Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sailing on the "Jane Gifford"

Until well into the twentieth century, the most convenient and reliable form of transport around much of New Zealand was on the water. Roads, especially in the North Island, were frequently little better than muddy bogs, and rail reached only the larger centres. The coastal steamers that characters often use in my books provided much of the passenger service, but the great workhorses for transporting freight and stock were the flat-bottomed scows, which needed little draught and could travel up rivers as well as hugging the coast. Only one fully rigged scow survives from the fleet that once served New Zealand: the Jane Gifford, which after a long and eventful life has now come home to Warkworth. The volunteers who have restored her are still getting her to the point of being able to take passengers under sail, but they do offer regular cruises using the boat's engines. We recently went for a short cruise along the Mahurangi River, and despite the weather it was a thoroughly enjoyable outing.

More on the Jane Gifford's history here.


  1. A timely post, this - I'm working out how to get my characters from Dunedin to Hokitka in the 1870s - thanks, Shayne.

    1. That would've been quite a journey, I think! Hokitika's harbour was a busy one, but that wild Tasman sea must have made it challenging. But an overland journey would have been even more daunting.

      Once they got there, they probably wouldn't be too keen to make a return journey in a hurry. :)