The Long Haul - Ships Nostalgia
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The Long Haul

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Old 6th May 2020, 06:34
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Organisation: Merchant Navy
Department: Engineering
Active: 1957 - 1961
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 9,192
The Long Haul

THE LONG HAUL

1
The Auckland Harbour Bridge had been built and opened to traffic on 10th May 1959 and the old Devonport Steam Ferry Company had been paid about a million pounds in compensation for all the loss of business caused by this modern intruder into our City transport system. Some of us, be we flat earthers or just prematurely nostalgic, rued the day the Ferries finished on all but the Devonport passenger run and likened the occasion to the demise of the trams but I for one, who had missed that last vehicular ferry from Mechanics Bay to Devonport on many a Saturday night when returning to the Shore from a night on the town found that it was a boon to be able to make the crossing over the big coat hanger at any time we pleased.
No more having to make that dreaded run around the head of the Harbour on the Riverhead Road, a forty mile journey out through all the Western suburbs to Henderson and beyond before the advent of the North Western motorway and around the long narrow twisting track that the Coatesville- Riverhead Highway once was. It was mainly sealed but slips were frequent in winter time and our old, slow, low powered vehicles made hard work of it especially with their dim six volt headlights plus a driver that was dog tired and rather worse for wear after carousing through to the small hours and beyond that midnight last boat.
I agree to this day that the passenger Ferries had their own special charm and practicality as a means of travel and I spent four years attending a City side Secondary School and patronizing the old Ferry “Takapuna” on the Bayswater-City run. You could sit inside or out, upstairs or down in relative comfort on the curved, slatted wooden seats and enjoy the ever varying Harbourscape, have the occasional thrill of the TEAL ‘Solent’ Flying Boat taking off across the bow as it set out for the eight hour flight to Sydney and best of all, passengers could watch the frequently changing selection of overseas cargo and passenger liners docked at the Princes’ and Queens’ wharves that flanked the City Ferry terminal.
This Harbour Basin was then the International gateway to Auckland and indeed New Zealand as almost all overseas journeys started at this point. These passenger ships represented travel, adventure and exploration of the outside world to many Ferry patrons as air travel had yet to make its mark as a regular and economical form of International transport while the Ferry Basin represented the very spring board to the outside world. This last bit of cross Harbour entertainment was magic to a ship spotter like me and I am sure that almost all the passengers enjoyed this aspect of the daily journey.

The late ‘forties’ and early ‘fifties’ saw a rapid change in this vessel array as the old vertical bowed, tall funneled, counter sterned steamers such as the Shaw Savill & Albion’s SS ‘Pakeha’ and the NZ shipping Co’s SS ‘Ruahine’, built in 1910 and 1912 respectively, were phased out after faithfully serving the UK/NZ route through two world wars and were replaced by the new post war merchant fleet of exciting modern passenger and cargo liners.
We saw the arrival of the sleek Matson Line’s ‘Mariposa’ and ‘Monterey’ that plied the Pacific to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the new Orient liners ‘Orcades’, ‘Oronsay’ and ‘Orsova’ that brought the early post war tourists to Auckland and were embarrassed by arrivals over weekends when Queen Street represented its self as lifeless strip with all shops shut and very few people around.
The ‘Port Brisbane’ and ‘Port Auckland’, cargo ships with their modern curved bridges and superstructures then had a ‘wow’ factor in terms of Marine architecture while the new ‘Rangi’ boats ‘Ruahine’, ‘Rangitoto’ and ‘Rangitane’ were sleek new NZ Shipping Co’s vessels built to replace old well known namesakes. The new ‘Rangitane’ replaced the old one that was sunk by German Raiders in 1940 while 480 miles of East Cape and little did I know at the time that less than ten years later I would make my first voyage to sea as an engineer on this ship.
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Knitting, talking, card playing, reading newspapers or novels and even last minute homework were among the time passing passage occupations that passengers indulged in while on cold winter’s mornings you could stand near the funnel or sit on top of the boiler room ventilating grids and warm through, at least until it started to burn your backside.

Another quaint habit in those days was that of the regular passengers sitting in the same place or seat each morning or evening. After four years you got to know many of them, by sight at least, and most of us came to acknowledge the other person’s domain. Many couples met, conversed, flirted, courted and got married as a result of Ferry travel in a relaxed atmosphere that could never have existed on a crowded bus or tram.
The downstairs forward cabin, City bound, was the male only smokers den, by tradition rather than rule, but as it always had a heavily smoke laden smelly atmosphere especially from the many pipe puffers in those times the regular occupants were left in peace with their then tolerated habits.

