage cases, on the roof of Atlantic’s cabins, and even atop the uppermost hurricane deck. The passengers left behind on the dock may not have appreciated it at the time, but missing that boat was the best thing that ever happened to them.

LIKE SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT

With no moon, the night of August 19 was very dark and Lake Erie mercifully as flat as glass when Atlantic rounded the pier shortly before midnight and sailed northwest for open water, making for the mid-lake shipping lanes. About 45 minutes later the vessel entered a bank of patchy but dense fog – a common occurrence on the Great Lakes in late summer, as bands of cool night air condensed above the warmer lake surface.

As the passengers exposed to the elements on Atlantic’s open decks settled in for a clammy night, the propeller-driven bulk freighter Ogdensburg was also powering through the mid-lake fog, sailing eastbound with a load of wheat.

Just after 2:00am, Ogdensburg first mate Degrass McNeil spotted a small cluster of lights begin to materialise through the haze off his starboard bow. The patchy fog made it difficult to estimate distance, but based on the spacing between the lights, McNeil guessed at perhaps three or four kilometres. Studying the lights for a few moments longer to gauge their speed and heading, McNeil determined that although the other vessel appeared to be approaching his own ship on a quartering course, Ogdensburg should pass ahead of it by at least a good kilometre.

Winter storms produce heavy waves at Fort Erie.

As McNeil continued monitoring the lights through the fog, it quickly became apparent that the other ship – which he now recognised as the Atlantic – was much closer and travelling a great deal faster than he had originally believed. Rather than clearing one another by a full kilometre, the two closing ships would now pass far closer than he was comfortable with.

Then to McNeil’s horror, Atlantic abruptly changed course, turning directly into the big freighter’s path. Perhaps her helmsman spotted Ogdensburg and thought they could pass in front. Perhaps the big steamer hadn’t been seen at all. What is certain is that the sudden course change virtually guaranteed a collision between the two vessels.

McNeil shouted for Ogdensburg’s engines to be turned to full reverse, and the vessel brought hard about. With its steam whistle not functioning, he ran onto the deck and yelled repeatedly, waving his arms over his head in a desperate bid to catch the attention of the Atlantic’s crew and alert them to the danger. But by then the ships were much too close and there was not enough time. McNeil could only watch and hold on as Ogdensburg drove straight into the Atlantic, its sharply-pointed bow cutting deep into the other ship’s port side just forward of the paddlewheel.

McNeil ran back into the pilothouse and ordered Ogdensburg to back away from Atlantic’s crumpled hull and stop, so the crews could assess the damage. To his astonishment, Atlantic simply continued on its way under full steam, as if nothing had happened.

But things had happened, and none of them good. With its port side buckled, water surged into Atlantic through openings on multiple decks, quickly flooding the lower compartments crammed with passengers, horses and freight. In only a few minutes the water extinguished the fires heating Atlantic’s twin boilers, bringing both engines to a halt before the ship had gone another two kilometres.

Bass Island Light on Lake Erie.

Exactly why Atlantic continued on at full power remains a mystery, but it is possible that Ogdensburg’s sharp bow could have severed mechanical linkages to the paddlewheel in the collision, leaving the Atlantic’s crew with a loss of control. What is certain is that with the ship obviously mortally wounded and already settling lower in the water, Atlantic’s passengers and crew began to panic.

Within minutes, people on deck were seen throwing anything that they thought would float over the side before jumping into the lake themselves. But many of the cargo boxes and wooden stools jettisoned as improvised life rafts promptly broke apart or sank, leaving dozens of people flailing helplessly in the water.

While its complement of just three small lifeboats would be of limited help to the more than 500 people still onboard Atlantic, Captain Pettey ordered them launched at once. The first boat capsized and sank almost immediately, as too many people tried to climb onboard at once. With frightened passengers now charging about in full-blown panic, Pettey was bumped from the hurricane deck while attempting to launch the second boat, falling head-first onto a steel gangway below where he lay either unconscious or dead. The boat was subsequently launched by some of the remaining crew, who promptly boarded it themselves and paddled rapidly away from the ship, leaving the remaining passengers on Atlantic to their fate.

The third lifeboat was launched by a group of passengers, including a young Norwegian immigrant named Erik Thorstad, who wrote to his parents about the tragedy on November 9, 1852. This third lifeboat was found to be in terrible condition, with multiple leaks and no oars. “We rowed with our hands,” he wrote, “and several bailed water with their hats.”

The paddle-steamer Atlantic was large and very fast for her day. She was designed to carry 300 passengers, plus freight, but on the night she was lost carried more than twice that number.

HEROISM, AND RECKONING

Having assessed the damage to the bow of their own vessel, the crew of the Ogdensburg was just about to get back underway when someone onboard realised that the Atlantic hadn’t simply steamed off into the night as was initially thought, but was still close by and in serious trouble. Turning around quickly, Ogdensburg caught up to the stricken paddle-wheeler within 10 minutes. But by this point Atlantic’s bow was completely submerged, the midships awash and only the stern still clearly visible above the lake surface. Everywhere in the water was debris, cargo boxes, and people screaming for help.

In spite of the darkness, the damage to their own ship and the thickening fog as the air temperature dropped, Ogdensburg’s determined crew pulled more than 240 people from the water, hauling the last survivors aboard just as Atlantic belched a final gush of air and slid beneath the surface.

Searching for some time longer and finding no one else in the water alive, Ogdensburg steamed immediately for the closest port – Erie. Some of the Atlantic survivors were thus reunited with friends and family members they had left behind on the very same dock only hours before, while others who missed the boat searched frantically among the rescued for their own friends and relatives, many to no avail.

News of the Atlantic disaster spread quickly, and the sinking headlined newspapers across the US and Canada the following day, its horrific death toll sparking an unprecedented public outcry. A scathing story published in the Buffalo Daily Republic on August 21 – titled “The Appalling Calamity on the Lake” – reported dozens of survivors coming forward to accuse the Atlantic’s officers and crew of gross incompetence, with the exception of the captain and the ship’s clerk, one Mr. Givon, who was widely praised for his efforts to help the passengers. Sadly, neither captain Pettey nor Mr. Givon made it off the ship alive.

An official inquiry into the Atlantic catastrophe brought widespread condemnation of the ship’s owners for failing to provide adequate lifeboats and lifesaving equipment. Conversely, survivors commended the captain and crew of the Ogdensburg for coming immediately to their aid, and for successfully rescuing as many people as they did.

What the loss of the Atlantic did generate was unprecedented dialogue about the near total lack of anything resembling safety standards. Searing depositions from dozens of survivors led to a number of recommendations being made, including mandating the provision of adequate numbers of life boats and life preservers for all passengers onboard, implementing the use of onboard fog horns to make other vessels aware of a ship’s presence in conditions of reduced visibility, establishing capacity limits for passenger and cargo volumes, and requiring crews to render aid to passengers in need, and to be formally trained in how to do so.

It seems unthinkable that such basic measures did not exist at the time of the wreck of the Atlantic, but its loss – and the loss of up to 400 people aboard her – are a key reason that they do exist now. Of the 17 recommendation that arose from the Atlantic tradgedy, 14 were ultimately passed into law and formed the foundations of safety standards now observed all around the world. BNZ


ONE MAN AND HIS BOATS; HARRY JENKINS, PART 1. Strictly business

Harry Reginald Jenkins was a prominent Auckland businessman, launch owner and yachtsman for 30 years from 1916.

Harry Jenkins in the late 1920s.

Harry was born in Eltham, Taranaki, in 1881, the third son of a pioneer farming family. His first experience of the sea in small boats was on a trip to Kapiti Island from Waikanae around 1893 with his uncle Frank in a dinghy borrowed from a local fisherman. Frank rowed the six miles while Harry bailed with a rusty fruit tin. It was calm at first, but the wind picked up and Harry was busy with the bailer.

They stayed on the north end of the island with his uncle’s friend, Mr Lowe and helped him build a 30ft boat to be used as a lighter to carry Lowe’s sheep out to steamers. In his memoirs, Harry wrote, “Adze, axe and hand-saw were the principal tools. Much of the timber was driftwood from shipwrecks, mainland sawmills, or some jetty or bridge that had been washed out to sea by flood or high tide. The aroma of red lead, pitch and tar, the ping-ping of the caulking hammer, the heaving of ropes through block and tackle, were new experiences.”

This sojourn on Kapiti left an indelible impression on Harry. Back in Eltham, he made his first boat by hollowing out a log for a canoe that he messed about in on nearby Lake Rotokare.

Once dairy factories and creameries were established in Taranaki, Harry’s father turned to dairy farming. Instead of the uncertainty and seasonal income from wool and cattle sales, dairying provided a regular monthly income. It was highly labour-intensive as the cows had to be milked by hand, the milk separated by the new Swedish-built Alfa Laval separator, and the cream transported to the local dairy factory by horse and wagon. The labour often came from the farmer’s children.

On his marriage to Dot White in 1906 he received ‘Dovedale’ at Maata, a dairy farm of his own, split off from his father’s now extensive holdings. He quickly showed his entrepreneurship by buying two more farms and running them with sharemilkers, milking 240 cows. In 1907 he heard about a complete milking machine system invented by Cyril Gane of Normanby, north of Hawera and put £9,000 into the project. Harry had to borrow extensively but proved to be a superb salesman with his existing dairying knowledge. He founded the Gane Milking Machine Company.

