Even on a cloudy day there is noth­ing like tak­ing a cruise out on the wa­ter ...

Go Travel New Zealand - - Auckland -

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.

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