Ex-navy man Richard Cox has been seeing a former Wahine lifeboat parked up in Whanganui's Ikitara Rd for years and can't bear to watch it deteriorate.

On April 10, 1968, he was aboard a navy ship in Hong Kong.

"We woke up at 6am on our ship and went down to breakfast, and we heard the Wahine had sunk, with loss of life."

On that day there were 734 passengers and crew aboard, and 51 people died.

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Only three lifeboats from the stricken Wahine made it to shore in Wellington Harbour when the ferry foundered after striking Barrett Reef during the 1968 storm.
Only three lifeboats from the stricken Wahine made it to shore in Wellington Harbour when the ferry foundered after striking Barrett Reef during the 1968 storm.

Only the four starboard lifeboats could be launched, official records say, and only three of them reached shore.

Mr Cox believes the one languishing in Whananui East is the one that made it to the other side of Wellington Harbour, and was captured in a newspaper photograph.

"There's a photo of a policeman standing by it and helping people off."

The boat in Ikitara Rd has had a cabin put on. Neighbour William Buchanan said it was owned by Graeme Tulloch, who died about five years ago, and whose estate is in dispute.

The boat has been sitting in the yard of an unoccupied house for years, he said, and the hull is full of water.

Only three lifeboats from the stricken Wahine made it to shore in Wellington Harbour when the ferry foundered after striking Barrett Reef during the 1968 storm.
Only three lifeboats from the stricken Wahine made it to shore in Wellington Harbour when the ferry foundered after striking Barrett Reef during the 1968 storm.

Mr Cox says it has a place in history. He would like to see it restored, and on display in a maritime museum.

"Being an ex-sailor I got to the point where I think it's a disgrace. It should be put in a museum because it's got history with it."

Only three lifeboats from the stricken Wahine made it to shore in Wellington Harbour when the ferry foundered after striking Barrett Reef during the 1968 storm.
Only three lifeboats from the stricken Wahine made it to shore in Wellington Harbour when the ferry foundered after striking Barrett Reef during the 1968 storm.