Shenandoah going down the ways

The heart of the system was the vacuum pump which was first built in Auckland by City Engineering Ltd, which later became Mason & Porter. Another major element was a power source, which required several horsepower, often supplied by the Christchurch-built Anderson or other locally-built petrol engines like the Zealandia. Harry demonstrated the plant all around the North Island in his Cadillac car, a technological novelty in itself for the ‘cow cockies’. Not one to do things by halves, he took the machine to Australia in 1912 and to England to demonstrate it at the Royal Agricultural Show in 1913.

In 1916 Harry moved the entire family to Auckland and set up the Gane Engineering Company Ltd to take over the manufacture of the machinery in the former premises in Stanley Street of Hoiland & Gillett, which had manufactured the range of Zealandia marine and stationary engines.

Niagara II with a picnic party at McKenzie’s Bay, Rangitoto in 1919.

Auckland’s attraction was better control over the production of Gane milking machines, better schooling for his three young children, and access to the harbour and the Hauraki Gulf to fulfil his passion for the sea. He satisfied the latter by buying his first serious boat, the 25ft launch Niagara and joining the N.Z. Power Boat Association. There were many launches named Niagara, most of them because they were launched fitted with a Niagara marine engine, to advertise the brand. At the time, the value of the engine was usually at least the value of a new hull and fittings, sometimes considerably more.

Sinton & Fisher, of Endean’s Buildings at the foot of Queen St, were boat designers and brokers and also agents for Niagara marine engines, simple but high-quality four-stroke engines built in Buffalo NY in two to six cylinders, 5hp to 100hp. Sinton & Fisher designed two 25ft launches named Niagara and Niagara II fitted with 5hp two-cylinder Niagaras. They commissioned Harvey & Lang, then of Customs Street West, to build the pair which were launched in December 1911 and March 1912. The first went to Izard of Russell and Sinton & Fisher kept the second. She was sold to a resident of Kaiwaka and railed up in August 1912. She must have been for sale again through Sinton & Fisher when Harry Jenkins bought her in 1916.

A newspaper photograph of Chas. Bailey with his model of Shenandoah.

The Jenkins family took to Auckland boating with huge enthusiasm – their favourite learning spot was Islington Bay. Their daughter Thora later wrote, “Equipment was primitive, and on more than one occasion the steering chain broke, and we were left wallowing. Father would rush to the stern, open a hatch and insert a broomstick into the rudder shaft… cooking was always done on a Primus, and the smell of kerosene from that and the marine engine was all pervasive.”

On 25th June 1918 Harry and Dot left Auckland on the Huddart Parker steamer Wimmera for a trip to Sydney on Gane business. Off the Three Kings at 8pm on 26th June Wimmera encountered a minefield recently laid by the German raider Wolf. She hit the cable joining two Herz contact mines which wrapped around her hull and blew her stern underbody off. She sank in 10 minutes in rough conditions. Harry and Dot were in the last lifeboat off. All boats got ashore, most to Tom Bowling Bay. 26 died aboard including two children, Captain Kells and officers. There were 125 survivors which the steamer Clansman brought back to Auckland.

Wimmera sinking by the stern, Three Kings, June 26, 1918.

Despite this experience, the Jenkins family’s thirst for the water was undiminished. In 1920 they sold Niagara II and bought a bigger, 32ft launch which they named Thora after their third child, then 9. I wish I could tell you more about Thora. Was she built new for Harry or was she a second-hand launch they renamed? In any event, Harry became an important addition to the NZPBA’s officers, as Vice-Commodore. Thora was mark boat for many races but did not take part. Fishing and cruising seem to have been more important.

The family had their own enchanted hideaway, camping off Thora in Garden Cove on the north coast of Waiheke. But Thora had become a small craft by the standards of the mid-twenties. Harry wanted a bigger launch to cater for his family of now four children, and the entertaining of Gane’s customers in some style.

Chas. Bailey’s drawing of the layout of Shenandoah.

In 1928 Harry Jenkins entered politics and became MP for Parnell on the United Party ticket. He sold Thora and planned his next launch as a tour de force from Chas Bailey Jr. Shenandoah was a 55-footer with a 11ft 6in beam, 4ft 6ins draught, a large deckhouse with forward control in the latest express cruiser style, capable of 12 knots. Instead of the usual huge American petrol engine from manufacturers like Sterling or Lycoming, Gane Engineering Company, now with Eric Paton on staff, fitted her with a diesel, a Cummins 110hp Model U four-cylinder. Cummins, of Indiana, had been struggling to break into the lightweight high-speed diesel market since 1919, but had a series of setbacks with design and production faults. The Model U was touted as the breakthrough, but still had issues, particularly as it relied on compressed air starting.

Since Bailey had just emerged from bankruptcy after a disastrous contract building the big ketch Hifofua for the Tongan Government, the prestigious Shenandoah job was most welcome. She was launched from his yard in Beaumont St on December 21st 1929. Harry took her for a spin to Islington Bay on Christmas Eve with his family and friends on board. Shenandoah returned to Mechanics Bay on Christmas Day for Harry to telephone from the NZPBA Clubrooms for more supplies. Getting back into his dinghy from a moored fishing boat, Harry slipped, struck his head, broke his arm in two places and disappeared under the water. His crew rescued him, unresponsive, and whisked him to Auckland Hospital in a taxi, where he was revived after artificial respiration. Not a great start to boat ownership! BNZ

Thora coming out of Garden Cove, Waiheke.

 


Brightest star

Launched in 1961, the 50-foot bridgedecker Altair recently emerged from a 12-month restoration and, like her bright namesake in the northern hemisphere’s evening skies, is once again enriching the lives of all who see her.

Altair is believed to be one of the last (and largest) bridgedeckers designed and built by Ponsonby boatbuilder Mac McGeady (Supreme Craft) – and she is, in fact, one of only a few bridgedeckers produced by the yard. Fittingly, she is widely considered one of the finest examples of his craftmanship – a splendid creation in kauri and mahogany. The yard ceased operation in 1965.

She carried the battle scars of 60 years of wear-and-tear until late last year, when her owner – Auckland classic boat enthusiast Simon Ventura – elected to breathe new life into the old lady. More on that in a moment.

The massive kauri tree felled in the late ‘50s specifically to build Altair.

The launch was built for Auckland’s Stan Horner and she was unusual for the period in that she was equipped with a flybridge. Horner travelled extensively for business and during trips to the US came across numerous examples of launches with flybridges. He had to have one.

Also remarkable for her age, she boasts a comprehensive provenance, down to the details of the massive kauri tree felled and milled in the late 1950s for her ribs, stringers and continuous-plank, single-skin hull.

McGeady did a great job, but the project nearly ended in tears because Altair wouldn’t fit through the door of his Summer Street shed. Luckily the flybridge was removable. Even then, legend has it that the delicate manoeuvring ground to a halt when the superstructure hit the top of the roller door. The culprit was a hacksaw blade. With it removed the boat inched forward. Once outside, the flybridge was refitted.

Altair at Okahu Bay – circa mid-1960s.

Altair is also unusual in that Horner purchased her twice. His son Ross takes up the story: “I was about 12 when Dad acquired her, and he loved the boat. But after a few years – around ’66 or ’67 – he decided he wanted a bigger and more comfortable boat. So he sold Altair and commissioned a new Salthouse launch.

“He then discovered there was a three-year wait from the Salthouse yard and, without a boat, he became increasingly grumpy and frustrated. And then, for whatever reason, Altair came back on the market – so he bought her to cover the interlude. He always grizzled that he paid more than he’d sold her for!” Ross has fond memories of the vessel. “My childhood was peppered with boating trips – most weekends I was picked up from the school bus on a Friday and taken straight to the boat on her Okahu Bay mooring. The Coromandel and Great Barrier were favourite destinations.”

He spent hours in the open flybridge (“no one worried about the sun in those days – no one wore dark glasses or sunscreen”). Altair’s twin six-cylinder, 100hp Ford diesels gave her a comfortable cruising speed of around 8 knots. The launch also carried Ross’ 11-foot Moth sailing dinghy on her foredeck.

Looking better than new – Altair at her recent relaunching.

Why Altair? A couple of reasons, says Ross. McGeady, it seems, favoured a naming convention for his boats – they all started with the letter A. “And Dad was a bomber pilot in the war. He used the star Altair as a navigational aid when returning from bombing missions. He said he felt the star guided him home – if he could see it, he would get the crew back safely. I guess he transferred that sentiment to the boat.

“It brings me great joy to see her restored and back on the water. She’s changed, of course, but the roots of the old ship are still there. I love seeing people do this sort of thing – bringing older vessels back to life – all credit to Simon.”

ALTERATIONS

Simon bought Altair about 10 years ago, knowing he would initially enjoy the old dame as a comfortable cruiser for his young family, but that a restoration was always on the cards. As someone with a soft spot for old classics, he’s been involved with numerous restoration projects.

“Including me, she’s only had four owners – actually three if you consider that Stan Horner owned her twice. And the owner before me introduced a few notable modifications. For a start she was 43-feet LOA when she was launched – the owner after Horner’s ‘second-time-around’ added the stern cockpit, extending her LOA to 50 feet. He also enclosed the open flybridge and built an internal staircase for easier access to it.”

Ross has many happy memories of cruising aboard Altair.

Most of Simon’s restoration project was aesthetic – a complete paint and varnish job, with substantial repairs to stanchion bases, beltings and combings, and replacing all the window frames (14). “But I also beefed up some of the frames where I felt she was weak, mainly under the engine beds, and did some re-caulking around the garboard.” He installed a second shower and built a new cockpit behind the flybridge, creating a more user-friendly space.

