Topic: Boats On The River

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A brief summary of some popular historic boats on the Waikato River

The Bluenose
The Bluenose was a paddle steamer, built in Onehunga in 1864 by John Bigelow. It was 83 feet in length with a width of 14 feet 9 inches, and weighed 49.59 tonnes. The Bluenose was privately owned by Ebenezer Gibbons, a timber trader originally from Newfoundland. The Bluenose carried the first ever boatload of women settlers to land in Hamilton. It ran regularly from Onehunga to Hamilton carrying timber for military and civilian use. On the 29th of July 1881 in Ngaruawahia the Bluenose was broken up after failing to obtain a passenger licence (Vercoe, 1997).

Paddle steamer, the Bluenose on the Waikato River at Captain McPherson's Flax Mill Landing. Captain Lindsay is on the left up by the white of the paddle box. R. R. Hunt is next to him with his back turned.  Captain McPherson is in the shirt with sleeves. Alan Marshall is on the bridge in front of the funnel, he also worked on paddle steamers on the Whanganui River

Waikato River, showing the Bluenose paddle steamer and the vegetation surrounding the Waikato River in its natural state

The Tawera
The Tawera was a one engine vessel, built in Auckland in 1896 by William Hoile Brown. It was 55 feet in length with a width of 13 feet, and weighed 43.65 tonnes and was owned by the Roose Shipping Co. The Tawera was sold to the Waikato Shipping Co. along with the Rawhiti, Opuatia, Barstow, Erin, Sylvia, Majestic, 7 barges, and a steam crane for the total sum of £7,575. The valuations for the sale of the vessels were carried out by Auckland boatbuilder, David Gouk & Sons (Vercoe, 1997).

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The Tawera on the Waikato River

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The Tawera, near the Ferrybank Landing

The Freetrader
The Freetrader was a paddle steamer, built in 1884 in Ngaruawahia by Melville Newburn. It was 110 feet and 3 inches in length with a width of 25 feet 7 inches, adn weighed 93.26 tonnes. The Freetrader was re-build from a barge origionally built by Alexander Nicol. The barge was sent to Melville Newburn to rebuild into a paddle steamer. The Freetrader was captianed by Billy Wade of Taupiri and was a popular and successful boat, carrying a range of cargo. It was sold to John Ragg and was later re-sold to the Waikato Steamship Navigation Co. and finally Roose Shipping. The Freetrader was broken up in 1928 (Vercoe, 1997).

The Freetrader at the Ferrybank Landing

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The Freetrader turning on the Waikato River, in Hamilton

The Manuwai
The Manuwai was a paddle steamer, built in 1894 by Yarrow & Co., in London. It was sent to New Zealand aboard the Kaikoura, and was assembled in Wanganui. It was 105 feet 6 inches in length with a width of 18 feet 6 inches, and weighed 117.18 tonnes. The Manuwai could carry up to 400 passengers as well as freight. In June 1922 the Manuwai was purchased from Hatrick & Co., by the Waikato Steam Navigation & Coalmining Co. It was towed from Whanganui to the Waikato and refurbished in Mercer (Verco, 1997).  The Manuwai was used during the 1930s Depression by the Hamilton Sunshine League to take groups of children for holidays at the Port Waikato Health Camp. It was also well known venue for parties, dances and moonlight cruises. “We used to think how romantic it must have been. We’d got to bed and look out the windows to see the Manuwai going past with the music going” (Waikato Millennium Foundation Trust, 2001, p. 38).

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The Manuwai on the Waikato River.  Taken from the west bank looking towards Parana Park

1935, February
The Manuwai on the Waikato River, near the Ferrybank Landing

The Rawhiti II
The Rawhiti II was a paddle steamer. It was purpose built by Alley & McLennan in Glasgow for Roose Shipping at a cost of £18,000. Parts of the Rawhiti II were sent from Glasgow to Mercer for assemblage. The parts were assembled by Tom and Jock McFadgen. The Rawhiti II was 190 feet in length with a width of 35 feet, and weighed 299.38 tonnes. It was launched in Hamilton in November 1925, and took it’s maiden voyage from Hamilton to Mercer. The Rawhiti carried various types of cargo including passengers, cars and freight. In 1948 the Rawhiti was scrapped (Vercoe, 1997).

The Rawhiti II at the Ferrybank Landing

1925, November
The Rawhiti II on her Maiden Voyage at Ferrybank, Hamilton

Aboard the Rawhiti II at the Ferrybank Landing



Vercoe, G. (1997). Bow waves on the Waikato.  Auckland: Reed.

Waikato Millennium Foundation Trust. (2001). Waikato is the name of the River. Hamilton: Waikato Millennium Foundation Trust.



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