Title: Exotic Intruders

Author: Joan Druett

Publication details: Heinemann, 1983, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Joan Druett

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Exotic Intruders

A steam yacht at one's disposal

page 80

A steam yacht at one's disposal

On the first of August 1877 Mr G. S. Cooper, the Under Secretary of the Marine Department, was asked to supply a Return to an Order of the House of Representatives, which requested details of the cost of the Government Steam Yacht Hinemoa . The contract price for this yacht was £23 500, declared Mr Cooper, and the price for extras, ordered at the British shipyard, was £1 828.18.2d, so that, with cartage fees, the total cost of the ship, landed in New Zealand, was twenty-nine thousand, five hundred and eighty seven pounds, fifteen shillings and one penny. 'She is not insured,' he added.

There must have been some fluttering in the benches over the cost of this yacht, plus her sister ship, the Tutanekai , as another Order was issued in the same month. This was answered by the captain, Mr John Fairchild, who wrote, crisply, that the Hinemoa was 'always carrying mails, lifting buoys, surveying and taking soundings and assisting vessels in distress. The charges that I have made for what the Hinemoa has done,' he added, 'are less than one half of what the Government would have had to pay if they had chartered steamers to do any of the work that the Hinemoa has done.'

If a Government has a couple of steam yachts at its disposal, then no doubt there will always be questions about whether Members are taking over these yachts for frivolous purposes—Sir George Grey, the Premier, certainly did use the Hinemoa to cart various dignitaries and important visitors to view his menagerie at his island of Kawau. Later, Donne also used the Hinemoa freely during his time of influence in Parliament (through his great friend Sir Joseph Ward) and in 1905 the yacht carried 18 wapiti to George Sound, Fiordland; in 1909 it was used again by Donne to ferry ten moose from Wellington to Dusky Sound.

However, the Hinemoa certainly did do a great deal in the line of'assisting vessels in distress'. In 1878 she rescued passengers from the wreck of the City of Auckland and later carried them from Otaki, where the ship had foundered on the beach, and ferried them to Napier. In 1892 she returned to the same beach on a mission of reclamation— another ship, the Weatherfield, had foundered there four years previously, and the Hinemoa helped haul off the well-grounded ship and tow her away.

Black and white photograph of steam yacht Hinemoa.