MV Kaitawa

9th August 2008, 15:23
My 1st ship. Spent nearly 12 months as deck boy. a couple of years later as a "bucko" then later as an AB.
It went down off Cape Reanga (nth island)in May 24th 1966(my birthday) with all hands (32 I think) a couple of months after I paid off.
Are there any ex crew off her or any of the other colliers or Union Co.ships out there. I've attached a photo.
There was a storekeeper on it ,I think his name was Lyle, a big Maori guy.Im not sure if he was on it when it went down. Could anybody enlighten me on that as well.
The photo is actually of a sister ship, The Kaitangata.I could not upload the scanned photo of the Kaitawa.
I'm also trying to find an old mate of mine,Les Hartley(Gig)He was a messman on one of the Union Co. ships in the 60's.I know he came ashore and moved to Wiaheke Island,Auckland about 1970-71.
I mved to OZ about 1970 and have lost touch with a lot of guys i'd like to look up.

ron kay
10th February 2009, 19:10
I sailed in the Kaitawa as electrician in early part of 1964. Would like to contact you.
Regards Ron Kay

Wayne Harris
30th January 2012, 16:36
Did anyone know Philip MOWAT, Canadian radio operator, drowned on the Kaitawa? This was his first job after having completed training for this profession in his native Vancouver, Canada home. Wayne

Wayne Harris
30th January 2012, 18:49
Hi, Ron I've never joined a forum until now. I do not know how to provide email without it becoming available for the whole world to access. I'd be interested in what you have to say. Where do you live? I'm in Edmonton, Canada. Wayne

30th January 2012, 19:38
Hello Wayne, Ray and Ron, I sailed on Kaitangata in the 50's and well remember the Kaitawa tragedy.
You can all talk to each other privately on this site by means of private messaging accessed by clicking on the "Private Messages" bar at the top of the website.


Wayne Harris
1st February 2012, 15:33
Good morning, Ray and Ron I'm sure it's very early where you live. I am interested in the fact you've kept the memories alive. There is a very interesting article about the Kaitawa crew members by Michael COX, Waikato Times, titled "Anger.lingers over Kaitawa sinking..", under I hope you receive this message. Wayne

retired R/O
18th May 2014, 05:56
I went to radio school (room 19) with Phillip Mowat.
I was on the Kaitangata at the time. We saw each other
in Auckland shortly after he arrived in NZ. That was the
last time I saw him. He was a fine person and a good

retired R/O
18th May 2014, 06:02
Did anyone know Philip MOWAT, Canadian radio operator, drowned on the Kaitawa? This was his first job after having completed training for this profession in his native Vancouver, Canada home. Wayne

Hi Wayne
I went to radio school (room 19) with Philip. I saw him shortly after
he arrived in the zild. We were getting our payroll sorted in the Auckland office, were in a hurry to get back to pay the guys so couldn't go for a beer. That was the last time I saw him.

Correction: I was on the Koraki during the time Kaitawa went down. Earlier on the Kaitangata we made multiple trips from wport or gmouth to whangarei or Auckland. I like the
English word snotty, commonly referred to the weather by the mainly English deck officers. The last trip was carrying steel from aussie to nz. I learned what submriners feel like
when they are on the surface with a sea running.

Bob Murdoch
18th May 2014, 08:52
Sailed, briefly, on the Kaitawa in 1961. I was on the Kaitoa in Auckland and was sent up to join the Kaitawa in Portland, the second time I joined in Portland. What a hassle getting down that jetty unless a friendly driver on the light railway gave you a lift. She was going to Auckland to change articles and was running without a radio officer. I was there to do the pay etc then re-join my lovely Kaitoa. So my sea time on her was measured in hours, Portland to Auckland plus a couple of days at either end. My girl friend in Auckland was not amused.

tony mullen
18th May 2014, 10:41
hi guys,I sailed on The Kaitangata in 1967 as motorman. I remember the story of the Kaitawa lost all hands. I paid off in Portland and had to walk down the railtrack jetty. where the Kaitawa went down was where we also got into trouble as the sea had control of the ship and we thought we were gone in that washing machine sea where the two sea currents meet. it was the old sewing machine days when the **** end went up and the engines raced in mid air. the usual 3knots forward and 3knots back. what I do remember was it was a great feeder and plenty of overtime ,always signing for more pay was great.
I never knew anyone on the Kaitawa must admit we never talked much about it as it was a bit taboo . we had a motorman with us that was always sad as his mate had been lost. when we thought we might be in trouble and thought we should all go on deck ,he said I ain't going nowhere ,pass me another beer. I always thought I was also on another collier the kaimanawanui but I cannot find any record of such a ship . it was the oldest little collier on the coast. I was also on the kokiri shipping out from wellington down the west coast. that ship also has a sad happening when the hatch cover blew off and the Bucko I believe was lost and never found. I was not on that ship at the time but others may remember. I went back on the home boats not long after. best wishes to you all. Tony Mullen