“The Cummins engines were mechanically sound and didn’t need any major work, but I completely re-engineered the drive train – I had no choice. The existing counter-rotating props only had one thing in common – three blades. Pitch and diameter were different. With new, matching props I installed new shafts and bearings and realigned the struts.

“My engineer predicted a significant improvement in performance – an extra two knots – and he was spot on. She used to cruise at 8.5 knots with the engines turning over at 1,800rpm – she now cruises at 9.5 knots at 1,600rpm.” It’s not clear when the Cummins engines were installed, but their mountings are unusual – rather than being parallel to the keel, the engines and drive train are ‘fanned’ outboard, about 10o from the keel line.

Simon fell in love with boat the moment he saw her, a gut instinct corroborated by the surveyor. “My old surveyor friend Jack Taylor was too frail to inspect her but asked how many owners she’d had. Four, I answered. ‘Oh, she’ll be good then.’ How so? I asked. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘it’s obvious she never scared anybody – either in terms of handling or maintenance.’ A shrewd insight from a wise old surveyor!”

She retains a relatively traditional helm station.

Simon acknowledges he could have bought a much more modern vessel and spared himself a lot of work (and money). Why invest in Altair?

“Putting aside the commercial realities, I have a thing for vintage and classic boats. I want to save as many as I can. Unfortunately, I only have one lifetime and limited funds – but she was in such good condition. She had to be preserved for future generations.”

Note how the twin Cummins engines are ‘fanned’ outboard from the keel line.

In the 10 years he’s owned her, Altair has developed something of a reputation around the Hauraki Gulf anchorages – she’s a party boat. “I’m not sure why, but she’s the default dinner boat. We will pull into an anchorage and within hours there will be 8–10 rubber duckies tied up the stern. She has happy genes – everyone seems to have good time aboard her.”

It’s not hard to imagine that Altair’s scintillating legacy will extend for many more years. BNZ

Simon Ventura surveying the scenery from a wonderfully revitalised Altair.

ALTAIR SPECIFICATIONS

loa 50” (originally 43”)
beam
12” 6”
construction
Single-skin 1¼” kauri planking
water
1,800 litres
fuel
1,800 litres
engines
2 x 200hp Cummins
top speed
10 knots


NEW LIFELINES WIRE OR ROPE?

With the vinyl-coated wire lifelines on his 13.7m schooner Britannia well past their prime, Roger Hughes considered the replacement options. New wire – or Dyneema rope?

Lifelines are intended to stop someone falling overboard, so that’s the primary consideration in any replacement. But it raises another important question: how does a man overboard get back on board – through, or over the lifelines? The ability to lower lifelines can be a huge benefit – as was illustrated by my retrieval operation in the Mediterranean.

Thankfully it wasn’t a real emergency – we were at anchor. My charter guest climbed down the boarding ladder – foolishly with a woollen poncho over her togs because she was embarrassed by her obesity.

Dyneema lines pass neatly through the stanchions.

Within a few minutes the poncho was water-logged and the lady was in trouble. She was unable to get a foot even on the first rung of the boarding ladder, never mind climb back up. She jettisoned the poncho and clung to the ladder while I thought about how to get her back aboard.

Dropping the lifelines made the operation easier. The lady was too big to physically pull up the side of the boat, so I rigged the main boom with a snatch-block and a line with a loop big enough to pass around her back and under her arms. The inboard end was led to the windlass warping drum.

As I set this up, my wife released the pelican hooks on both lifelines and lowered them between two stanchions. The hapless lady was hoisted over the lowered lines, to plop on the deck like a landed fish. The only thing she suffered, apart from her dignity, was temporary bruising on her arms and back caused by the rope.

Roger’s old lifelines

Another real emergency that might benefit from lowering lifelines is launching a heavy liferaft from the deck. Britannia has an eight-man ocean raft which weighs over 70kg, in a canister on chocks in the centre of the deck. It’s too big to slide between the lifelines – they’d definitely need to be released or cut. The same problem might occur in manhandling a heavy dinghy stowed on deck, that needed to be launched in a hurry.

Most lifelines have pelican hooks at one end that can be released to lower the lines. Britannia’s were the old style, with a locking ring over the release lever. When the wires were tight it was very difficult to pry the ring back over the latch by hand – it required a pair of pliers.

Lines can also be released by unwinding the tensioning turnbuckle toggle at the other end, but if the line is tight unwinding the turnbuckle by hand can be difficult. If for any reason lines cannot be released, a final option would be to cut the wire, which requires long-handled wire cutters.

But what if the lifelines were rope? Easy to cut, but would rope be strong enough? Since I was replacing the wires, I decided to look at the pros and cons of wire and rope.

Using a turnbuckle tool to tighten the lines.

LIFELINE ALTERNATIVES

It didn’t start well. I couldn’t find any manufacturer who provided the strength of their material when used specifically as lifelines. All I could find (for both wire and rope) was ‘tensile strength,’ or ‘working load.’ No account is taken for stanchions either, which are integral to any boat’s lifeline system. How stanchions hold up depends on their deck fastenings, length, and tube thickness.

Whatever replacement I decided to use, it could be no thicker than 10mm, to pass through the 11mm holes through the stanchions.

My research settled on two options – white vinyl-coated stainless wire or Dyneema rope (in various colours) – each has its advantages and disadvantages.

WIRE – uncoated wire can become almost untouchably hot in the summer, and I don’t like gripping thin wire with bare hands anyway, so I didn’t want to consider that. Vinyl-coated wire looks smart when new, but over time water can enter at the ends and wherever chafe has exposed the wire. Eventually this causes corrosion that may not be visible under the covering. 4.8mm 7x7 strand wire has a working load of 1,678kg.

Freeing the pelican hooks on Britannia’s tired old lifelines.

ROPE – Dyneema is stronger, size-for-size, than stainless wire and substituting it for lifelines therefore becomes a viable possibility. 6mm single-braided, 12-strand has a tensile strength of 3,528kg.

Rope has a cost advantage: where 7x7 4.8mm vinyl-coated wire costs US$1.79 per foot (www.Defender.com), 6mm 12-strand Dyneema Ironlite in blue costs US$0.60 per foot (www.miamicordage.com).

But new end fittings will be an additional cost when replacing existing lines, especially if new turnbuckles and pelican hooks are needed. Stretch (creep) isn’t a significant issue: once tightened-up with the turnbuckles, wire does not stretch further. Dyneema only stretches about 1%, but once stretched doesn’t move much after that. Dyneema can be set up bar-tight.

All lifelines are subject to chafe – typically from sheets, lines, fender lines, and where they pass through stanchions. Britannia’s stanchions have a flared tube in each cross-through hole that minimises chafe at those points.

While white vinyl-coated wire is easily cleaned with a rag and some bleach now and again, it still fades over time. Dyneema has a shiny, slightly slippery texture that can be cleaned with soap and water and is available in many colours.

INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS

WIRE – I would need about 46m of wire and 16 threaded ends to replace my old wire, along with at least three new turnbuckles to replace the jammed old ones.

The conventional method of attaching threaded ends to wire is a swage fitting. A hand-swager tool is available from most rigging suppliers, but it’s tedious if you have a lot to do. First the vinyl coating has to be cut back a couple of inches, exposing the wire – in itself is not an easy job. It’s best done in a sturdy vice with a sharp box-cutter blade.

Then, using a wrench to tighten the bolts on the swager tool, five crimps are recommended on each fitting. I needed 16 fittings each with five swages – 80 crimps! Even if each swage only took five minutes, it would still take nearly seven hours.

Also, hand-swaging only produces 65% of the strength of the wire, but a crimping tool increases this to 85%.

An alternative method – ‘Sta-lok’ fittings – doesn’t require swaging or any special tools. These are easily assembled on wire using regular wrenches and actually provide 100% of the strength of the wire (also approved by Lloyds of London for lifeline fittings).

Boats with wire lifelines should preferably also have a goodquality wire cutter on board to chop the wire in an emergency.

Chafe guards fitted.

ROPE – it can be attached to existing toggle end fittings with either a splice or even a knot, but CS Johnson has special rope end attachments, called ‘Splice-Line’ lifeline fittings, to attach Dyneema to fittings like turnbuckles and pelican hooks.

The rope is spliced directly around the fitting without a thimble, and chafe is reduced to a minimum. Single-braid Dyneema is hollow, with no centre core and much easier to eye-splice than double-braided line. The 12-strand rope is first tapered by removing four pairs of strands, then the end is buried deep inside the standing part and lock-stitched.

This is an easy operation with a special 14-inch-long splicing wand from Brion Toss rigging (www.rigging@briontoss.com). This fid enables the tapered end to be gripped by the wand, then pulled through the core, instead of pushing it with a conventional fid. With 16 splices to make, I was very thankful to have one. It can also be used for other rope work.

I would need about 61m of rope, allowing enough for 16 eyesplices. I estimated it would take about three hours to do them all. My decision was made – Dyneema it would be.

I decided to do the job properly with new parts. I used CS Johnson Splice-Line rope fittings, including new turnbuckles and beautifully crafted quick-release pelican hooks. The whole installation took two weekends to replace all the old lifelines, and I eventually got down to 10 minutes for each Dyneema splice. Practice makes perfect.

There was one final thing I decided to do: since the only thing which can weaken Dyneema is chafe, I decided to enclose the upper lines with plastic covers, which clip completely over the rope and act as chafe guards.

