Arethusa Aground on Farewell Spit

Arethusa Aground on Farewell Spit

Regular readers of WW will be familiar with Bay of Islands photographer – Dean Wright and the stunning images he shares with us. Dean and partner Deb are the custodians of the classic woody – Arethusa, which has one of the best back stories of all the craft in your fleet. The 33’ Arethusa was built in 1917 by Bob Brown and started life as a gaff rigged cutter, 105 years later she has the features of a commercial ex work boat – but a very swish one 🙂 Link below that shows some of the transformation – and being such a looker she has made numerous WW appearance, but today we bring to light a somewhat unknown (to most of us) event in her life – I’ll let Dean do the intro to the above photo essay :-

“Deb and I were down south recently and did the Farewell Spit Bus trip. The tour operators were able to tell us approximately where Arethusa ran aground all those years ago (late December 1955). 

They dragged the boat to the other side of the Spit and relaunched her, about 1.2km’s. An excerpt from book at the Spit lighthouse keepers house: “She was sailing between New Plymouth and Nelson and the crew thought they were heading between the lights of Farewell Spit and Stephen’s Island when they ran aground. Obviously they mistook the light on Cape Farewell for that on the Spit, and, as the Cape Farewell light had only gone into operation in 1951, they may have been unaware of its existence.”

The press clipping above in the Christchurch Press ran the headline – ‘The Arethusa – A Total Loss’ – well they got that wrong – well done to everyone that invested the funds and time to help Arethusa become a centenarian. If anyone knows more detail of her time in the South Island, Deb and Dean would love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “Arethusa Aground on Farewell Spit

  1. Hi Dean. Given the pre-1921 sail number, that probably is Bob Brown at the helm, as he owned her until 1929.

    I just looked at the Alexander Turnbull website and I see they hold a glass negative for your image labelled ‘photographer unknown’. This may mean that it is not a Winkelmann image as his negatives were usually (but not always) numbered in the corners.

    The Turnbull does however hold the negatives of another excellent amateur photographer A.H. Kinnear (an Auckland dentist) and a contemporary of Winkelmann who had many of his images publishes in magazines of the time.

    A query to the Auckland Museum’s pictorial collection with those Winkelmann Arethusa negative numbers, 9071 and 9259, might confirm it either way.

    The lack of a dinghy and the racing flag still indicates a race rather than a casual cruise. She did enter the 1919 and 1920 Anniversary regattas which is when most marine photographers (e.g. Winkelmann or Kinnear) were out on the water.


  2. Henry Winkelmann only took 2 photos of Arethusa, one on 29/1/1920 (neg number 5189/9071) and another on 18/3/1922 (Neg number 5462/9259).

    Arethusa’s sail number was 36 up to the 1921/22 season when she was issued with the new alpha-numeric number, B-12.

    In that image above she is carrying sail number of 36, is not towing a dinghy and would appear to have a racing flag at her masthead, indicating that she was in a race rather than just out for a cruise.

    Arethusa entered the 1920 Anniversary Regatta (First division) and was photographed by Henry Winkelmann that day.

    I am 90-95% sure that the image above is that of Henry Winkelmann, taken on Anniversary Day 29/1/1920. If you have a physical print of that image the negative numbers on its reverse should confirm this date.


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