Other attractions were the ‘leapers’, mostly schoolboys and young macho males, but sometimes older men who shunned the wide gangways and disembarked or boarded by leaping across the watery gap as the ferry neared or left its berth. The practice was forbidden but never policed so it became a game to some and I recall some spectacular leaps to catch a departing ferry, of perhaps eight to ten feet from the wharf to the boat’s rail.
The 6pm Friday departure from the Ferry building terminal usually produced a spectacle or two as a few thirsty drinkers nipped into a down town pub such as the Great Northern or the Waverley after 5 pm knock off time to down a few quick handles before 6 pm closing time and found themselves torn between the desire for that very last beer before ‘time’ was called and the initial steely but slowly failing resolve to catch the 6 pm ferry to Bayswater.
A last gulp and a fast gallop saw many Olympic standard sprints and leaps but only one failure witnessed by me. He was OK and swam back to climb the ladder up the piles to endure a wet wait for the next boat, clad in suit, tie and still complete with briefcase.

The old steam Ferries carried a crew of four, The Skipper who controlled and steered the boat, the Mate who attended to the mooring lines, the Engineer who controlled the triple expansion steam engine and the Fireman who manually shoveled coal into the furnaces of the Scotch Marine boiler. You could hang over the engine room and boiler room railings to watch the proceedings below and absorb the rising warmth on those colder days, but the real entertainment came from the berthing operations. These were usually straight forward but we learned who the most skillful deck crews were when wind and tide conditions created difficulties that tested both the skipper and deckhand.
Berthing at Bayswater on a neap tide during a strong westerly sometimes saw the windward west side berth out of the question as the wind took control and forced the use of the leeward side of the wharf and it took a good man to heave the heavy mooring line while perhaps six metres out from the wharf and drop the eye over the wharf bollard in time to check the drift onto the mud. Some Masters were so skillful that they normally brought the Ferry to stop only inches from the piles and even a child could have tied up but there were occasions when the rope throwing Mates excelled to a degree that would have earned top honours at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo.
The passenger crowd usually showed their appreciation by cheering and clapping a smooth berthing or an Olympic style mooring line throw under tough conditions but were equally derisive when either crew members made a bum job in fair weather

Perhaps the bonus ‘voyages’ were the week-end crossings to and from Devonport to the City when the Ferries almost weaved their way through the racing yacht fleets heading down from West haven and you could often find yourself amidst the grand old ladies of the ‘A’ class fleet, ‘Ranger’, ‘Ariki’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Moana’, ‘Rawene’ and ‘Little Jim’ just to name a few, some still wearing their gaff rigs, they seemed grander and more elegant then than today’s stereotyped, purposeful and some times almost brutally efficient looking designs or perhaps it’s me now showing my age and symptoms of becoming a grumpy old man. On the odd occasion we saw that beautiful Colin Wild built ‘A’ Class keeler ‘Erehwon’ on an infrequent outing before she was sat on the hard at Orakei for seemingly many years like a young abandoned woman which many of us would of liked to rescue but with the most honorable intentions.

The still continuing Devonport service, where the present fast Catamaran hulled Ferry maintains a half hourly service that used to require two of the old double ended steam Ferries to achieve, is probably one of the main reasons for that suburb’s current high real estate values, as what better and relaxing way is there to travel to a city office each day, but from a practical point of view the complexity of the bus services required and car parking space needed at the Shore side terminals may hamper a full return to those days but it is pleasing to see the Ferry services resuming from Birkenhead Wharf.
When one thinks of vehicular ferry services there is no going back to that tedious system. There is no substitute for a bridge when driving or perhaps that argument is becoming debatable?
.
I can remember most of the fleet, the small, fast, narrow gutted ‘Ngoiro’ and the small, slow fat gutted ‘Pupuke’ that mainly coursed the Stanley Bay run, the ‘Takapuna ’that was normally dedicated to the Bayswater service, the ‘Peregrine’, ‘Albatross’ and ‘Kestrel’ coping with the Birkenhead/Northcote route with peak time reaches up to Chelsea and finally the ‘Makora’ and ‘Toroa’ looking after Devonport.
The smaller and slower ‘Pupuke’ was the usual off course substitute when one of the bigger boats were being serviced and you could hear the waiting passenger crowd’s moans of disappointment whenever the old girl turned up as it meant a slower journey with less room especially at peak times.

