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

First Direct Boat To Wanganui

First Direct Boat To Wanganui.

The fine little clipper Malay, a barque of 328 tons, was the first merchant vessel direct from London to enter Wanganui River, and the occasion was marked by great rejoicing by the residents of the young township. She was built at Montrose in 1862, and at the time she put Wanganui on the overseas trade map she was in command of Captain D. Peters. Sailing from Gravesend on October 10, 1871, she had a fair run to within four days of the Equator, when she was detained by light, baffling winds. The Line was crossed on November 24, and on December 1 she rounded the Cape, whence she was favoured with fine steady winds until she passed Tasmania on December 27. The weather then became stormy, and continued so until the barque made Cape Farewell on January 4, 1872. The following day she anchored off the entrance to Wanganui River, having made a smart passage of 86 days from Gravesend.

It was not considered advisable for the vessel to enter the river at that stage of the tide, and so she remained at anchor in the roadstead until the 8th, when she was safely towed in by the Government steamer Luna, commanded by Captain Fairchild, who was afterwards so well known in the Hinemoa and Tutanekai. A good number of citizens went out in the Luna, and the greatest interest was taken in the momentous event. Going down to the heads, Captain Fairchild took soundings all the way, and found the average depth was 12 feet.

When the Luna made fast to the barque the Wanganui-ites on the steamer had some anxious moments, as the fate of their river as an overseas port was about to be decided. The suspense, however, was soon over, the bar was safely crossed, and when passing the cliff under the Blockhouse those on the Luna and the barque gave a hearty cheer, which was responded to by a large number of people who had ridden out and watched the entry from the cliff top.

When well up the river the barque was anchored, and the following morning was made fast to the Government wharf. This important event, which had far-reaching effects on the trade of the port, was witnessed by hundreds of townspeople, and was marked by a salvo of five guns and a modest salute from Taylor and Watts' wharf. In the evening Captain Peters was entertained at a banquet, at which success to the port was drunk with enthusiasm. After discharge, the Malay took on board a cargo of wool, tallow, and pumice, and sailed for London.

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Another visit was paid to Wanganui by the Malay in the same year, but on this occasion she was under Captain Richard Todd, who later commanded the St. Leonards and the Northumberland. Announcing her arrival, the "Herald" said: "Her passage Home and back has been exceptionally good. She left Wanganui on March 24, making a splendid run Home; sailed again from Gravesend on July 20, and arrived at Wellington on October 25, thus being only seven months and one day making the round journey. After discharging part cargo, the Malay proceeded to Wanganui, and was brought in by Pilot McLaren. The wind being favourable, a straight run was made, the barque rounding the Narrows and coming into the river at nearly full sail. A large number of excursionists went out in the s.s. Tongariro to accompany the barque up the river, and as the Malay approached the little steamer wore round her, the crowd of passengers giving three hearty cheers. The barque went sailing away at a spanking pace, leaving the Tongariro puffing away far behind."

In the following year, 1873, the Malay made another voyage to Wanganui, coming this time via Nelson. She sailed from Gravesend on June 18. After rounding the Cape on September 2, she experienced strong westerly gales until the 25th, when she struck a furious storm from the north. One specially big sea which broke on board washed the long-boat off the chocks, and smashed it. Another boat was also damaged, the main hatch was stove in, the bolts being drawn out of the deck, and the bulwarks on the starboard side from the fore-rigging to the after-part of the main-rigging were carried away. The barque made Cape Farewell on October 6, but light baffling winds delayed her for seven days in Blind Bay, and Nelson was not reached until the 15th. She arrived at Wanganui on November 8, and after discharge of cargo, she was purchased by Messrs. Beck and Tonks, of Wellington, who later sent her on several voyages to Newcastle in charge of Captain Linklater.

The Malay had previous to 1873 made two voyages to Nelson under Captain Peters. In 1867 she arrived there on April 13, having made the voyage in 103 days; and in 1869 she arrived on February 14, after a passage of 116 days.

Since the memorable first visit of the Malay to Wanganui in 1872, the river has been greatly improved as a port by the erection of moles and by dredging. At high water spring tides there is a depth of 26 to 27 feet, and ships drawing 20 feet can enter at any state of the tide. The deepest draught vessel to visit Wanganui was the Margaret Stirling, a four-masted American schooner. On July 26, 1926, when she was drawing 20 feet, she entered the river at dead mean tide.