One of the areas where chafe is likely is where it passes through stanchions and the 8mm plastic pipe will fit through Britannia’s stanchion holes making a smooth passage, yet still allow the rope to move freely inside. If any of the guards show signs of chafe from ropes or other sources it will be a simple matter to replace one section, before it wears the rope itself. The covers also increase the line thickness to nearly 13mm, which makes holding the lines much more comfortable.

Britannia’s finished lines now look very stylish and purposeful, and I’m confident that in the event of a real man-overboard emergency I will have the least possible obstructions to get the person back up the side of the boat, past the lines. I just hope I won’t be the first guinea-pig to test the system for real. BNZ

Britannia with finished Dyneema lifelines fitted.

MANUFACTURERS

Miami Cordage Inc. 1/4-inch Ironlite Dyneema: www.miamicordage.com

CS Johnson Inc. has a very comprehensive catalogue of lifeline fittings for both wire and rope: Flipbook (csjohnson.com)

Brion Toss Rigging for the splice wand: www.rigging@briontoss.com

STRENGTH TEST

Before switching to rope, I wanted an answer to one important question. Ignoring the manufacturer’s specification, I wanted to test the actual breaking strain of my Dyneema lifeline.

Miami Cordage has ‘The Rack’ – a hydraulic rope-testing machine (Government-inspected since it sells product to the US Navy). I submitted a 10-foot 1/4in Dyneema sample with eye splices at both ends.

I watched as the machine’s digital dial crept past 2,000 lbs. I expected to see a splice break any moment, but they held fast at 4,000lbs when the rope looked as tight as an iron bar. The rope finally snapped at an incredible 7596lbs (3446kg)! Yet both my splices held! That’s 3.4 Imperial tons! I have an official test certificate.

I’m now considering swapping Britannia’s standing and running rigging for Dyneema...

Wire lines lowered

 

Rope lines lowered

 

ROPE VS WIRE ADVANTAGES

• 6mm Dyneema is much stronger than 4.8mm wire. Dyneema 8000lb/3629kg; wire 3700lb/1769kg.
• Dyneema is not subject to corrosion or affected by rain or seawater and is easily inspected for chafe.
• Any section of a rope lifeline can easily be lowered between stanchions, because the line slides through the stanchions and bends easily. Wire does not slide or bend very easily.
• If necessary, rope lifelines can be cut with a sharp knife. Wire needs a long-handled wire cutter.
• Rope lifelines can be replaced without tools or fittings, even on a passage.
• A spare 50-foot length of 6mm Dyneema is much easier to store than the same length of wire.
• Dyneema is very much lighter than wire rope. My complete wire lines weighed 13lb/6kg (old lines). The same length of Dyneema rope weighed only 2.4lb/1.1kg. This started me thinking about the weight saving in my schooner’s 700 feet/213m of 4.8mm stainless steel standing rigging.

 


ONE FAMILY'S BIG JOURNEY - The right yacht

Where do you start a column about your first year owning and experiencing a sailing yacht? Do you start with your failed attempts to start your yacht’s engine for the first time or with your amazing sailing trips?

Like other New Zealanders, unsure of the Covid situation in the early 2020s, we embarked on our journey of sailing yacht ownership. Our first 12 months have been beyond expectations. Hairraising and exhilarating all at the same time, we’ve learned a lot – we had to! Some learning curves were steep, but looking back, sailing has changed our lives for good.

As sailing yacht owners who are young in our nautical journey, and with a hugely formative first year of extensive learning under our belts, my wife Kirsten and I suggested to Boating NZ we write a column about our yacht owning experiences – early learnings, successes, minor mistakes and outright failures. We hope this column provides some encouragement to others new to boating and a little light entertainment for more mature yachties!

To set the stage, early in 2020 we started to dwell on the freedoms a sailing yacht would bring. As cafe owners, we were working hard, six days a week, starting at 6:30am every day, but realised that “you only have one life to live, so make the most of it – you never know when it will all change”. Then Covid hit New Zealand and in mid-2020, with the first Covid Level 4 lockdown, we found ourselves stuck at home, without our usual freedoms and desperate to find some space.

And so our dreaming began. We avidly read yachting magazines, followed numerous YouTube SV channels and browsed online for yachts for sale in New Zealand. We envisaged a yacht large enough for a family of six to live on comfortably for extended journeys.

Kirsten and Chris

Once we came out of the 2020 lockdown, we travelled up and down the North Island looking at many, many sailing vessels in different configurations: catamarans and monohulls, bigger and smaller. OK, just putting it out there: we’re not millionaires, so the range of boats we were looking at wasn’t huge. We saw some amazing vessels, many of them very much loved by their previous owners and each yacht with its own rich and vibrant history. But you get what you pay for, and so inevitably our budget increased.

You also learn things along the way.

Electronics and navigation equipment are wise to have, but if they’re even 10 years old they’re out of date. Choosing a yacht for its electronics is not the best way to decide. Heads block easily, so two marine toilets are useful – who wants to be stuck with no working head? And when your wife says, “I don’t like that cabin,” or “the kitchen is not what I want,” she’s serious – best to keep on searching for another yacht. In the end, my wife was given the task of finding the yacht for us.

Sauvage snug in her Gulf Harbour marina berth.

Finally, we found what we wanted – a 1989 Jeanneau Sunkiss 47, a 47-foot (14.33m), four-cabin monohull yacht. It had nice lines, adequate, well laid out interior spaces and it was uncluttered. The electronics were obsolete, but we didn’t consider that to be an issue as the engine seemed to be in good nick and she floated – what more could we want? We bought her: SV Sauvage was ours.

We had the pleasure of going out on the water for the first time during a test run with the previous owner at the helm. A nice sunny day, it was like our dream had come true. In all honesty it was our very first time out in a sailing yacht, but by the time we’d docked we were in love.

The interior is spacious and well laid out – as is the cockpit, with good shelter a welcome bonus.

We enjoyed it so much that on our trip home we booked a sailing lesson with that amazing yachtie extraordinaire Penny Whiting. Penny ran the Whiting Yachting Academy for many years, and although she has retired herself, when we talked to her about our goals, how interested our tweens (and their parents!) were, she proposed to take us out herself. She taught us how to sail! I cannot emphasise too strongly how wonderful a teacher she is and how much knowledge she transferred to us.

Then, two weeks later, the sale and purchase of our yacht Sauvage was complete and we took her out by ourselves for the first time. WOW! While our first seabased experience with Penny was great, this time we were on our own… It was immediately apparent that we still had (and have) lots and lots to learn! However, we did not sink the boat and no-one panicked too much. BNZ

 


Let’s stray-line!

Strayline fishing is perhaps the most effective bait fishing technique, especially for snapper. It’s essentially a simple fishing style, but taking the right approach is essential for consistent success.

Assembling the right tackle, using it correctly and employing a careful, thoughtful approach to your fishing should bring success. Last month we discussed the stray-line rig and some of the preparations required before starting a stray-lined baits fishing session.

These include:

• Using an outfit that casts well (7–8-foot/2.13–2.44m rods with reels filled with 6-10kg nylon)

• Making up at least half a dozen two-hook rigs in advance

• Anchoring the boat so it’s 30-50m up-current from where you are targeting fish

• Deploying frozen berley suspended one or two metres off the bottom in a weighted berley dispenser to create a berley trail

• Rigging baits so they are reasonably well-secured to the hooks without choking them.

With all that done, you are ready to make the first cast.

THE CAST AND BEYOND

The ability to cast around 20-30m can pay dividends, as the better fish tend to hang further back behind the boat, especially in shallower water (i.e. less than 20m). Position yourself in the cockpit to allow plenty of casting room and be mindful of rods in the overhead rod rack which might obstruct the cast!

Once the bait splashes down, rather than allow the current to pull the line off the reel, steadily feed line off the reel by hand so the bait descends more naturally. This also lets the current carry the bait further from the boat so you’re more likely to reach those warier fish holding further back.

If instead of drifting away from the boat the bait drifts back towards you and under the boat, you are in a ‘wind against the tide’ situation – not ideal when stray-lining. If that happens, shift to a more wind protected area or seek out somewhere that has ‘wind with the tide’ conditions. Islands are a good bet, suitable conditions can usually be found somewhere around their shores.

Watch the line as you feed it out, staying alert for any slight hesitation or decrease in the descent rate. This indicates the bait has reached the bottom — or it has attracted a bite on the way down.

When you feel the bait touch down, wait a few seconds in case it’s a bite (see below on hooking the fish) before engaging the reel and winding up any slack line to get tight to the bait. Now open the bail-arm/disengage the gears and let some line out again to reposition the bait on the bottom – it will have lifted off in the current when you tightened up on the line.

A nice stray-lined bait victim – in this case a double- recurve hook rig was used.

Let the bait sit for a while once more, in case its initial descent attracted attention, as it often does, along with any subsequent position adjustments.

Release a little more line to maintain contact with the bottom if the current is pulling, or retrieve a bit if the line goes slack. Wait after each adjustment, as you’ll often get bites soon after repositioning the bait. Repeat as necessary, but don’t be too quick to wind in or release line.

These bait re-positionings create movements that attract snapper for a closer look, maintain contact with the bait and potentially place the bait in a better position than it was in before.

If line is released but you struggle to ‘feel’ touch-down or you can’t see the line slacken, you might be feeding a ‘sail’ of bowed line into the current. Or maybe your sinker is too light and your bait is being swept away. It could be a bit of both.