Slowly but surely, like the ten green bottles the redundant Ferries have disappeared, last time I checked the ‘Ngoiro’ was sitting on the hard at Whangamata being turned yet again into a floating restaurant. The last time I saw Toroa she was sitting off Lincoln Road at Massey undergoing restoration by a well meaning volunteer group, and then looking like it was a never ending task, however I understand that she is now back in the water and moored in sheltered waters within the Dockyard. The ‘Kestrel’ is the only original craft still in service but without her full charm as she was converted from the original quiet mechanical grace of reciprocating steam engine power to smelly diesel engines. Rather like trying to dress a sweet old lady in a Tart’s attire
The vehicular ferries mostly met a quicker fate, the smaller wooden hulled vessels such as the “Molly hawk”, “Kitty hawk,” “Eagle Hawk” and ‘Korea’ ended up being demolished or buried in Harbour side reclamation mud while the two big steel hulled vessels ex the Devonport service, The “Ewen W Alison
and the “Alex Alison,” were put up for sale and attracted the Tasmanian State Government as a firm buyer.
The rumour that I heard at the time was that the Tasmanian State lottery was selling tickets in NZ for their 10,000 pound first prize lottery in opposition to the NZ Government sponsored ‘Art Union’ and as the former odds were much better than the latter’s 2/6d per ticket with unlimited ticket sales and only 2000 pounds first prize, the Tasmanians were doing very well.
The then archaic NZ International currency transfer laws prevented the Tasmanians from remitting their profits back to Hobart so they spent some of the funds accumulated in NZ on purchasing the two boats having decided that they would come in handy on the Derwent River.
These two Alison boats actually started life in the late 1920’s at the Poole and Steel Shipyard in Sydney and were built for use on the Hawkesbury River crossing then known as Peat’s Ferry and which was established as early as 1847 by George Peat. When the original road from Sydney to Newcastle was upgraded to form the then new Pacific Highway which opened in 1930, these two new Ferries, then named “Francis Peat” and “George Peat,” provided a vehicular Ferry service to connect the highway each side of the Hawkesbury. They served in this role until the early years of WW2 when, as modern diesel powered craft, they were commandeered by the Authorities for service as landing craft working with the US Navy in the Pacific.
The old coal fired steam ferry “Mildred” that had served on the Sydney Harbour until the big Bridge opened in 1932 then stood in for the “Peat” boats on the Hawkesbury until a bridge crossing was built as late as 1945 and although she was considerably smaller than the “Peats,” petrol rationing during wartime had reduced the traffic volumes on the highway to such an extent that she was able cope.

After the war the “Peat” Ferries were purchased from the Australian owners by the Devonport Steam Ferry Co in the late 1940’s for use on the increasingly busy Mechanics Bay to Devonport service and renamed “Ewen W Alison” and “Alex Alison” after the two brothers who founded the original Devonport Ferry Company in 1881.
The two “Peats” crossed the Tasman from their Australian Base in convoy under their own power after having temporary weather shields built over the open bow and stern sections.( I can recall their arrival in Auckland but time denies me of the memory of their exact departure port)
At 385 tons gross, 138 feet long x 36 feet beam x 10.5 feet draught they were somewhat bigger than the old wooden vessels they were replacing and quite capable of making the journey especially in one another’s company and with the good back-up then provided by the myriad of other ships on the Tasman and Pacific Island runs. .

A journey in later years from Auckland to Hobart under their own power was not considered a sound plan as it was a longer passage into more southern waters and without the comforting proximity of the many ships on the North Tasman runs. Other factors were the Ferry’s ages, by then thirty years old, the lack of proper crew accommodation and, as I would suspect, the Devonport Ferry Co’s overall maintenance standards may have been reduced to meet the survey requirements for Harbour only duties bearing in mind their pending redundancy and thus would have been unable to obtain an off shore survey certificate.
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It was early 1960 that the Union Steamship Co’s vessel MV “Kaitoa” was engaged to tow the first Ferry, the “Alex Alison,”’ to Hobart.

