Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Rena lifeboat donated as cancer lifesaver

Moss Carlin hears similar lifeboats overseas fetch up to $38,000. Photo / Alan Gibson
Moss Carlin hears similar lifeboats overseas fetch up to $38,000. Photo / Alan Gibson

As an auction item, you wouldn't think an industrial fibreglass lifeboat shaped like a rugby ball and coloured like an over-ripe tangerine would fetch much.

But it's the stencilled emblazoned on the side of this boat - "Rena Monrovia" - that's expected to add a little market value. The 7.5m-long craft, one of two taken from the container ship grounded off the Bay of Plenty coast, has been donated to the Child Cancer Foundation by the Rena's owners to be auctioned on Trade Me over the next fortnight.

Port of Tauranga worker Moss Carlin, who became a stalwart of the charity after his teenage daughter Victoria was diagnosed with cancer, could not help but think of a fundraising opportunity when seeing the two lifeboats moored at the port every day.

"I'd see the two of them sitting up there and I just knew there was a use for them somewhere."

He eventually worked up the mettle to ask New Zealand Marshalling and Stevedoring owner Brian Shee to broker an arrangement with their owners, the Daina Shipping Company, and the deal was done.

"They thought it was a good idea and a wonderful cause, and it's a great way for them to get involved and give back. Brian deserves all the accolades really, I was just the cheeky bugger who got the ball rolling."

Having just been moved to a dock a few metres from the Mt Maunganui restaurant owned by AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, the lifeboat has already attracted plenty of attention.

"There's been heaps of comments about it. This absolutely has great novelty value."

Although Mr Carlin hasn't set the auction reserve for the boat, his inquiries around the world found similar craft had been valued at between $10,000 and $38,000.

"But because it's got Rena on it, we'd obviously be hoping we'll get as much as possible."

Capable of holding 40 people, the boat comes complete with a 45hp engine, valued at $40,000, ropes, hooks, oars, fire extinguishers and emergency food rations. A speed boat it isn't - the three-tonne craft's purpose as a lifepod for high seas meant handling wasn't a big consideration - but Mr Carlin believes the options are endless.

"It's not an open boat and is a bit restrictive, but it could make a houseboat quite readily if you took out a few walls. Otherwise, it's a great evacuation pod and and it's all good fun.

"If anybody wanted to take it out for a beer, we've had a couple of trips already with friends, and the kids would love having a drive."

The other boat will go to Bay of Plenty Polytechnic's Maritime Fishing Programme for use in training.

On Monday, the Rena's owners offered a helicopter used in the ship's recovery to airlift a yacht grounded on the rocks at the base of Mt Maunganui.

- NZ Herald

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