Steam Tug Hipi
Today’s story features the Chas Bailey built steam tug Hipi and comes to us from Mick Kelly via Harold Kidd. Mick was prompted to write by a recent article by HDK in Boating New Zealand.
Mick commented that Hipi ran aground just south of Whangamata in the mid 1970s. He used to own the farm adjoining the beach where this occurred. The previous owner of the farm was called in the middle of the night to rescue the crew. For his efforts he was presented with the ship’s wheel, which he attached to the bar in his house.
The story as Mick remembers it was that she was towing a barge with a digger to pinch sand off the beaches in the area, and it all went a bit pear shaped. A local bought the wreck, and bulldozed a track down onto the beach. He cut off the metal superstructure and towed the hull up to where he could salvage the engine/s which Mick imagines had replaced the original steam engine.
Mick salvaged a few brass fittings, and some bits of Kauri decking which he incorporated into the first launch he built. He also used the hardwood keel timber for a beam in the shed he built on the farm.
Update from John Bullivant – ‘newer’ photo below, she was built by Baileys in 1909 and was converted to twin Gardner 8L3s at some stage (apparently)
Input from Baden Pascoe – Hipi was built in 1909 for Nelson Bros who owned the Tomoana Freezing Works as a lighter tug. In these days Gisborne had no deep water port so the frozen sheep carcases were loaded into insulated lighters and towed out to the roadstead. Initially she had two Simpson Strickland triple expansion steam engines and later replaced with a set of compound engines. The photo above with a wheel house fitted was after a major refit at WG Lowe & Son in 1933. The steam engines were removed and two Petter Atomic T25/2m diesel engines of 50 hp each were fitted. She then returned to Gisborne to carry out the same duties. By this time Nelson Bros had bought into the Kaiti Freezing Works and formed Gisborne Lightering and Stevedoring Co Ltd and their tugs and lighters assets transferred over. During the WWII she came back to Auckland as she was loaned/sold to the NZ Navy to work the submarine nets protecting the Auckland Harbour and based at Islington Bay. After the war she was sold by tender to Parry Bros, a well-known local owner of scows and the tug Glyn Bird. They phased out their scow fleet and replaced them with tugs and barges. Their early tugs were, Glyn Bird, Lady Eva, Hipi, Sibyl (now owned by the Pollards). They removed the Petters and replace them with two Kelvin K4’s of 88 hp each. As the old wooden barges become too small or became too hard to maintain they replaced them with steel barges. Hipi’s barge was Onewaka with a capacity of about 500 ton. She was employed on the sand run to Parengarenga and sometimes carried superphosphate to Te Paki Station with a supply landing at Parengarenga Harbour. The Kelvins were replaced with twin 8L3 Gardners of 150 hp making her the fastest tug on that run and their flag ship. I first saw Hipi in about 1964 while she was delivering super from Tauranga. My father knew one of the crew and I can remember boarding her and stepping over the very high wheel house combing. While she was returning to Tauranga from unloading at Whitianga in March 1976 she went aground below the cliffs at Papakura Bay as mentioned by Mick. The boys had spent the afternoon in the pub, had too much to drink and after a few hours bunked down and put the youngest crew member on the wheel. He too eventually fell asleep and was woken when she drove her self between a rock ledge with the Onewaka trailing behind. At this stage she was not making any water and was basically uninjured. Before they could get her off the wind came up and she became a total loss. They went ashore phoned Buster (Norman) Parry to inform him of the grounding. The farmer looked after the crew until the next day when Buster and Keith Penney the operations manager arrived. I understand her skipper George Little was already in Buster & Keith’s bad book and he was sacked on the spot. Ask any of the old school tug masters and crew and they will tell you about Hipi. She was the superstar wooden tug. Mick, have you a photo of her wheel?
The painting below artist is unknow and was gifted to Baden Pascoe by Keith Penney
24-03-2019 Update – via Mick Kelly – The wheel from Hipi resides in Featherston, Wairarapa, with Teena Pettitt, the daughter of the farm owner (Dave Pettitt) at the time of the incident mentioned above. Photos below.