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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

By Sea, Coach and Early Model Motor Cars

By Sea, Coach and Early Model Motor Cars

Much risk, as well as discomfort and delay, was sometimes attendant upon a voyage along the East Coast in the early days. In October, 1843, William Williams, his son Leonard, and some natives set out by schooner from Poverty Bay for Wellington. On account of the vessel being driven back from Cook Strait on several occasions, it was decided to land. The natives got ashore at Flat Point, but the rest of the party had to wait till she was off Castlepoint. They returned on foot to Poverty Bay.

Bishop Selwyn was on board H.M.S. Hazard when she got into difficulties in a storm off East Cape in February, 1845. Seven of her 18 guns had to be thrown overboard. Just before the masts were to have been cut away she righted herself. In his diary (16/6/1851) the Rev. C. Baker, who was then residing in Auckland, describes a trip which his children had just made from Tolaga Bay. The schooner had been driven far off the land, and, with her sails split, had put into the Bay of Islands. Five weeks had elapsed when Auckland was reached.

In March, 1846, William Williams arranged for passages to Auckland for his sons on the cutter Swan. W. L. Williams, describing the trip in a letter to his father, said: “I hope Mita Uru [Mr. Yule] will look out for a more comfortable vessel for you to come up on—at any rate, more comfortable than the cutter Swan, for she was wretchedly uncomfortable; and I hope he will not trade along the coast and make a floating pigsty of her, for, if he does, that will be another source of discomfort for you, as it was for us.”

Some of the early residents preferred to walk part of the way to Auckland, making the initial stage of their journey, via Motu, over the Kowhai track, to Opotiki. In 1844 and 1845 this track was used by W. Williams and two of his sons. In March, 1851, the Rev. T. S. Grace came across some rough huts at one point, and on trees alongside “were engraven the names of all the earlier English pilgrims.” Mrs. Colenso made an overland journey with her husband from Waitangi (Hawke's Bay) to the Whakato mission station in 1846. She was expecting her second child, and wished to be close to another white woman.

The rapid increase in Poverty Bay's population in the early 1870's brought several steamers on to the East Coast run. They included the paddle steamers Paterson, Comerang and Manawatu, and the screw steamers Taranaki, Star of the South, Rangatira and Pretty Jane. Schooners commanded by Captains J. H. Skinner, J. Nicolas, W. Harris, Martin, Scott and Ra Mackey, and, later, the s.s. Rosina, served the intermediate roadsteads. In the 1880's the larger coastal settlements gained the further advantage of a monthly service by s.s. Australia and s.s. Southern Cross.

Towards the close of the 1870's Gisborne became a port of call for intercolonial passenger and cargo steamers. The forerunner was the Union page 349 Co.'s s.s. Wanaka, which made her first appearance in February, 1877. Many other steamers bearing well-remembered names were, later, placed on the run. For a number of years prior to the First Great War, Tokomaru Bay, as well as Gisborne, was a twice-a-week port of call for Union Company and Huddart-Parker Company intercolonial steamers. Toko-maru Bay passengers always had the exhilirating experience of being embarked from, or disembarked into, a launch by means of a basket.

The Anglo-Welsh Rugby team's experiences in getting away from Gisborne in August, 1908, indicate, to some extent, the discomfort which had to be endured in stormy weather by intending travellers by sea. Due to leave for Napier by s.s. Monowai, the visitors turned out on the wharf at 7 a.m. in driving rain. Soon they were wet to the skin and shivering. As the steamer had not been sighted they returned to the hotel. Next morning they were on the wharf at 5 o'clock, but as the vessel could not be tendered immediately on account of the high seas, they went back to bed. They were embarked at midday, and, at 4 p.m., left the roadstead to face what the official story of the tour described as “The Father of all Gales.”