The “Kaitoa” built in 1956 and of 2584 gross tons was a happy ship with a companionable crew. Captain James Kirk, known in the Company as “Gentleman Jim,” was the Skipper, a Senior Master and experienced ship handler (he was before the time of the Star Ship Enterprise’s Captain of the same name so he was not trading on the spaceman’s glory), The Chief Officer was ‘Cactus’ Cox (the reason for this nick name is forgotten) and the Engineering members were Chief Engineer Jim Cowie, a Scot, Second Engineer Peter Kiddell, myself as Third Engineer and John Bruce (Jock) the Fourth, also a Scot.
Prior to departure from Auckland on 19th April 1960 it was intended that the “Kaitoa’s Engineers were to board the Ferry to check on the layout below decks, emergency bilge pump facilities etc in case of any difficulties during the voyage but time and tide were against us as we maneuvered into the Rangitoto Channel to take on the tow and these precautions were not allowed to happen.
The towing bridle was formed by placing heavy steel chains around the port and starboard mooring bollards fixed to the after deck then led through the stern fairleads to form a ‘Y’ shaped yoke to which to shackle the steel hawser towing line. The chains were tightly wrapped around the bollards and fastened in place using taper pinned shackles.

A Harbour tug maneuvered the Ferry into position, the tow line was attached and we were away.
The journey was to take us up around North Cape then down into the Southern Tasman Sea , a passage of about 1800 nautical miles which would normally take about 7 days at our normal service speed of 10 to 11 knots but this time was revised to approximately 12 to 15 days allowing for the reduced towing speed . By nightfall, the tow had settled down to follow us obediently at about four to five knots, gently yawing side to side and looking as though she was under her own power. The next morning saw us off the Northland coast in fine flat weather and the towing speed was increased very slightly and all was well. We were already recalculating our ETA Hobart and looking forward to arriving at a Port seldom visited by Union Co ships and a place where most of us had not been before.

We rounded North Cape with the ferry skimming sweetly astern, the tow line of calculated length and weight was correctly sagging below the water and showing no symptoms of excess power transfer so again our twin six cylinder ‘British Polar’ diesel engines were notched up just a few more revolutions per minute with no adverse effect on the tow. A few uneventful days passed with the Ferry following like a very obedient puppy dog on a leash and we were slightly ahead of schedule but one afternoon the weather freshened from a westerly direction creating slight seas on to our starboard bow but the ferry seemed to be taking it in her stride and the pace continued.
I came off the 12 to 4 afternoon watch in the engine room and wandered aft to take my usual look at the towing scene and there I found the Captain and the Chief engineer discussing the ferry’s stance on the water and it was becoming obvious that the vessel was slightly bow down. The towing speed was reduced to see if that corrected its trim but as nightfall neared with freshening winds and wave motion it became obvious that the Alex Allison was taking on water either through a sprung plate or rivets, a hole in the hull, a leak via the forward propeller shaft gland or a damaged hull fitting. We could only guess as to the exact cause as we had not been able to inspect the ferry prior to sailing.
As darkness fell the bow had lowered to the extent that water was almost lapping the vehicle deck so we virtually hove to, just providing enough way on the ship to maintain some tension on the steel tow line to avoid it gathering under our stern and fouling our propeller.
The senior officers, the Captain, Chief engineer and the First mate had a conference and as there was some doubt that the ferry would still be afloat in the morning it was decided to plan a boarding party to check on the damage and to endeavor to start the auxiliary diesel fire and bilge pump that was reportedly on board and all ready to go.
The starboard life boat was prepared for launching, the usual bulky Board of Trade design unsinkable craft that was propelled by sweep oars that were intended mainly for rowing the craft clear of a sinking ship and not for any long journey. The Ferry rescue crew was to be the First Officer, the Boatswain, about four Able seamen plus the Chief and Fourth Engineers, the latter two being the intended boarding party.

Weather conditions had continued to worsen with a rising swell and as it would have been impossible to row the life boat to the ferry it was decided to use a long rope line, one end attached to the life boat’s bow and the other looped around the drum of the ship’s aft deck mooring winch. This would allow a controlled drift down to along side the stricken vessel for boarding and allow the lifeboat and crew to be retrieved when the mission was over.
This was 46 years ago and although our ship was only 4 years old and up to date in the safety equipment standards of the time, we did not have a motorized lifeboat or a RIB ‘Rubber Ducky” with a 50 HP outboard, nothing like that, just wooden oars in the starboard boat and “Carling” gear in the port unit. This latter propulsion was a series of rocker arms connected by cranks to a central propeller shaft that enabled the crew to sit on the thwarts and pump the arms back and forth to produce a rotary motion to propel the craft through the water. A means of propulsion that had mixed reviews, to say the least.

