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Classic Yachts: Winston Peters' forebears were one of NZ earliest boat building families

by Alan Sefton 19 Jul 09:09 UTC 19 July 2020
Conservators Sara Gainsford and Susanne Grieve Rawson with the hull of the Daring © Classic Yacht Charitable Trust

The Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt Hon Winston Peters was present at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, for the ceremonial relaunch of the 58ft Bailey design, Ida.

While many people would know that the Deputy PM is a former New Zealand Maori rugby representative, few would be aware that he has a family boatbuilding background that led to his taking a special interest in the repatriation and restoration the classic yacht Ida.

From his mother’s side of the family, Winston’s forebear Donald McInnes, a Scot by birth, was part of the major migration of pioneers, many of them boatbuilders, from Nova Scotia to Waipu in the mid-1850s.

McInnes had learned the boatbuilding trade in Pictou, Nova Scotia and opened his first New Zealand shipyard in Mangawhai’s Shipbuilders Bay in 1862. Among the yard’s creations, in 1863, was the 16.2m trading schooner Daring (32 tons), built by McInnes and his partner Donald Hugh McKenzie for Onehunga trader and store-owner David Kirkwood. She was launched 12 years after the schooner America won what was to become the America's Cup in 1851, and seven years before the first match for the world most prestigious sailing trophy, which is now housed in the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The Daring plied her trade mostly on the dangerous, bar-strewn west coast of the North Island and on 22 February, 1865, she became another of the Coast’s victims when she was lost off the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour, failing to claw her way off a lee shore (Muriwai Beach) in a south westerly gale.

Rather than risk the harbour entrance, her master, Captain Samuel Phipps, wore ship and ran her aground on a sandy beach about 1½ miles to the south. She was, Phipps reported to her owner, “uninjured” but unless there was a wind change to the north, it would be difficult to get her off again.

After 10 days of trying, with a group of 30 helpers that included Maoris recruited from a nearby village, they had to admit defeat and abandon the Daring to the elements on one of the West Coast’s most isolated and exposed stretches of coastline.

Nothing more was seen or heard of the Daring until 153 years later when, on Wednesday 30 May 2018, the New Zealand Herald reported: “The remains of a ship which ran aground 153 years ago have been discovered on an Auckland beach.

“The skeleton of the Daring, a 16m two-masted schooner, has been exposed at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour on NZ Defence Force land at South Head and has already attracted much attention with people making the trip out just to get a glimpse of it.

There have been elevated high tides recently which explains why such a substantial wreck that has been buried for many years has become exposed like this. It may well get covered up again."

Racing the clock before that could happen, Auckland waterfront personality John Street, MNZM, and maritime author Baden Pascoe formed the Daring Rescue Group to save what they immediately recognized as an invaluable example of early ship building in New Zealand.

Time was now of the essence! The remains of the Daring, for most of 150-odd years, had been buried in and protected by wet sand so that she re-emerged in a new century in a state of preservation that astonished all that surveyed her. But she was now completely exposed to the elements and there was no knowing how much more punishment she would take before breaking up and being lost forever.

On Friday, 14 December 2018, the Stuff New Zealand web site was able to report: “It's taken several heavy-duty moving trucks, five days and more than $1 million to remove a 153-year-old shipwreck from a West Auckland beach. The Daring, a schooner uncovered by shifting sands at Muriwai Beach in May, has been successfully removed, fully intact, by the Daring Rescue Group. Volunteers slept on the beach between tides as the ship was excavated over three days in an operation that began on December 10.”

Lifted carefully from the sands, the Daring was placed on a specialised low loader for the 40 kilometres journey along the beach to the Muriwai township where it took to the roads for the final part of the journey to the superyacht building yard of Yachting Developments at Hobsonville where preservation work is being carried out before selective restoration of the vessel begins.

The plan is to restore the vessel to the exact condition she was in when she emerged from the sands in May 2018. To this end, all the parts that were scavenged from the vessel when she first appeared have been retrieved and are included in the preservation process. That process and the selected restoration is being carried out by the Daring Rescue Group in consultation with Heritage New Zealand and with the hands-on advice of appropriately qualified experts in the fields of archaeology, conservation, genealogy and reconstruction.

The remarkably intact remains of the schooner officially belong to The Crown, under the Protected Objects Act that is administered by Heritage New Zealand. The latter appointed the Daring Rescue Group to oversee not only the salvage and restoration of the vessel but also her future exhibition as a unique example of early New Zealand designed and built trading vessels and their construction.

For more on the Daring and additional images click here

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