Wind in to find out. If the line increasingly angles towards you as you retrieve, before the weight comes on signalling you are now tight to the bait which is now starting to lift off the bottom, you’ve had a line ‘sail’.

Alternatively, if the shallow line angle remains the same or angles towards the surface whilst retrieving, there wasn’t enough weight on the rig to get down. Add a bit more. (The cleverly designed JARA sinkers make this a relatively simple exercise.)

Don’t let too much line out/fish too far behind the boat because it becomes difficult to maintain contact with the baited rig and setting the hook becomes increasingly problematic, too. You can feed out 10-20m of line as you reposition your bait repeatedly, but no more. It’s then time to wind in and start again.

It pays to anchor up in positions that allow anglers to take advantage of structure that interrupts swells and/or currents.

Upon feeling a bite, swing the rod and reel out in front of you along the angle of the line. Wait for the fish to run some line off the spool for at least two to three seconds.

Now wind the handle to engage a Baitrunner reel, flick the bail over on a conventional spinning reel or engage the gears on an overhead reel before steadily lifting the rod. Your circle hook will usually slip into place in the hinge of a fish’s jaw.

If your quarry appears reluctant to commit to a bite, tease it by slowly drawing the bait away — but only for a few inches. You’ll often be rewarded with a more committed bite and a steady stream of line leaving the spool.

If you find that fish keep dropping the bait before you can strike, it could be because your Baitrunner’s pre-set tension is too heavy, making them wary. Ease it off a bit. Or it could just be that the fish are too small!

If using a standard spinning reel, keeping good contact is a little harder, but I personally prefer their simpler operation.

I open the bail arm and gently hold the line between the reel and the stripper guide. If the tension increases, I simply allow some line to slip through my fingers. If the line slackens, I re-engage the bail and wind in a bit, before opening it again and holding the line. Bites see the line pulled out of my fingers and then freely off the spool, so the fish feel no pressure at all, unlike with a Baitrunner, which must have some pre-set spool tension to prevent a backlash.

Releasing line from the spool of an overhead reel is controlled by feathering the spool with your thumb to avoid over-runs or apply too much pressure, putting fish off the bite. It gets easier with practice.

Use the rod to lead fish into the net head-first – fish have no reverse gear!

THE BATTLE

Whatever the reel type used, it’s main drag should have been pre-set to around a third of the line’s breaking strain. So if line is being pulled off the reel, don’t panic or crank the drag knob for more pressure because it’s doing what it should – releasing line when the pressure becomes too great!

If the fish is too big and heavy to shift, or the line is still unloading from the spool, stop winding the reel handle, which with spinning reels only creates line twist. Instead, keep the rod tip raised and under pressure, and as soon as the spool stops rotating or the pressure eases, smoothly lower the rod tip and wind in any available line. Then steadily lift the rod again and repeat as the fight allows.

While it is important to keep the rod raised so pressure is maintained throughout the fight, don’t ‘point load’ the rod by lifting it so high the rod becomes too severely bent, risking a break. This commonly happens with big fish alongside the boat, and anglers are struggling to position them for a net or gaff shot.

LANDING YOUR FISH

Don’t panic, even if you are feeling that way on the inside! Yelling and swearing just gets everyone nervous and more likely to make mistakes.

Once your fish is on or near the surface, concentrate on leading it head-first into the waiting net. The netter needs to wait patiently until the fish comes into range before scooping the net downwards in front of the incoming fish in a smooth motion. Fish don’t have reverse gear, so provided the net’s big enough they can’t help going in! BNZ


All tied up

Securing your boat to a cleat is simple, right? Well, yes, but there are right and wrong ways to do it explains Andrew Flanagan – even some controversy.

LOCKING HITCH KNOT

1. Do not start like this. This is a bad lead, the line is interfering with the bit which can make it tricky to form enough figure-eights. The line can jam.

2. Start like this with a nice, clean open cleat.

3. Take the line around half and then begin making your figure- eight wraps.

4. Ideally you want the recommended three figure of eights. This is sufficient for most boats when secured to cleats with a rough texture.

5. Here is where we have cleat controversy. I refuse to use half (locking) hitches if I can avoid them as doing so defeats the purpose of a cleat being quick and easy to release.

6. Instead, I simply wrap the remaining working end around the cleat in a circular fashion as above and ‘Done’.

OK, I CAN HEAR THE HOWLS OF DISCONTENT ABOUT MY LOCKING HITCH COMMENT ABOVE, SO....

7 & 7A. I will capitulate somewhat... If you have a large diameter line and a small cleat, it may be acceptable to use a ‘locking hitch’ if you can’t quite get three figure eights on the cleat – it is better to have the line lock up and jam than to have the boat disappear. Just make sure your ‘locking hitch’ continues the flow of the figure-eight and does not look like 7A or the cleat perfection police will frown.

FINAL THOUGHT....

8. Whenever you or your crew are working a line under load, for example pulling a boat closer to the dock, please try to involve a cleat and use a working turn as above. You can pull up on the standing part, then recover the slack round the cleat by pulling the working end. Don’t ever get your fingers within 15cm of a cleat with the line under load. Many a finger has popped into the sea as a result of this mistake!

FLEMISH FLAKE

1A. Do not leave your lines strewn across a dock like this, they are a trip hazard.

2A. Instead, look like a pro by choosing to ‘Flemish Flake’ your line like this. If you want to see how to do this, scan this QR code, below (Flemish Flake).


The Legend of Whai

Fibreglass clone craft pop out of moulds all over Europe and the US on a daily basis, but there will only ever be one Whai.

“ Yeah,” says skipper John Ellwood affectionately, “she’s like your favourite old tractor, she just keeps going and going.”

Steaming into the bay on Aotea Great Barrier Island, MV (motor vessel) Whai looks like a floating World War 1 army tank, a Mk1 perhaps, squat and imperturbable.

But it was another war that played a key role in her construction in a Whanganui back yard. Locally born and raised WW2 fighter pilot Peter Spurdle had flown Warhawk (Kittyhawk) fighters for the US Air Force and strafed a Japanese gunboat fleet in the New Georgia Islands.

In 1965, 22 years later, he joined the crew of a ketch, Windswift, to return to the site of the attack to look for souvenirs. The yacht didn’t impress him at all. “For weeks now, the Windswift had been rolling along,” he wrote in his book Into the Rising Sun. “What I think and say about sailing craft would make a yachtie spit – but I don’t care – they’re all mad.”

“I like the rumble and beat of motors – they lull you to sleep. You get used to the noise and, after a few hours don’t hear them at all. With a motor vessel there is no need to huddle up wet and miserable in an open cockpit; rather a comfortable seat in front of a group of glittering gauges; the radio, the echo sounder, with compass and charts to hand. This, to me, is the way to travel.”

Spurdle opted for: “a power catamaran – two hulls for stability and two motors for reliability. And no sails – not one.”

Returning to New Zealand he began building Whai. First off, two steel cylinders were made. These were of 5mm-thick steel, 625mm in diameter and 5m long. Each was divided into two 562-litre fuel tanks and a 180-litre water tank.

These formed the keels and he laid them on wooden blocks, 3.9m apart and built the main body of the boat from them. First the bows and sterns were fabricated and added.

“I had no plans,” he explained, “just the length, beam and height that I judged sensible and in proportion” Two Ford 2701E industrial diesels were added with Paragon gearboxes but as the boat grew, available funds dwindled, so Spurdle “decided that the Whai would not be used as a toy boat – but as a tool – she would make the ideal charter boat,” he wrote.

And ensuing events would prove him dead right.

But first he would need to put the boat in Marine Department survey and the Spurdle vs bureaucrats battle began.

There was no problem building a 13.4m steel boat – the office wallahs could understand that – but from there it was all downhill.

The local marine surveyor in Whanganui referred him to head office in Wellington – where he was sent back to see the surveyor in Whanganui.

“They asked about plans... I told them I didn’t have any; I was building it out of my head… but they insisted that they’d need plans. And they wanted to see the steel work specifications to ensure they complied with regulations.”

Finally he was asked what kind of boat it was.

“The confession. The moment of truth,” he wrote, “ I told them: ‘It’s a catamaran.’”

“By the surveyor’s expression, it was like I’d used a four-letter word.”

Without plans or a precedent to work from, the Department flatly refused to issue a survey certificate.

After sketching up some plans on a sheet of paper, they granted a provisional certificate dependent on the result of sea trials.

Whai is also about family. The Ellwoods and friends enjoy a summer cruise.

“And then THE IDEA was born,” he said. “I’d prove the Whai was sound – I’d do a big trip in it – more than just a trip to the islands, something spectacular; a real deep sea voyage after which they would have to accept the Whai.”

He decided to steam 14,000nm to Japan and back, the longest passage made by a small motor boat at the time and, being somewhat short of funds, recruited a crew of fellow scuba divers to share expenses.

All of 16 tonnes and 5.5m beam, Whai was launched into the Whanganui River by a tractor, a perilous operation before a large crowd of onlookers.

It was also the launching of a career spent giving people pleasure; over 50 people crowded on board for the launching party.

To take her offshore created a whole new raft of bureaucratic road blocks for Spurdle and the Whai. “The Marine Department doesn’t want to be blamed for incidents or accidents at sea – or get involved with amateur navigators, small craft and hairy enterprises,” he explained, “so they’ve struck a bargain with the larger yacht clubs to provide honorary inspectors to examine yachts and crews. However, because of the inordinate number of multi-hulled craft lost at sea over the years (or is it jealousy over their superior speed and comfort?) the conventional yachties have declined to survey multihulls.”

