When I was young (just a few years ago!) we caught Tom Rewi’s launch to Te Maika for our annual holiday. Over the years he had two launches – the Olivene and the Ionoto – names ingrained in my memory. As previously mentioned, I think one of them burned and the other was shipwrecked, but don’t quote me on that. There was a third smaller launch owned by a “rival” family – the Cygnet. We usually caught one of Tom’s launches but when he (or it) wasn’t available we used the Cygnet.
I do remember my father’s frustration at times when a launch was late or broken down and we would have to wait … and wait… and wait… Eventually Dad had had enough and he bought a small boat so we only had ourselves to rely on. JulieAnn was a small wooden boat – probably about 3 metres long with a small cabin and a Seagull motor – a small Seagull motor! She was painted orange and white and Dad was quite proud of her though I don’t remember sharing his feelings!
I really consider myself fortunate to be alive today after taking the crossing a few times in JulieAnn. Kawhia Harbour can become notoriously rough and the amount of water that flows from the harbour twice a day is incredible. Even today I prefer to cross the harbour mouth on an incoming tide as the volume of water and the strength of the current is a real force to be reckoned with! (More stories on that later!)
JulieAnn’s little Seagull motor was, as my husband calls it, an “eggbeater” – a tiny 2-stroke which powered us very slowly and inefficiently! And now, writing about this, I’m not sure that the Seagull wasn’t always a back-up motor and Dad also had a small 20(ish)hp motor as the main means of pushing the JulieAnn through the water. Whichever motor it was, it didn’t cope well with swells or rough weather as it wasn’t powerful enough to “plane” and hardly powerful enough to push against the current. A slow trip across the harbour in the Ionoto, Olivene or Cygnet would normally take up to half an hour… in the JulieAnn we could add ten minutes to that.
One distinct memory I have is motoring over the deepest part of the harbour, beside the jetty, with quite a swell running underneath. I don’t recall if the tide was on its way in or out but I do know JulieAnn was laden, not only with my young children and myself but all our gear. The swell caught us and, as we weren’t able to outrun it, tossed Dad away from the steering panel. We all went helter-skelter and I was sure we were all going to land in the briny. The one consoling thought I had was that there were people on the jetty, so rescue was close at hand (a hopeful thought!), but what about our luggage?
Eventually, JulieAnn was replaced with Dolphin… same motors but an aluminium, more modern craft, though not much bigger. More stories about Dolphin later…