Waimarie to be refloated this weekend

By John Maslin

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The Waimarie was slipped about six weeks ago for its repaint and survey but will be refloated on Saturday. Photo/Bevan Conley
The Waimarie was slipped about six weeks ago for its repaint and survey but will be refloated on Saturday. Photo/Bevan Conley

Whanganui's historic paddle steamer will be back on the water next weekend.

The Waimarie has been sitting on a temporary slipway on the banks of the Whanganui River below Dublin St bridge for past few weeks undergoing a marine survey and getting its hull repainted.

But Richard Sheppard, project overseer, said the vessel will be refloated about 1pm on Saturday.

"Painting the Waimarie has been completed, and we'll have our final Maritime NZ inspection done, along with the boiler certification later next week. Once back at the wharf new carpet will be fitted and the interior fixtures will go back in," Mr Sheppard said.

He said inconsistent weather had interrupted the painting schedule and the Waimarie trust had to cancel some of its early season bookings.

"Our contractors, Edmonds Industrial, worked into the weekend for us in order to complete the splendid job of repainting the Waimarie's hull in the traditional Hatrick colours," he said.

Once the boat's back on the water the trust will remove the temporary slipway and reinstate the riverbank.

Evert van Reenen, PS Waimarie manager, said contractors and volunteers could not have done more to speed up the survey and painting and he said everyone involved with the PS Waimarie was looking forward to a bumper season.

Mr van Reenen said strong early bookings and a predicted record year for international visitors to New Zealand were good signs for the iconic Whanganui River attraction which had attracted thousands of visitors to Whanganui for the last 16 years.

"A marketing campaign is well in hand promoting the unique river experience, mainly to international and national visitors, and not only though traditional media," he said.

"This year we're also growing our social media exposure as well as using a personalised Smartphone app telling travellers all about the experience and directing them to Whanganui through GPS."

A range of activities had also been planned for Whanganui people and businesses including a 10 per cent discount for all Whanganui people as a 'thank you' for bringing their out-of-town visitors to the vessel.

"We've also arranged a combined businesses Christmas sailing on December 3 and 9 so that smaller businesses can hold their Christmas function without having the expense of chartering the entire vessel," Mr van Reenen said.

Forward bookings were also available through an automated booking system on the PS Waimarie website.

"These bookings are also very strong with many visitors booking from as far away as the United Kingdom and a surprisingly high number from Germany."

He said the trust was indebted to its volunteers and has had a good response for a call for more volunteers to work either on the vessel or in support onshore. But he said they were still looking for people who would like to act as hosts in the on-board café on a regular basis.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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