The solution was to approach the Multihull Association, but they turned him down on the basis that they only surveyed sailing vessels and knew nothing about engines.

But an unusually open-minded marine inspector agreed to perform the inspection and Whai was pulled out at Oram’s Boatyard for a going over.

“She wasn’t the largest – but certainly the widest they’d ever handled,” Spurdle recalled, “graceful yachts; white and immaculate, edged away as the black Whai was winched dripping from the muddy waters.

Finally, after several nights spent learning navigation – this was an age when navigation was a skill, not just a matter of turning a GPS receiver on – and having the compass deviation card complied, Whai was ready to go.

The crew called by Norfolk Island and on to New Caledonia where customs clearance created some linguistic challenges. “The customs officer couldn’t speak English – and my French could get me wine, women and song only.”

With a crew of keen divers on board, Whai motored to the Solomon Islands where they gleaned some keepsakes from military ordinance which had been dumped at sea after WW2.

A chapter of Into the Rising Sun covers their adventures and mishaps in Micronesia and again encountering would-be pirates off the Philippines.

There are accounts of fumbling their way into a Chinese naval engagement, surviving a cyclone, the warm and hospitable reception at Okinawa and their arrival, five months after leaving Whangarei, at Osaka in July, 1970.

After a few weeks rest and recreation, Whai headed back for New Zealand where she arrived eight and a half months after her departure. The doughty steel catamaran was rust-streaked and weather worn from her time at sea – but she’d admirably proved Spurdle’s point.

The Marine Department grudgingly signed off a survey certificate for the boat and Spurdle began doing fishing charters from Whitianga with her.

After a few years Whai was sold to keen Coromandel fishing folk, Mick and Dulcie Ellwood, who continued her charter work for over 25 years. Their son John had been running the boat since 2000 and, in 2004, he and his wife Ann bought her and have run her ever since.

John Ellwood offers fishing charters to clients who come back year after year.

The original 120hp Ford diesels (100hp at 2,500rpm) had clocked up about 45,000 hours and were getting a bit long in the tooth, so in the mid 1980s they were replaced by 6BT Cummins (about 200hp).

“We also replaced the gearboxes and propellers – where we used to cruise at 6.2 knots with the Fords, we now do 7.2 knots – and one litre of fuel per nautical mile,” skipper John Ellwood said.

But Whai’s passage-making abilities haven’t been in abeyance either. Over the last few years, she has made regular winter trips to Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu for spots of scuba diving and game fishing.

“We’ve just changed our survey to New Zealand coastal waters – I don’t think we’ll be going up to the islands much for a while,” he said. Whai is surveyed to host 10–16 people.

This year one of the Cummins was replaced by a new version – the third engine replacement for that side of the boat. “We get about 29–32,000 hours out of them before they start to burn a bit of oil and we replace them,” he added.

John is only the third owner and Whai must be one of the busiest charter boats in the country.

Nothing flash, but comfortable and a good sea boat.

“She’s just like a giant caravan on the water – nothing flash – all you have to do is to go out and have a good time. People can dump dive bottles and other heavy stuff on the deck without worrying about doing too much damage.”

“She’s just comfy.”

Over the years she’s had an extra 1.2m added to her overall length, some accommodation modifications and the aft deck covered over.

“We’re fortunate in having a good client base – we’re mostly booked up 10 years in advance. People come back year after year. It’s great, like catching up with family. We talk about what sort of year they’ve had and what they’ve been up to – it’s always interesting when you haven’t seen someone for a year.”

One diving groom proposed to his partner while they were underwater at Minerva Reef so Whai has become part of their family history.

“About 99% of our business is repeat clients – one group has been back for 49 years running on the Whai. She’s a great sea boat….oh, and there’s always the nice, easy-going skipper, (“No… no… don’t put that…”.). ” “ Some of our regular people are starting to die off, that’s the only free berths we get,” he added.

That may be true, people will come and go – but Whai will go on. Whai – to follow, pursue, track. BNZ


TRADITIONAL TREASURES

Between them, the New Zealand Maritime Museum and the Auckland War Memorial Museum have the world’s most significant collections of traditional Pacific sailing vaka – the efficient multihulls that were the genesis for modern catamarans, proas and trimarans.

The safe rounding of Cape Bojador, a dangerous and previously impassable point on the coast of Africa a mere 700 nautical miles from Lisbon, by the Portuguese captain Gil Eanes and his crew in 1434 heralded the beginning of Europe’s Age of Discovery.

But on the far side of the world, human history’s greatest Age of Discovery was already over. By then Pacific Island peoples in ocean-going vaka (Māori: waka) had found and settled the last habitable places on earth. This great expansion across thousands of miles of the world’s largest ocean was completed when Aotearoa New Zealand was found and settled during or before the 13th century.

The prow of a Solomon Islands fishing vaka.

These great voyages occurred in both directions – there is ample evidence to show return voyaging from Aotearoa to other Pacific Islands, and to and from other outliers like Hawai’i and Rapanui Easter Island. The kūmara, a sweet potato that is found throughout Polynesia, was fetched from South America by Pacific Island voyagers.

Thor Heyerdahl, famous for his controversial Drift Theory, which his Kontiki Voyage of 1946 set out to demonstrate, believed South Americans introduced the sweet potato to the islands of the Pacific. But it seems the reverse was true: Polynesian navigators sailed there, and returned with it.

Waka in Tauranga for the Waka Hourua Festival and Hokule’a arriving in Honolulu from Tahiti in 1976.

All this voyaging was accomplished in vaka moana – double-hulled oceanic voyaging canoes, that are predecessors of the efficient cruising multihulls of today. Navigation on these long voyages was done without any modern tools – sextants, noonday sun-sights, chronometers or astronomical tables – and without access to any metals, so no compasses as we know them.

Aotearoa New Zealand was the last archipelago to be found and settled. So it’s fitting that, between them, the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the New Zealand Maritime Museum Hui Te Ananui a Tangaroa have one of the world’s most significant collections of Pacific vaka. Two full-size replica vaka moana form part of the floating exhibits at the latter. And the huge Kiribati voyaging proa Taratai II takes up most of the space in the Pacific gallery inside. More on them later.

When the first Portuguese struggled around Bojador, fearing they’d never return, most of oceanic Pacific voyaging was already over – for a variety of possible reasons. Perhaps all the available land had been found; on smaller islands (Rapanui is one example) the large trees needed for oceanic vaka building were disappearing; an El Nino period may have changed wind patterns; and possibly, a series of tsunami could have destroyed many vaka moana where they were hauled up on shore.

Whatever the reason, the great Age of Discovery of the Pacific was already over before Europe’s had even begun.

This is a story only recently being told in full. It started with the 1938 book Vikings of the Sunrise, by Māori scholar Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck). It was continued in practice by David Lewis, a New Zealand adventurer and yachtsman. He experimented with navigating the old way in the 1960s on his Wharram-designed catamaran Rehu Moana, in which he made the first known circumnavigation by a multihull and wrote about it in his 1972 book, We, the Navigators.

Waka hourua Tairawhiti crew member.

The ancient art of oceanic navigating the Polynesian way was fully rediscovered by Hawaiians like Nainoa Thompson, Milton (Shorty) Bertelmann, and Māori men like Sir Heke-nuku-mai-ngā-iwi (Hec) Busby. For this they relied on one of the last living master navigators of this tradition, Mau Piailug from Satawai, one of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia.

Interest picked up in 1976 with the building in Hawai’i of the Hōkūle’a, a 62-foot ‘performance-accurate’ wa’a kaulua by the Polynesian Voyaging Society. And, simultaneously, with the building of a proa Taratai on the Kiribati Island of Tarawa – a private project initiated by the New Zealand adventurer, writer and film-maker James Spiers. Taratai was built by islanders under the direction of Teauba Teakei, entirely in the customary way – a planked hull, sewn together with hand-made ropes of coconut fibre. Yes, she did leak. Quite a bit.

A proa from Tikopia in the Auckland Museum.

Hōkūle’a is not truly traditional: the hulls are plywood, covered with fibreglass. She has once capsized, in high wind and seas southwest of the Island of Moloka’i, with the loss of a crew member, Eddie Aikau. Much has been re-learned about the practicalities of sailing oceanic vaka since then. Hōkūle’a has even done a circumnavigation.

Under Mau’s tuition, 16 men were initiated into the Order of Pwo in 2007, to become palu, or oceanic navigators. Traditionally this apprenticeship would take at least 15 years.

Most recently, the books Vaka Moana, Pathways of the Birds and Reawakened [see boxes] reveal more of the story. This is evident in the renaissance of traditional vaka moana voyaging methods and craft. Vaka moana are sailing the world’s oceans again – and they have much to teach us about multihull navigation even today.

Waka hourua Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti’s bow carvings.

For example, it’s not unusual for modern cruising yachts to lose electric power at sea. Which means no GPS, satnav or radar; no electronic boat speed indicators, no depth sounders, no motors. For skippers of these boats, a working knowledge of traditional Pacific navigating techniques is the route to landfall. No need to activate the EPIRB and call out expensive rescue missions, just follow the old way. In many cases, a combination of dead-reckoning, and following birds will lead you home.

Observing birds has the effect of vastly increasing the target size of any island you’re heading towards. Many seabirds – petrel species are an example – forage at sea but roost on land at night. Some have a flying range of hundreds of miles. Observing the direction petrels fly in the evening is a sure indicator of where to go.

Te Aomarama Abraham-Toa and Ngawaiata Ranapia racing ropes aboard the waka hourua Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti.

