New Zealand is recognized as a sea fearing nation with its history rooted in fishing. With the sea in our blood, it comes as no surprise that Kiwi boat design and construction is recognized as leading edge. The America’s Cup wins have confirmed this in the eyes of the world.

One in three households in New Zealand’s largest city owns a boat! Auckland claims to have more boats per head of population than any other city in the world. I live in Auckland and only know one friend who owns a boat but it is estimated that 40% of Aucklanders own a motorboat, 15% own a yacht and 14% have a launch of some kind. (I must be mixing in the wrong company!)

Auckland is surrounded by the sea and boasts 52 beaches within the urban boundaries. This city of 1.7 million supports 39 yachting clubs and it is common to see young students on the water after school in their training boats. Yachting competitions are taken seriously as every young sailor dreams of being the next man to secure the Americas Cup for New Zealand.

Westhaven Marina

Auckland used to be called ‘The Queen City’ but after NZ won the America’s Cup in 1995 it became the ‘City of Sails’ and this moniker has stuck. Westhaven, one of the city’s 7 marinas, has over 2000 moorings, making it the largest marina in the Southern Hemisphere. 140,000 yachts and launches are registered in Auckland. The city is also home to 60,700 of the country’s 150,000 registered yachtsmen.  Large regattas are staged throughout the year, especially over the summer months. A harbour race is held every Wednesday and has become one of Auckland’s oldest sporting fixtures.

Yacht Race on Auckland Harbour


With so much focus on nautical affairs, it is no surprise that Auckland’s marine industry currently employs around 3000 boat builders and generates 1.2 billion dollars to the economy. Local companies design and build anything from trailer power boats to racing yachts and super yachts. The city is recognized as one of the best in the world for re-fitting super yachts. With more than 4100 of these luxurious boats in the world today, this is quite a money earner for the Auckland region. I spent a day on a super yacht off the coast of Spain and was impressed with the beautifully designed and arranged interior furnishings and fittings. Everything was of the highest quality made of the finest woods and designed by top interior decorators.  It seemed to me that apart from the yacht’s outward appearance, it came down to how it was fitted out that mattered. It was all about impressing everyone that stepped onboard. Local boat builders understand the special reputation New Zealander’s have for innovation, quality and enterprise and this has become a major selling point for the country’s largest super yacht builder who is able to provide the luxurious sea craft the super rich demand.


Beginning in the 1960s and continuing over the following two decades, Auckland was hell bent on modernizing in an attempt to become an international city. It was a period when anything that looked old fashioned, especially buildings, was destroyed and replaced with less than exciting structures. Fortunately, over the past decade, that attitude has changed and now “old is beautiful”. Auckland has achieved its aim to be an international city and the city fathers now realize how important it is to preserve its history and heritage. This applies to the two remaining harbor ferries.

The Kestrel was built in 1905 and is Auckland’s most significant maritime icon. The wooden ferry was launched on December 14, 1905 and according to the Kestrel Preservation website, “She was the ultimate Edwardian verandah gliding across the jewel of our harbour.” During her 96 years of service, it is estimated the ferry carried more passengers than any other vessel to ply New Zealand waters.


I used to ride the old vessel when it still operated on the Devonport run. At that time, it was used as a backup ferry in busy times. It was also used for functions such as birthday parties and staff treats.  I liked to sit at the bow on the lower deck and enjoy the thumping of the old diesel engine as it made its sedate way from the city across the harbor to the North Shore. I still remember the smell of old timbers, oil and damp rope. It was slower than the modern ferry that also ran this route, but I found it relaxing and pleasantly welcoming. Maybe it was the history of 111 years plying the harbor that gave this old ship its special atmosphere. The Kestrel was the last of the big double-ended Waitemata Harbour Ferries to remain afloat until it mysteriously sunk at its Wynyard Wharf berth while awaiting some restoration after being towed back to Auckland from Tauranga where it had been unsuccessful as a floating restaurant.

I went to photograph the old girl before she sank and I have to say, it was a forlorn scene. Recently, the Kestrel Preservation Society has lifted the ferry off the sea floor and the hull was found to be in better condition than thought after her immersion. A new owner has purchased the boat and one report says she will once again ply the harbor while another says she will become a restaurant for the second time and be moored close to the Viaduct Harbour close to the numerous restaurants now found there.


The 40 metre SS Toroa has been a fixture close to the North Western Motorway for years. It looks very odd on its elevated position near a busy road junction. It also looks battered and broken but over the past year, I’ve noticed the restoration work has progressed a little faster.

The kauri clad vessel’s steam engine is mainly rebuilt, and work continues restoring the boiler and other machinery and equipment aboard. Nearly a kilometre of bulb-angle framing, 200 square metres of steel plate and several thousand rivets, as well as hundreds of bulkheads have been replaced so Aucklanders look forward to the day when the old steam ferry will once again chug across the harbor.

The Toroa was one of 8 Albatross class ferries plying the Waitemata Harbour until removed from service in 1980. During her time on the Devonport run, the ferry daily carried 20,000 passengers. The old vessel is believed to be the only surviving steam-powered, double-ended wooden ferry in the world.

SS Toroa in her Prime (


Named after the Auckland Harbor Board’s first chairman, The William C Daldy was launched in Scotland in 1935 and sailed across the world to take up harbor duties in Auckland. She was a familiar sight for 40 years but by 1975 the little tug’s days were numbered. In March 1977 she was replaced by the locally built motor tug Daldy. When word spread that the ageing steam tug was going to be scrapped, a group of boat lovers formed the William C Daldy Preservation Society. In 1989, the perversion society was able to buy the vessel for one dollar. The members volunteer to maintain and sail the tug. For a few years, I lived only a short walk from where the tug was tied up. It was always a joy to see it chugging around the harbor with a plume of smoke trailing behind the tall funnel. In fact, depending on the wind direction, I could smell the coal burning smoke as the tug was preparing for a trip. Today, the beautiful little steam boat hosts popular harbor excursions for all those Aucklanders with boating in their blood who also value this survivor of the city’s maritime past.

William C Daldy

From designing super yachts to preserving old steam boats, the people of Auckland are justly proud of their maritime heritage.

Ceidrik Heward


  1. Ceidrik, I’m absolutely amazed and impressed.
    Wow, you are busy.
    And here I am, still working on my 600 pages. Maybe seeing your work will be the inspiration I needed.
    Take care and, if you have the time, please let me hear from you.
    Thanks, Horst

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