Communication was also a problem, no Ship’s Radar, no Satellite phones, or portable RT sets, no GPS or life boat locator beacons in those days, only a ship/ship/shore short range radio, a short wave radio and a Morse code transmitter for long range contact with the outside world plus, of course, a Radio Operator who could send and receive Morse code at a speed approaching a normal conversation. We did however have a spare, portable, battery operated ‘Aldis’ signaling lamp. This was a powerful light with a six-inch diameter signaling lens switched on and off by a trigger to allow the sending of optical Morse code signals day or night. This was issued to the lifeboat crew and a simple signaling code was agreed upon like one flash “haul in”, two flashes “Stop” and three flashes “pay out”.
The lifeboat was duly lowered with Jim and Jock on board complete with a bag of assorted tools and a couple of fresh batteried torches and ready for any thing. Peter Kiddell and I were to keep a doubled up watch in the engine room in case of a need to carry out any maneuvers with the twin screws but we quickly set up a roster to allow one man to briefly nip up top every now and then to watch the proceedings mainly because of our increasing concern about the wisdom of the exercise given the weather conditions.

I was topside when the lifeboat reached the side of the Ferry and although the two vessels could barely be seen through the gloom it was obvious that the swell was going to make a boarding leap a dangerous one. The ship continued to pay out the line slowly to allow the life boat crew to fully inspect the ferry hull full length and to size up a boarding plan but as they reached the stern section they began to drift under the towering overhang of the raised stern and fearing being swept under the counter they flashed the “Aldis” lamp three times, the pay out signal.. Unfortunately, it so happened that a wave or swell crest at the wrong moment obscured two of the three flashes and the ship’s crew responded to a one flash signal, ‘Haul in’.
Next minute the lifeboat crew found themselves being hauled right under the heaving stern counter of the Ferry and one AB instinctively raise his oar up to fend off the descending menace. The oar, compressed between the ferry hull and the floor of the boat, bent like a banana then snapped like a carrot. The other crew ducked down below the gunwales fearing that the Ferry was going to squash them while ‘Cactus’ Cox cried “cut the rope” which the Boatswain did in a flash with his sharp sheath knife and they quickly drifted free and away from immediate danger.
On board ship we were unaware of this action and the first indication was when we saw the Aldis lamp flickering away well astern of the ferry position and a laboured Morse code signal that read “SOS we had to cut the rope” or words to that effect.

I can imagine to this day the thoughts that must have been going through Captain Kirk’s mind, what started as a routine mission to pump out the Ferry was turning into a serious predicament. Here we had eight men adrift in a lifeboat in the lonely South Tasman waters, in fresh weather that made rowing the craft almost impossible, no visibility apart from the ship and Ferry navigation lights and the occasional flicker from the Aldis lamp to allow the ship’s lookouts to maintain a spot location. Plus- a waterlogged tow that could well decide to founder without too much notice.
What took place next was a prime example of excellent ship handling as the Master steamed the ship in a very wide circle at slow speed and ever mindful of the “sea anchor” of about 400 tons roped to our stern until he was able to bring the ‘Kaitoa’ just to windward of the lifeboat to shelter it and limit its drift as the ship slowly bore down on them. All this had taken a couple of hours and had it taken any longer we may have lost contact with the lifeboat until day break as by this time the Aldis lamp battery was down to providing only a pale yellow flicker
. A worst case scenario that crossed most minds was that if we lost sight of the lifeboat in the dark due to the signal lamp failure and were unable to pick up the crew the problems compounded to include a shortage of hands to deal with any immediate crisis with the tow. There was also the possibility that the lack of Radar may prevent the ship finding the boat in the morning as it was scudding to leeward at a faster rate than the ship and unless they remained within ‘flare range’ the prevailing weather and big swell would of made a visual search very difficult.
The life boat crew were in a sound seaworthy vessel equipped with emergency and survival provisions so were relatively safe in the short term, not that I would of changed places for quids, and the end result had this worst course of events occurred would probably have involved calling out the RAAF to carry out a sea search to pin point the boat and lead us to them.

