Sharing STORIES OFTHE SEA
Even on a cloudy day there is nothing like taking a cruise out on the water ...
And it’s a bonus if you can also learn about New Zealand’s seafaring history while you’re at it.
The New Zealand Maritime Museum sits on the Viaduct Harbour in Auckland and is a lot bigger on the inside than it looks.
After booking myself on a heritage sailing on the museum’s scow Ted Ashby, I begin my visit with a guided tour - which is free with museum entry. Guided tours run twice a day every weekday at 10.30am and 1pm. Don is my guide and takes our small but eager group through to the irst gallery, aptly named Landfalls. Don regales us with an informative conversation about the irst Polynesian and European explorers. The gallery is full of canoes, outriggers and other vessels which us modern travellers have a di icult time imagining as a safe form of open ocean voyaging!
One of the brilliant things about the Maritime Museum is that all of their tour guides and sailing crew are volunteers. They are all passionate about the museum, it’s history and vessels.
This is evident with Don and how thoroughly he knows the country’s maritime history and the museum’s collection. While some might think the Maritime Museum is only for boat lovers, the museum is clearly focussed on sharing stories of the sea.
We continue through the museum and learn about the irst Europeans, mass immigration and the ships and conditions that brought them to New Zealand. One of the neat features is the replica sleeping quarters of a 19th century sailing ship which moves and rocks to mimic conditions at sea. You could hear the creaking as you stood on the moving loor looking at the bunks where a whole family would have slept for up to 3 months.
We carry on through galleries featuring whaling and ferries and hit the crème de la crème for yachting enthusiasts—the Blue Water Black Magic gallery. This gallery serves as a tribute to Sir Peter Blake, commemorating his life and work, including the America’s Cup challenges and defences among others. Dominating the area is the 1995 America’s Cup winning yacht the NZL32 Black Magic. This vessel is so large that the museum was extended and the extension was built around the winning vessel. The gallery is particularly interactive, and the group had plenty of fun building digital yachts, learning how to sail (or in my case sink) e ectively, as well as working with a team to sail a yacht.
Other interesting parts of the museum included the traditional Kiwi bach, which is a New Zealand beach house, a navigational room with a special acoustical quality and the temporary gallery which rotates contemporary art exhibitions every four to six months.
With the fascinating tour over I say goodbye to Don and hello to an hour on the Waitemata Harbour (Auckland Harbour). While I am going on the scow Ted Ashby, the museum has another two working vessels to choose from.
The museum recently spent ive years restoring the WWI hospital motor launch Nautilus. This adorable little gem its eight passengers and runs passengers every Monday. The other cute little vessel is steam boat SS Puke. More than 100 years old, she its ive and can be seen steaming around the Viaduct Harbour on regular weekend trips.
But back to Ted. At irst we motor out of the museum’s marina but as soon as we hit the open water passengers are asked to help hoist the sails. It’s a beautiful day with a slight breeze - just enough to propel us towards the Auckland Harbour Bridge at a comfortable speed. The crew is keen to talk about the vessel and gives us a run-down of the harbour and a bit of history about scows and their various uses.
Ted Ashby is one of two working scows in the country. The vessel runs twice a day from Tuesday through Sunday from the museum. And it’s a beautiful trip. We sail under the bridge, even seeing some bungy jumpers in process, and then head back to museum. The trip was a relaxing and scenic way to end my museum visit.
Anyone looking for a relaxing day of sailing and history should not miss the Maritime Museum. It’s certainly not just for those who enjoy boating—it’s so much more.