Harbourmaster at home on the sea
Ever wondered what you can and can’t do on the water? Reporter Rose Cawley sat down for a chat with the Auckland harbourmaster who oversees the waters from Mangawhai and the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour in the north all the way down to Miranda and Kari
The prospect of becoming Auckland’s harbourmaster was enough to bring Andrew Hayton ashore after spending most of his life at sea.
The Englishman first tested his sea legs at 16 when he joined the British Merchant Navy.
‘‘It is just in my blood I guess, I’ve been doing it ever since I left school so it has become my way of life.’’
The 42-year-old says his first stint in Auckland was as a marine accident investigator for Maritime New Zealand.
But after three years here he still needed to check something off his bucket list.
‘‘I’d still not been a captain of a ship at that stage and it was something I needed to do so I went back to sea.’’
As a cruise ship captain he spent years chasing the sun.
‘‘We predominantly spent summer in the Mediterranean and winter in the Carribean.’’
Hayton says the highlight was captaining the biggest ship of his career.
‘‘It was a five-masted sail- ing ship that was 190 metres long called the Windsurf – she carried 320 passengers and 200 crew.’’
But the stability of a nine to five job called and he gave up the sun and headed back to Auckland for a job at what he now calls his home port.
He says the sea isn’t a free-for-all – bylaws govern what you can and can’t do and the harbourmaster’s office enforces them.
They cover everything from wearing a lifejacket to speed limits and the age you have to be to get behind the wheel of certain vessels.
Hayton says aside from the bylaws the key aspects of his job are administering moorings, oil spill response and navigational safety.
He says after the Rena incident systems were put in place to prevent spills around Auckland.
‘‘We put virtual beacons on off-shore hazards. There are about a dozen reefs and rocks that you can’t physically put a buoy or beacon on but are potentially a danger to shipping. Now there is nothing there physically but the computer systems on ships think there is and it will provide a warning if they get too close.’’
He says a big storm has a whole different meaning for him these days.
‘‘Bad weather always brings a range of things – vessels breaking off moorings and dragging anchor. In that last big storm we had 25 boats that ended up aground so that sort of thing keeps you interested for the day.’’
Land ahoy: Auckland habourmaster Andrew Hayton says the sea is in his blood.