Although the life boat was now alongside the drama was not yet over as we had to retrieve the craft, easy enough in Harbour where we had done it many times during boat drill but not a normal or easy task in a swell and choppy seas. Perhaps 90% of lifeboats seriously launched at sea never return to the ship as in most cases they are used to “abandon” it.
With the lifeboat along side and surging up and down relative to the ship’s slower motion the first attempt to attach the “falls” failed.(the falls are the ropes and hooks hanging down from the ship’s life boat davits) The bow hook was attached successfully but the stern fastening missed due to the crazy motion of the life boat with the result being that as the next trough passed under the boat the stern slumped with it but the attached bow did not causing the lifeboat to hang off the forward davit at an angle of about thirty degrees pitching the crew toward the stern and immersing the aft section under water for a moment until it bobbed up again. At this point Jock Bruce was just regaining his feet and saw the aft fall swinging wildly toward his head and his instinctive ‘hands up’ action to prevent his block being knocked off enabled him to grasp the hook and safely secure the boat ready for hoisting out of the water.
That drama thankfully over, the boat crew was taken to the Captain’s cabin for a medicinal whisky followed by snatches of sleep until the dawn allowed another revue of the situation.

It is of interest to record that a 1994 survey into lifeboat safety by an International Marine Forum revealed that lifeboats were launched for the following reasons;
Boat Drill (82%), Maintenance & Survey (16%), and Emergencies (2%) and that 48% of accidents happened during lifting recovery so the ship and lifeboat crews did very well that night given the circumstances.


Morning brought a slight improvement in the weather, but the tow was obviously sinking as the bow portion of the vehicle deck was under water and the stern high in the air. The Chief Engineer had previously raised concerns with the First Officer and the Boatswain about the method used to pin the shackles securing the heavy towing chains around the bollards without a means of quick release. If the ferry foundered while still attached there could be disastrous consequences due to such a weight hanging off our stern with its capability of fouling our propeller, affecting the ship’s stability and even ripping the bollards off the deck plates when loaded beyond their intended duty. We had no such aids as gas cutting gear or powerful angle grinders in those times and the deck crew, finally appreciating the Chief’s concerns in the cold hard light of the morning, set about unpinning the shackles which took quite some time and when completed, about 10 am, the Captain gave the order to release the tow.

Only about fifteen minutes after the bridle chains rattled overboard to a watery grave the Ferry decided to follow. She slowly decreased her angle of repose until vertical, floated around for a few minutes with 50% of the hull pointed skywards then plunged out of sight before popping up again buoyed by the air trapped in the stern. Then something gave way and she disappeared for good with a hiss and a roar of escaping air from a ruptured hull.

I guess every man had his own thoughts about the drama, but I am sure that we were all pleased to see the back of it as we set sail at our best speed for Hobart.
We were headlines in the local paper, the “Hobart Mercury,” and after docking we soon had a reporter on board. He was a New Zealander and it so happened that when we left Auckland I was the only crew member to have a full roll of black and white film in my 35 mm camera and was able to record the first few days of the tow, the initial bow down pose and progressive shots of the Ferry from daylight thro to the final plunge. The reporter offered to take the film back to their photo lab for immediate processing and after assuring the Captain that they would not publish any shots without his approval we soon had a pictorial record. Three photos were selected as newsworthy and they duly appeared in the next edition together with an account of the drama. I turned out to be the winner as the reporter syndicated the photos to the Melbourne Age, The Sydney Times, The New Zealand Herald and The Auckland Star. They all eventually sent me their cheques and I scooped about 26 pounds in total which more than covered the cost of the then expensive Zeiss Contina camera that I had bought duty free for 15 pounds some two years earlier
After a day or two in Hobart while a preliminary enquiry was carried out the Mercury reporter treated several of us to various tour rides in his car around the area then we were off to Melbourne to pick up a cargo of oranges before heading home to Auckland.

Looking at marine records on the internet I find that the second Ferry was towed out of Auckland bound for Hobart on 7th November 1960 but had to return to Auckland when the ferry took on water only a day or so out and after repairs to the hull left again on the 18th November. The towing vessel was the MV “Sumatra”, a smaller coastal ship owned by Cement Freighters Ltd and normally on the Auckland/Portland run. She must have made hard work of it as she arrived in Hobart with the Ferry intact on 10th December after having to call at the Port of Eden in NSW, a voyage of 22 days. This occurrence of water leakage into the sister ship would tend to indicate that hull plate corrosion and or plate rivet soundness had reached their safe limits on both Ferries but were never tested by the relatively calm water duties on the Waitemata Harbour.
The Sumatra was then bought by the Hobart Transport Commission for their Tasmania / Flinders Island
Service and this gives further weight to the story that the Tasmanian Government had used these purchases as a means of getting otherwise frozen funds out of NZ and no doubt the insurers picked up the cost for our unsuccessful tow.


A sea going adventure



Bob Jenkins 6/10/06
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