These overlapping circles of expanded targets make most Pacific Islands in fact hard to miss. The exceptions would be isolated islands like those of Aotearoa New Zealand. But traditionally, many Pacific Island cultures noticed the kārewarewa – long-tailed cuckoo – a land bird, heading south on an annual migration. Other birds too. There had to be a forested land there, so they set out to find it. It was a wellreasoned voyage of discovery.

A most telling graphic is the frontispiece of Vikings of the Sunrise, which depicts the settlement of the Pacific as a giant arrow, going west to east across the Pacific from Indonesia. Against prevailing winds.

Unlike Heyerdahl’s drift theory, this pre-supposes craft that could tack into the wind (vaka) and has the built-in safety factor of explorers always being able to get back home easily. This also implies exploration with deliberate intent – predicted destinations. The vectors of all this were the vaka moana. So, it’s worth looking at them again, and from a modern perspective. For in every way, they were (still are) remarkable sailing craft.

Haunui tied up at the Auckland Maritime Museum.

 

To jump to the present: there’s a poster commonly seen in high-pressure work places. It reads: “Fast – Good – Cheap. Choose any two.”

 

Similarly, in the world of sailboat design there’s an oft-cited mantra that says you can’t have a yacht that is simultaneously fast, safe, unsinkable and comfortable. But owners of cruisng catamarans of contemporary design would respectfully demur. They know this favoured mix is entirely possible to achieve. And all because of the advances made centuries ago by what we often condescendingly call ‘pre-technological’ or ‘stone-age’ cultures.

The development of modern sailing multihulls has accelerated spectacularly in the last 30 years. This is an irony, seeing that European navigators first encountered oceanic voyaging catamarans in the Pacific in the 16th Century. From the first encounter, the European sailors were amazed at the speed of the indigenous craft. Indeed, in Spanish and Dutch colonial Phillipines and Indonesia, native multihulls would be despatched whenever an urgent message needed to get through.

Steering sweep on the waka hourua Haunui.

But sadly, perhaps as a result of cultural chauvinism, European sailing ship and yacht designers never really took up on this heritage.

 

The early explorers of the Pacific were so smug in their cultural chauvinism and assumption of technological superiority, they persisted for centuries with square-rigged monohull ships. While it is true that European ships did have a higher cargo capacity than the Pacific sailing craft, it is one of the oversights of history that the modern development of sailing multihulls by Western designers only began in the 1960s.

A model of a seagoing vaka from Tonga in the Auckland Maritime Museum.

But the Europeans did note that the Pacific multihulls all employed variants of the lateen rig, which they had first seen employed by Arab dhows and Portuguese caravels. It seems this was invented concurrently with the Mediterranean (or Arabic) lateen. The difference is that the oceanic lateen has spars attached to two sides of the sail, the leading and lower edges.

But Pacific lateen sails were of a much more dizzying variety, with many regional variations. And they had a reefing option – this was achieved by drawing the two outer ends of the spars together with a tensioning line, de-powering the sail. They worked better than the lateens of the Old World. The high-aspect crab-claw sails of Eastern Polynesian multihulls, for instance, have been proven in recent wind-tunnel tests to be very efficient.

So what is the design heritage of these craft? How and why did they develop? And what can we still learn from them?

Find out next issue in part two. BNZ

The waka hourua Tairawhiti under sail. Photo: Gisborne Herald.


Marine innovation at the Auckland Boat Show

Sea trials, demos and lots of new stuff at the upcoming Auckland Boat Show in March.

This year’s Auckland Boat Show will bring a hive of New Zealand marine innovation to central Auckland. The 17-20 March show, which will create a festival on the water in the heart of summer in central Auckland, is set to be a showcase of innovative marine products and vessels.

Northland-based start-up company Naut is launching its electric drive system for recreational vessels with zero noise, zero fumes, zero emissions but one hundred per cent of the fun.

With a fully electric motor and bespoke battery system and control interface design, the Naut team has crafted an electric propulsion system capable of meeting the user’s every on-water need. Whether that’s reaching planing speed to get to a favourite fishing spot and back, powering up to pull a wakeboarder, or travelling at five knots all day, Naut builds a system to suit. Naut systems can be installed in new boats or retrofitted to existing vessels, typically over six metres in length.

Sealegs’ new 7.5m Hydrasol will be demonstrated at the show.

Test the power for yourself by booking a test ride at stand 203, or pre-order your Naut electric outboard in the second quarter of 2022.

Fellow New Zealand company Zerojet is another electric pioneer, set on removing combustion engines on new boats under six metres. It has integrated its 14kW ZJ20 electric jet system into the OC Tender range, with the production of these lightweight boats already underway.

Offering superior manoeuvrability and capable of reaching speeds of over 20 knots, the ZeroJet OC Tender package is a more fun, more convenient and greener power solution than the traditional internal combustion engine.

ZeroJet has teamed up with OC Tenders.

Sealegs’ new 7.5m Hydrasol RIB, on-show in the Boat Show marina, utilises the latest in amphibious Hydrasol technology, optimising the boat’s centre of gravity to improve on-water performance. Offering different seating, storage and usage options, three different layouts allow customers to configure the vessel to suit their needs. Sealegs’ new 7.5m Hydrasol RIB comes in either hydraulic or electric drive and carries up to eight passengers.

Safe2Dock inflatable dock bumpers are designed to be permanently fixed to your marina berth, pontoon, pier, or jetty. The easy-to-install system provides a cushion of air to prevent damage while docking. It was designed in New Zealand in response to one boater’s experience scratching his pride and joy while docking in the tidal Tamaki River. Made from durable PVC and TPU-coated fabrics, these dock bumpers are designed to sit clear of the water, ensuring no algal growth.

Innovative dock bumpers from Safe2Dock.

“The show provides a one-stop-shop for all things marine,” says organiser Stacey Cook. “It’s always exciting to see the innovation coming from the New Zealand marine industry, and it looks like the industry’s outdone itself this year.”

The show will transform Jellicoe Harbour into a festival on the water that celebrates marine heritage and boating innovation, the New Zealand marine industry and some of the largest, most-luxurious new release vessels of the past year.

With more than 130 exhibitors, Jellicoe Harbour, site of the former America’s Cup team bases, will become the site of sea trials, demonstrations, and a plethora of new vessels, products and services, all set to the backdrop of Auckland’s bustling Wynyard Quarter.

The March show is expected to be 15% bigger than previously-planned shows. BNZ

WWW.AUCKLAND-BOATSHOW.COM


Exploring Whakaraupo / Lyttelton Harbour - Harbour of Opportunity

Lyttelton Harbour is on Christchurch’s back doorstep, but its many and varied boating opportunities are often overlooked by locals and visitors alike.

Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour is the marine backyard of one of the country’s biggest cities, but it’s often under-rated or taken for granted by Canterbury boaties.

That’s a shame because the harbour offers a diverse seascape and landscape, as well as a rich cultural history, all of which is easily accessed and enjoyed. What follows are some fresh insights, options and ideas for late summer (and beyond) boating on the harbour.

The main physical characteristic of Lyttelton Harbour boaties need to consider is the fact the waterway faces east and, because steady easterly/north-easterly winds are a very regular presence in the region, the breeze tends to blow directly up the harbour. This can result in short, messy and choppy seas which can create unpleasant boating conditions especially on an outgoing tide. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon to experience rolling swells as far up the harbour as Te Waipapa/Diamond Harbour. Also, in a strong southerly the harbour can be downright nasty – more than 30 boats were sunk and a marina destroyed by a southerly storm in late 2000.

Skiing from Quail Island with Charteris Bay and Mt Bradley as a backdrop.

As well as the prevailing easterly, the other major consideration for boaties is the tidal nature of the upper harbour. Low tide renders many parts unusable and many people have been caught out by a fast-receding tide. Referring to a maritime chart for more detailed information on relative depths is always useful.

The marina and public boat ramp at Lyttelton is often the drop-off point for boaties. Sheltered and well-equipped, it can be a busy place over summer weekends and holidays. Kamautaurua Reef lies just off the slipway area and is well marked, but once clear of the slip, marina and reef, the entire harbour awaits.

Nearby Motukauatirahi/Cass and Motukauatiiti/Corsair bays are designated mooring areas and most of Corsair is reserved for non-powered craft and swimming. So, while warm, sheltered and popular for swimmers, it’s not of great interest to most boaties. Any voyages further up the harbour towards Governor’s Bay should really only be attempted at high tide.

Hectors dolphins are a common sight inside the harbour

Otamahua/Quail Island is a highly popular location for picnicking and watersports either side of high tide. The main water-ski lane is largely sheltered from the prevailing winds and the island provides many alternatives to simply playing in the water. There are wonderful walks and its rich history is well-documented by the island’s many displays and signs.

The island hosted a quarantine station from 1875 until 1925 housing those with diseases including leprosy and it was also the site of dog kennels for Shackelton’s and Scott’s journeys to Antarctica. A ship’s graveyard containing the remains of a dozen ships is worth a look – either from the walking track or from a boat when the tide is in. The island is a very popular spot for sea kayakers and jet-skiers.

Boat access to the island is also available from the smaller – but scenic – public ramp at Te Wharau/Charteris Bay. A word of warning, however: this slipway is useable only a couple of hours either side of high tide. Plenty of boaties have been caught out here over the years.

Craft of all sizes use the harbour.

