Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 3, 2000
The New Zealand Company's 1841 Nelson Preliminary Expedition, under the leadership of Captain Arthur Wakefield, carried two Deal boats, one aboard the Whitby, the other aboard the Will Watch. These boats were probably chosen for their seaworthiness, and for the remarkable seamanship of boatmen from the Deal, Walmer and Kingsdown area of Kent. Their skills had been honed in the English Channel and the waters behind the dangerous Goodwin Sands, known as The Downs, where sailing ships sheltered until weather conditions were suitable for commencing a voyage. Wakefield would also have been fully aware of the strength of winds in the Roaring Forties, where the expedition's Deal boats would be used.
Deal boats were named for the area from which they came and were not made of deal timber. They were of clinker construction, built of English elm planking, while the ribs or timbers were of young English elm. The boats were copper fastened and were known as luggers because of their sailing rig. The expedition's Deal boats were a smaller version of the 38 to 40 foot luggers, being about 18 to 23 feet long, and were known as galley punts, although they were not flat bottomed.
All luggers had a similar hull shape, with an almost plumb stern, a plumb stern transom, thwarts for rowing and for strength, two masts, a dipping lug mainsail and a standing lug mizzen, the control or sheet of which was fastened to a long pole or bunk in [sic: bumkin]. The mainsail extended past the mast and fitted to the top of the stem, and to go about, or change tack, it had to be lowered and rehoisted on the lee side of the mast. Most boats carried two mainsails for ease of tacking.
The Nelson Colony was well served by its Deal boats, at first in exploration and the locating of Te Whakatu, or Nelson, and then as general work boats, with one being used by the harbour pilots. The Deal boatmen who arrived on the Whitby were James Smith Cross, the coxswain, John Barnes and Samuel Goddard, while those aboard the Will Watch were William Claringbold, the coxswain, Henry John Elliott and John Ladd. James Smith Cross became Warden Pilot of Nelson and was the second Harbourmaster. He became a shipowner and a man of substance who was a highly regarded citizen of Nelson. William Claringbold became Nelson's assistant Pilot, but fell foul of the law and left Nelson.page 60
Part of the painting "Preliminary Expedition at Astrolabe Roadstead 1841" by Charles Heaphy, showing a Deal boat. (Belt Collection, Nelson Provincial Museum.)