Trevor Pennington’s dream to find a shallow bottomed vintage vessel to showcase the Waiuku River and Manukau Harbour was finally realised with the discovery of the 80-year-old Great Dame, RATAHI, in Tauranga. She had been bumped around a bit in her long life but he fell in love with her.
RATAHI means ‘Day Out Fishing’ and as a popular fishing charter vessel she was endearingly known as ‘The Fish Whisperer’. Trevor sailed her around the top of New Zealand and across the treacherous Manukau Bar to her new home―not a voyage for the faint hearted―and she’s now tucked safely down in Waiuku. He spent the following four months lovingly restoring her to her original condition and under the ‘scenic sounding’ name, Waiuku Harbour Cruises Facebook page was set up and Manukau Charters was born.
(Ok―challenge. How do the two names find their proper places? We need one message!)
One summer’s worth of people have had a taste of cruising on board this charming boat. They’ve peeked in on the elegant Waitangi Falls, stopped by a lively little bird sanctuary, enjoyed a snapshot of the Awhitu Peninsula and sailed past historic landmarks. It’s a whistle stop tour, with Trevor squeezing as much into the two hours the tide allows. As it stands, the Waiuku wharf is the one and only, all ages, all abilities accessible wharf on the Manukau. Time and tide height need to be perfectly aligned for the boat to go out and so excursions are infrequent and special. Extended trips require transfer to the boat via a stable flat-bottomed tender, so are by no means accessible to everyone.
Trevor’s goals include enabling visitors to readily enjoy the full length of the idyllic Awhitu Peninsula. Sailing round the tip of the Manukau Heads, playing ‘spot the lighthouse’ with the kids. Staring in awe at the plunging cliff faces of the spectacular Huia Coastline and getting up close and personal with the Orca pods that often feed and play there – all from the decks of the romantic, beloved RATAHI. Another goal is to get schools, and other groups of all ages and abilities, out fishing year-round, experiencing and learning about this phenomenal body of water, New Zealand’s second largest Harbour. The Manukau Harbour is rich in beauty and steeped in history, but only a corner is currently accessible. What will it take to change that?
This fine example of a start-up tourism venture on the Manukau is now hanging by a thread and is needed more than ever in the current climate. Tapping into the depths of possibility will be realised with proper structure and resources in place―but only then.