Charteris Bay is also home to a busy and family-oriented yacht club which, along with the Naval Point Club based on the Lyttelton side of the harbour, ensures the waterway is the scene of large regattas and events throughout summer. There is also a busy schedule of keeler events most weekends and some evenings throughout the summer. Naval Point is also home to a large Waka Ama fleet.

It’s often overlooked, but nearby Kaioruru/Church Bay also has a water-ski lane and even on blustery easterly days, it provides calm water for the family. Sadly, the location of the ski lane is against a rocky shoreline with no beach for picnicking. There is a small beach located at the head of the bay and away from the ski lane, but again, skippers need to be aware of the shallow nature of the bay either side of full tide.

Diamond Harbour is a beautifully sheltered mooring in easterly conditions and is home to about a dozen permanently moored vessels. The large jetty is popular with swimmers and young anglers, as well as being the arrival and departure point for the Diamond Harbour/Lyttelton ferry service. Boaties need to take care and not impede the commercial vessels. A short, steep walk up the hill provides access to a café and several shops.

Lyttelton has a bustling port.

Just beyond Stoddart Point lies Purau Bay, another popular location for day-trippers. I’ve always maintained that if you can successfully use the Purau slipway you can use any slipway in Canterbury. The challenge comes not from the gradient or width, but the fact you’re facing into the prevailing NE wind, chop and – on occasion – a small but surging swell. At low tide launching a larger boat – say six metres and longer – can be difficult because the concrete ramp flattens out and then stops abruptly. Another complicating factor is the lack of adequate parking and poor ramp maintenance.

The nearby jetty can also be a challenge to berth against in the wind, so for those new to a day on the water with friends or family, using the Purau facilities can be stressful. Just take your time and don’t hesitate to ask for help if it’s required.

With the growing popularity of trailer boats in the region and ever more of them using the bay, it would be good to see serious work undertaken on the slipway and associated facilities.

Punching into the prevailing nor’easter

Purau is a wide bay and the area close to the main beach is designated for non-powered craft only. The bay is popular with small yachts, kayaks, dinghies and swimmers and is also home to a large number of permanent moorings. It’s exposed to easterly winds but on the eastern side of the bay lies the smaller, sandy-shored Wreck Bay which, like Quail Island, is a popular for watersports.

In the late 19th century Wreck Bay was a ships’ graveyard. Although sheltered from the wind, navigation is limited by the tides and care needs to be taken. An outcrop of rocks halfway along the beach is submerged by an incoming tide so people visiting for the first time need to look out for them.

In recent years Wreck Bay has become a popular place to tow biscuits, skiers and board-riders so skippers need to remember the most basic of watersports rules when using the bay: drive anti-clockwise as you leave the shore! I still vividly recall one Waitangi Day back in the mid-1980s when 42 boats were using the bay. My father still shudders as he recalls trying to take us kids water-skiing amongst the throngs of boats and people!

Fun at the Quail Island ski lane

Just around the headland is Ripapa Island, accessible only by boat but a ‘must visit’. Once a fortified pa for Ngāi Tahu and then a quarantine station, it was later used for coastal defences during the ‘Russian Scare’ and two World Wars. The site has been repaired and renovated over the last 10 years and with such rich history, it’s a wonderful place to spend an hour with the family.

I’m not a particularly sentimental guy but I do smile every time I boat into nearby Inainatu/Pile Bay; I have many childhood memories of joining my grandparents on their launch to attend Banks’ Peninsula Cruising Club Christmas picnics and other events. The quaint bay, home to a handful of small baches, offers shelter from the easterly, a sandy beach and water-ski lane.

The waters from here – on both sides of the harbour – to Awaroa/Godley and Te Piaka/Adderley Heads are exposed. An easterly headwind and chop can sometimes make for slow, bumpy progress on either side of the harbour, but in favourable conditions it’s a wonderful long run with plenty to see – large, swirling kelp beds, impressive rock stacks and exposed cliffs that are home to diverse bird and marine life. Hector’s Dolphins are ever-present in the harbour and can often be seen as far up the waterway as Charteris Bay. On occasions I’ve seen pods just off the beach in Purau. They’re strictly protected and need to be respected, so the usual rules of keeping your distance apply. They’re graceful mammals and an absolute joy to observe.

Sea biscuiting at Wreck Bay.

Te Pohue/Camp Bay offers some protection from the elements and can be a lovely spot to anchor for a picnic and some fishing. The bay is also a 15-minute car drive from Purau along a windy, shingle road and marks the end of road access to this side of the harbour. It’s popular with swimmers seeking a sandy beach and quite often a rolling swell that breaks onto the beach provides some great body-boarding. Don’t think about bringing your boat ashore unless conditions are optimal.

Waitata/Little Port Cooper is a further 10-minute boat trip around the point and, bounded by Adderley Head, it marks the entrance of the harbour. It was once the site of an early whaling station. With no road access, it is isolated and a popular destination for sea kayakers. Again, this is a wonderful spot for a picnic, swim and fish. The farming family at Camp Bay offer several accommodation options at both bays – find out more via their Facebook page: Keirangi – Off the grid huts.

The other side of the harbour entrance is guarded by the sheer 120m-high cliffs of Awaroa/Godley Head. Interestingly, the cliffs around the heads on both sides of the harbour entrance experienced large landslides during the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 and for years after the evidence of the earthquakes’ ferocity was all too obvious.

Boaters enjoying Wreck Bay.

Recreational fishing in the harbour from a trailer boat can be challenging. The water’s often murky and the wind sometimes incessant. Sadly, the days of popping out for a few hours to catch an easy blue cod for dinner are gone. They’re still there but you need to work hard to find them. These days you’re more likely to catch red cod, rig, kahawai and the odd blue moki. Divers often target butterfish in the outer bays, where paua and mussels can also be found. Over the peak of summer kingfish can be targeted off the harbour entrance and further around Banks Peninsula.

Another consideration can be the appearance of a late afternoon sea fog that quickly rolls into the main harbour from Pegasus Bay, often considerably reducing visibility and rapidly lowering the air temperature. This can be unnerving for new boaties.

Lyttelton Port welcomes vessels and cargo from across the globe and until the earthquakes was a popular stop for cruise ships. After extensive and expensive work to repair damaged infrastructure cruise ships are expected to return. All the action at a modern, busy port are easily observed if you cruise slowly around the wharves, but it’s a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day commercial operation, so be considerate.

Purua Slipaway.

The harbour’s main navigation channel is regularly dredged and clearly marked. The only notable navigation risk is Parson’s Rock which lies off Ripapa Island and it is also well marked. Lyttelton Port Company tugs and the pilot boat are regularly observed in the harbour accompanying large vessels. Communication is available on the usual VHF channels and if you’re wanting an up-to-date view of weather conditions on the harbour, the port company also has a number of publicly viewable webcams. Coastguard has a base at Lyttleton and its vessels are a welcome and reassuring sight as they regularly patrol the harbour and beyond. Coastguard is contactable via VHF Channel 63.

If you take the time to explore this unique harbour, like me, you’ll likely discover more boating opportunities than you ever imagined. BNZ


Petrol inboards show their power

There are few boats that have a more appropriate name than John Sharp’s 6.4m Pelin Tango runabout Pride’Enjoy, which has been giving him hours of boating pleasure since the early 1990s. So when it came time for a recent repower, he installed a new Volvo Penta V6 280hp petrol inboard with a DPS-D silent-shift sternleg.

Sharp built the plywood boat himself, and has enjoyed many adventures aboard her, from game fishing on the east and west coasts of the North Island catching marlin, yellowfin and southern bluefin tuna, to following the Whitbread fleets out of Auckland and participating in powerboat rallies. She’s had two previous Volvo petrol inboard engines since new, the most recent providing around 1900 hours of trouble-free use. After giving Pride’Enjoy a recent makeover, he decided to also update the running gear.

Volvo Penta Aquamatic Sterndrive V6/V8‐DPS packages, like that fitted to Pride’Enjoy, provide a totally integrated package, combining a six‐cylinder, 4.3‐litre, freshwater‐cooled petrol engine. The common-rail direct fuel injection system provides both improved fuel economy and lower emissions, and lightweight aluminium-block construction means plenty of power without extra weight. For example, the new 280hp V6 is 15% quicker than the previous-generation model and is around 56kg lighter.

Like Sharp’s previous engines, the DPS-D sternleg on Pride’Enjoy is also a duo-prop, with modern hydrodynamics to provide speed and performance without added weight. The engine also features Volvo’s silent shift transmission technology, which makes for quiet and smooth operation.


The team at Ovlov says the new generation of petrol inboards is lighter, more fuel-efficient and more environmentally-friendly than equivalent diesel engines, and offers excellent handling and impressive acceleration. Compared to diesels, petrol inboards have been uncommon in New Zealand, but as more second-hand US-built boats are imported, with ageing engines, repowering with a new Volvo Penta V6 or V8 is a good option.

The new generation of petrol inboards are very reliable and also very economical — something Sharp can attest to: “I have always considered my two previous sterndrives to be very economical to run, and particularly in more recent times they’ve outshone many friends with four-stroke outboards. With similar boat sizes and horsepower, the four-stroke outboards often don’t come close in terms of fuel used. I’m expecting these new V6s to be more efficient again.”

Ovlov Marine, New Zealand’s largest Volvo Penta dealer, has done half a dozen petrol-inboard repowers in the last year, including Pride’Enjoy and a Mustang 2800 sports cruiser, which was running a pair of 280hp V6s. These were replaced with new 200hp V6s, and the owner is reporting a 20% saving in fuel usage, as well as being quiet and offering great performance.