Getting ready to inspect historic vessel

By John Maslin

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Richard Sheppard with the cradle that will hold the PS Waimarie when she's winched from the Whanganui River for its marine survey next month. PHOTO/STUART MUNRO
Richard Sheppard with the cradle that will hold the PS Waimarie when she's winched from the Whanganui River for its marine survey next month. PHOTO/STUART MUNRO

A novel slipway is taking shape on the banks of the Whanganui River that will soon be a temporary home for the city's historic paddle steamer Waimarie.

Excavation has already begun at the spot where the Waimarie will be winched onto the riverbank on Saturday, August 6, for its five-yearly marine survey, which costs $200,000.

That involves a detailed inspection and painting the hull before she is back in the water, expected to be three weeks later.

Richard Sheppard, chairman of the PS Waimarie Restoration and Navigation Trust, said slipping would take on a truly historic flavour with stationary steam traction engines from Feilding hauling the boat from the river.

"The Waimarie will make her own way to the riverbank to be positioned in the cradle. Once there the traction engines will haul the cradle onto the riverbank," Mr Sheppard said.

"The cradle was built for Q-West Boat Builders but we've modified it a bit for this job, adding two trolley wheels to make is easier to position it on land."

He said approval was needed from Horizons Regional Council and the Whanganui District Council before the site work could begin and he said both councils had been "extremely helpful".

"We're removing the topsoil and replacing it with shellrock firm enough to take the weight of the boat and cradle. Once the job is done we'll restored the site to its original condition.

"As it is we've had to shift the site a further 25m downstream because the river keeps changing. We couldn't wait any longer."

Mr Sheppard said the site would be made secure throughout the project and he hoped the public would bear with them until the job was finished.

"The Waimarie is a steel-hulled and riveted boat so she has to be inspected every five years. When we don't take her out of the water we send down divers every other year to do the inspecting."

He said the job had been made possible by funding from the Powerco Trust, Lion Foundation and First Sovereign. Combined they had contributed more than $200,000.

"And local firms including Loaders, Emmetts Cranes and Geo Civil Engineering are all playing significant rolls. Without this sort of support we'd really struggle to make it happen," he said,

The survey and repaint of the hull was scheduled last year but the June floods disrupted that.

The trust had looked at putting the slip further downstream where the old Hatrick wharf used to be, near the intersection of Anzac Pde and Georgetti Rd, but the costs were prohibitive because a more permanent structure would be needed.

Mr Sheppard said the Waimarie has been surveyed at Q-West boatyard before but that option was dropped because it involved dredging the area in front of that slipway and the yard had a lot of work on.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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