Boyhood memories of the Hauraki Gulf



The story below was sent in by Greg Skinner, written by his late great uncle , B.T. Daniel, in May 1991. To view & read more on the launch Anzac (Freedom) mentioned in the story, click this link

The Hauraki Gulf is considered by many, particularly those who live north of Hamilton, to be one of the finest cruising grounds in the Southern Hemisphere. Australians, with their Hawkesbury River and Queensland Barrier Reef, could excusably be critical of this claim. Southern Argentina and Chile possess a vast area of channels, inlets and fjords whose atrocious weather reduces their popularity for cruising. As a boy who grew up cruising in the Gulf, there was no place quite like it, until later in life I discovered the Marlborough Sounds nearly fifty years ago. The Gulf has taken second place since those days.

To return to the Gulf, however, and its scope as a training area in the ways of the sea, this tale about cruising does not deny the wealth of talent that its waters have produced over the last 120 years. These are the ship and boat builders, designers, engineers, seamen and yachtsmen of world renown whose love for these waters has brought fame and fortune to this land.

In 1921 my father, Captain C. Daniel, joined the Fisheries Branch of the Marine Department as an Inspector of Fisheries. His duties covered the Hauraki Gulf which, viewed from its chart, is a large body of water plus many islands and tidal inlets. To cover this ground he was supplied with a launch called ANZAC and a deckhand as a mate. The ANZAC, built about 1915 by a Mr Collins I believe, was a noted “flyer”, her dimensions were 40‘L’x9.5‘B’x3.5‘D’, powered with a four cylinder Doman petrol engine. She had, prior to acquisition by the Department, won a number of races for her class. The reason for her purchase was the speed at which she could apprehend any fishing inside restricted limits. The ANZAC’s appearance on the fishing grounds and her known ability for speed acted as a deterrent on any illegal activities by fishermen – an ability considered justified by modern day patrol boat design, poaching a part of life that has intensified the vigilance to combat these occurrences.

During the summer school holidays our family, Dad, Mum, plus three children, spent a lot of time cruising in ANZAC. My father now had four assistants – his mate taking his annual leave – to help.

The ANZAC had a few alterations made by my father, two masts that spread three sails, more ballast added and a dodger over the open cockpit. The luxury of a toilet was a rarity in those times. A bucket was the usual means of coping with hygiene on a boat when in company with other boats.

One trip I made in ANZAC was to Mokohinau and Cuvier Islands. The Fisheries Branch did the odd servicing of these important lighthouses in the approaches to Auckland Harbour. Mokohinau lies about 15 miles north west of Miner’s Head on Barrier Island, the site of the wreck of the “WAIRARAPA” in 1894 with the loss of 32 lives. Cuvier lighthouse is about 12 miles from Cape Barrier on the southern end of Great Barrier. The occasion for this trip was the return of a keeper’s wife and a new-born infant to Mokohinau, plus stores and mail for both lighthouses, manned in those days by three keepers to each station and their families. We left the old Nelson Street wharf, now reclaimed land occupied by the city produce markets, at 6.30am bound first for Mokohinau about 60 miles from Auckland. The ANZAC could average 10 miles per hour – fast for those times – arriving at Mokohinau, with good weather, around 1pm that day. The mother and babe were ferried ashore followed by mail and stores. The keepers wanted time to reply to some of their mail, but time was pressing. The Captain, anxious to get on his way to Cuvier, was adamant – “twenty minutes and I’m off”. At the expiry of this limit, and hastily written letters, we departed on the second leg. The passage to Cuvier, about 50 miles, was set inside the Barrier in perfect weather with three sails assisting, good time was made, arriving about 6pm and being summer, sufficient daylight to complete landing the mail and stores. Cuvier Island is larger than Mokohinau but surrounded with plenty of reefs and rocks and landing there, difficult enough in good weather, now began to show signs of deteriorating with an increase in the wind. Departure and course set for Auckland. Cape Colville, about 20 miles from Cuvier, was reached around 9.30pm, the wind from W.S.W. increasing near gale, backing to West, “a dead muzzler” for Auckland, our destination. Capt. Daniel decided to head for the southern end of Waiheke Island bringing the seas, quite a bit now, onto the starboard bow quarter easing the motion, helped with the small staysail, the only sail ANZAC could carry.

Two events I actually recall were my father’s instructions to George Migan, his mate, to stay close to that “B” old machine and make sure it kept ticking over. Fortunately the fuel tank had been topped up before leaving Cuvier, benzene engines of this period, whilst rugged enough, could be temperamental brutes at times. This remark describes the conditions we were experiencing now, rain reducing visibility down to zero, at the same time trying to keep to a rough compass course, judging the seas now steep and short, and I quote “Ye Gods, it’s as black as the inside of a pig’s gut”. The motion was so violent sleep was impossible and I spent a miserable time hanging on in the cockpit, our speed down to three knots until we began to get a bit of shelter in the lee of Waiheke where course was altered for North Harbour on Poniu Island, anchoring there at 3am.

ANZAC had steamed about 160 miles in 20/21 hours – the number of times she went up and down in the same hole from Colville to North Harbour on the 25 mile passage another 25 could be added. Between 10am and 11am we turned out of our bunks, had a mighty breakfast, and the Captain, mug of ship coffee and pipe going well, remarked “What the devil happened to Spotty?” (my dog) – “I booted him in the guts when he got under my feet while steering – I must have hefted him overboard.”

The mention of the name “Spotty” produced a quiet little thumping sound and the next we knew out he crawled from the tiller flat! This is where he had gone to sulk and nurse his grievance over the treatment given him by a man he loved as only a dog can love.

Those long gone days, like the actors and the sets of this play, have passed on or disappeared, but the memories of it are retained by the boy fortunate to have played a minor part, forever indebted to the experience gained and to those who gifted it to thousands of boys on the threshold of life.

7 thoughts on “Boyhood memories of the Hauraki Gulf

  1. What a great story! The “Collins” bit came from the fact that Collings & Bell installed a 35hp H.C. Doman engine to replace her original Wolseley engine around 1920. Of course she was built by Bailey & Lowe as MAPUHI in 1911 for A.B. Donald. She was named after Jack London’s popular South Seas novel “The House of Mapuhi” published in 1911. Interesting read these days!


  2. I love these old stories of the gulf, as I spent many times cruising as a boy with my uncle Mac Macgeadys. Keep up the good work.


  3. Thank you for sharing. I can see and feel it all. The stooging all that way in good fine weather then the cold, the misery of being thumped around on the last leg to a calm anchorage and being able to turn in in peace to face a bright and sunny day to come. Yeah, blissful.


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