20th May 2014, 01:05
good day spongebob.m.31th jan 2012, reading the old thread.i note you were on the kaitangata.i was on her in the 50s this is from my discharge book,name of ship kaitangata.official no.172886,port of registry.wellington.reg.tonnage of engines(if any)1459.description of voyage or employment home trade.all the best regards ben27

tony mullen
21st May 2014, 09:18
hi spongebob,read many of your threads or your input. When I was on many union boats in 1964-5-6-7 we never had discharge books instead we had paper discharges . as trips could at times be only days we would end up with a pile . I carried an amount like a book without the hard cover and one day in the middle of nowhere threw them out of the port when I basically only needed my british discharge book. no. R859759. wish I had kept them now to look back on.
anyway good to talk to you my man. all the very best to you. Tony Mullen

22nd May 2014, 00:42
good day tony mullen,m.yesterday.18:18.#12 re:mv are correct about no discharge books, had as you say a paper discharge;i was on home boats so had a dicharge book for them,and paper discharge on nz.coast and australian run.its just habit to say discharge book when i mention a i did to spongebob #11.stay well regards ben27

22nd May 2014, 12:51
Kaimanawa: Steamer. 2515 tons gross. Built by Henry Robb Ltd, Leith, 1944.
Owners Union S.S. Co of NZ. Registered at Wellington. Signal letters ZMGZ.
Engines Triple expansion. Two single ended boilers each with three corrugated furnaces.
Machinery by North Eastern Marine Engineering Co, Wallsend-on-Tyne.

tony mullen
26th May 2014, 23:08
hello Bob, were you on this ship. those little union coal boats always remind me of the sewing machine engines that spent plenty of time racing when she pitched in rough seas. the bigger home boats often gave a similar feel but not really out of the water. we usually lived down aft above the prop. light ship could get noisey. my memory of the Kaimanawa is very cloudy but I may have been on her in 1967. I think I paid off in opua because remember staying in whangarei a night. hope you can tell me of your time on her . motorman at the time.

garry Norton
30th May 2014, 02:45
I was on the Kaitangata at the time of the sinking of Kaitawa and my wife was among the wives that visited the wives of the missing seamen from the seaman wives association.
Not much to be said for U.S.S.Co. as the ship had no radar.The steel hatch covers on their ships often let in a little water as the top dogs through constant opening and closing were often a little loose. No gyro compass and the radio equipment a little bit outdated.
Being an ex U.S.S.Co. cadet it does not make me very proud of my training, the Indo-China ships,Bank Line, P&O,and various other companies ships were better equipped. Not much to be said for our N.Z. fleet

30th May 2014, 04:18
Garry, you are right about the standards on those ships in those days, no radar,basic communication equipment etc. Even the life saving gear was antiquated with old rotating style life boat davits and, if my memory serves me right, even wooden clinker style life boats on Kaitangata during my times in 1957/58.
There were about six of this class of ship built for the Union Co by Henry Robb all fitted with slightly under powered twin 5 cylinder British Polar engines and their basic duties as colliers flogging to and from the South Island West Coast to the likes of Wellington, Portland, Auckland and Chelsea encouraged more frequent crew changes than other vessels on more attractive routes and with the consequence of less diligence to maintenance . That was certainly my impression when I joined Kaitangata.
I later served on Kaitoa a similar hull but with twin 6 cylinder Polars and the difference was a joy.
I never came across Radar until I joined the Tarawera, the new reefer on the PI banana run.


1st July 2014, 03:39
I was the last chief officer on the "Kaitawa" I left her just three weeks prior to her unfortunate demise , I remember George the Captain well he had I believe four children and the chief officer ,I think Rod McQuen's wife was in Auckland hospital giving berth. I left USSC and joined She'll Co "M.V.Morea" it was a tragic episode I shall never forget.