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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885

Shipping Notes

Shipping Notes.

Owing to the researches of Mr. Russell Duncan, of Napier, who takes a great interest in the shipping history of that port, I have been able to get together some valuable notes concerning outstanding incidents in the early days.

"The first pilot of the port of Napier was a Maori, who was succeeded by John McKinnon, who acted from 1857 to June, 1858.

"Thomas Murray, who was chief officer of the s.s. Wonga Wonga on her first visit to Napier, became pilot and harbourmaster in September, 1858, his salary being £100 a year.

"Captain Cellum, formerly of the s.s. White Swan, succeeded Captain Murray at his death, and remained in the post for two or three years. He then ran the s.s. Queen and other coastal steamers to Auckland and Wellington.

"The best known of the old-timers was Harry Kraeft, a splendid seaman, and formerly boatswain of the Wonga Wonga, who for the long period of 34 years carried out the duties of chief pilot. He joined the service as boatman in 1860, was appointed assistant pilot in 1864, and then chief pilot when Captain Cellum retired. Kraeft carried on the duties until the end of 1902, when he retired.

"In the year 1858 we find the shipping was confined to two trips by the Wonga Wonga from Wellington, five schooners from the same place, two schooners from Auckland, two cutters from Wairoa, and one from Poverty Bay.

"The entrance to the Main Harbour in those days was, very different in appearance from what it is to-day, there being no moles to confine the channel, or, in fact, any attempt at harbour improvement whatever. Every gale of wind brought up a heavy sea, which shifted the travelling shingle and altered the channel. There was nearly always a large island of shingle, two or more acres inpage 102 extent, to the north-west of the entrance, and running parallel to the bar. This island was called the Rangatira Bank, and owing to the shifting nature of the shingle of which it was composed, it was a great source of anxiety to the shipping people. Generally the channel ran to the eastward of this bank, but occasionally the deepest water was found to the westward. To show how this bank changed it is interesting to note that according to the pilot's logbook it was 9 feet high in October, 1858, whereas in January, 1860, 'the top of the Bank is now only visible at low tide, the sea always breaking on it.'

"It was many years before Napier got a steam tug. Before its advent vessels were manoeuvred in and out with their own sails—no mean feat in bad weather—and it says much for the skill and care of the pilots that there were so few accidents.

"Up to May, 1859, the largest vessel to enter the Main Harbour was the Union, 131 tons, which brought 200 tons of coal and 100 tons of general cargo from Sydney.

"The barque Snaresbrook arrived from Wellington on October 19, 1859, and was probably the first vessel to take a part cargo of wool for London. She was anchored inside the outer tail of the Rangatira Bank, and inside of the current that set in and out of the harbour. The barque lay at anchor and rode out several gales with springs on the cable (single anchor) for four months. During that long stay she loaded only 200 bales of wool and left on February 23, 1860, for Wellington to continue loading.

We get an echo of the Maori War days when we note that on January 3, 1861, "the ship Robert Low [sic], Captain Congalton, arrived in the roadstead with 600 troops on board. She landed 200 of the 14th Regiment, and took on board 100 men of the 65th Regiment for Wellington and Taranaki. She was only two days in the bay."

"On August 10, 1863, the s.s. Auckland, Captain Gibson, on rounding Napier Bluff, bound for southern ports, touched an uncharted rock. No damage was done. Owing to neglect to take accurate bearings it was some time before the obstruction was again located. It was named after the vessel that found it, and to-day is marked with a gas-buoy.

"A number of native-owned schooners traded on the East Coast in the 'sixties, and they were manned entirely by Maoris. Most of them hailed from Poverty Bay and Wairoa, but occasionally one would come up from Lyttelton.

"The arrival of two parties of Scandinavian immigrants from Christiania turned out well for the province, for these were the sterling people who settled at Dannevirke, Norsewood, and Ormondville. They came out in the ship Hovding, the first party arriving on September 15, 1872, Captain Berg in command, and the second on December 1, 1873, the ship then being in command of Captain Nordby."