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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 3, 1989

The Venture

The Venture

page 32

For the hundreds of trampers who have walked the Abel Tasman Track, one attraction which has drawn universal interest is the remains of the old scow, Venture, decaying away in the estuary at Awaroa. The Venture was registered no.93,991 on 17 January 1906, a ketch of 19 tons and 46 feet in length. (1)

The vessel was built by the Hadfield family at Awaroa, near where her remains lie today.

William Welby Hadfield was a farmer and boatbuilder at Awaroa and, for a short time, at Port Nelson where, in 1900, he built Nelson's first motor boat, for Messrs Moore & Healy. It was 17feet long and powered by a motor-cycle engine, supplied by Mr Moore, who was a motor cycle dealer in Nelson at the time.(2).

The story of the Venture is continued from an unpublished manuscript of early days at Awaroa by the late Roy Hadfield: "When I returned to Awaroa from Nelson, just before Christmas 1903, the Venture was under construction, having some of the frames in place. I had many jaunts into the bush with Dad and brothers Fred and Darcy, hunting for crooks for frames and decking etc. There was timber from many of the bushes around Awaroa and Totaranui. The majority of the bends and knees came from rata roots from Totaranui, but there were deck beams 6x6 squared from birch(sic) logs 14 feet long. All the masts and spars were obtained from the white pine bush in the swamp at Little River, all manpowered out of the bush and floated down the harbour at high tide. I remember getting these out on my twelfth birthday. When the Venture was about three parts completed, we were hard up for money to buy rigging and sails, and had to stop construction. At this time the scow Orakei(3) had been holed and sunk at me wharf at Puponga and Fred heard it was for sale. He and our brother-in-law, Bill Winter, set off in an old ketch-rigged boat we had called The Old Tub. It was a big heavy thing about 17feet long, but was very useful for carting wood or any thing heavy. When they got to their destination, they found that the Orakei was not too badly damaged, so they pumped the water out of her at low tide, made suitable repairs, rigged some sail on her and waited for a favourable wind. Towing the Old Tub behind, and with a nice westerly wind, they reached
The launching of the Venture at Awaroa, 1906. B. Hadfield

The launching of the Venture at Awaroa, 1906. B. Hadfield

page 33Awaroa in the day without mishap. Not a bad buy for five pounds. But there was a lot of work to do before she was fit to trade again. Some of the sails were usable, all the rigging had to be relagged, but the worst trouble was that the keel was just about eaten out by worm. What a job to renew that. However we were very lucky to find a big rimu, which had fallen some years before. The sap wood had rotted off, only the heart left, just what we wanted.

I don't remember the size of it, but it was about fifty feet long and 14 x 10 when we squared it up. However we got it fitted and a bit of planking repaired, new sheathing over the bottom and a paint up. We sailed it to Nelson, where it was sold to Jimmie Baird, for 300 pounds I believe. The Venture could now be completed without any more worry, in 1906, some four years after it was started. There were quite a lot of people at the launching as, at that time, the population of Awaroa was at its highest, and everyone was there. Awaroa was quite a busy place at the time, with boats calling in for timber and other materials, especially flax and birch bark for the tannery at Nelson. Some of the timber was taken to Australia and Lyttelton by the Mominglight, a schooner belonging to Kirk & Co. of Takaka, but most of it went to Nelson and Motueka, carried by the Transit, belonging to Ricketts Bros. The Venture carried some later, but only when the Transit could not handle it."

The Venture traded Tasman Bay until after the First World War but, with the development of reading and motor transport and, finally, the completion of the Otira tunnel, many of the Bay sailors were put out of business. (4) The Venture was but one of many, and was laid up in the bay, where she eventually went to pieces. Her remains lie decaying, only a few metres from where she was built; over eighty ago.


1. Allan, R. History of Port Nelson, p. 110.
2. Hadfield, Roy. Unpublished manuscript
3.Orakei Reg. No. 82,702 Aug. 1910 fore and aft schooner 32 tons 68 feet built Auckland 1882. Allan, R. Op. cit. p. 111
4.Ibid p. 66.
The Venture moored at the Little River (Awapito), near the site of the new bridge. B. Hadfield

The Venture moored at the Little River (Awapito), near the site of the new bridge. B. Hadfield