A tall sailing ship has moored in Tauranga Harbour for some repair work ahead of its journey to Fiji where it will carry out a humanitarian aid project.

The three-masted, metal-hulled ship was, in fact, Alvei, a 38m square-rigged schooner registered in Port Vila that spends part of each year in New Zealand and the rest sailing around the South Pacific.

It arrived in Pilot Bay on Monday from the Bay of Islands.

Crew member Taylor Broussad said Alvei had come to Tauranga for some "quick repairs" at Vessel Works, the city's newly opened marine precinct.

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From Tauranga it will head to Fiji to carry out a humanitarian aid project that mostly involved installing drinking water tanks, she said.

They had hoped to leave for Fiji more than a month ago but were delayed.

Broussad said the ship had a crew of eight at the moment but could take 17, so they were also advertising for new crew members while in Tauranga.

The crew was usually made up of backpackers and travellers who volunteered their time and contributed a weekly fee to cover their food and fuel.

The cost was advertised as US$300 (NZ$454) during the sailing season from April to November and US$150 (NZ$227) for the maintenance season from December to March.

Skipper Evan Logan said the ship last visited Tauranga a decade ago.

The ship started life in 1920 as a 92-foot steel cargo boat built to be a herring drifter.

Californian-born Logan brought it in 1986 in Norway with partner Bart Willems and over the next eight years transformed it into a sailing ship.

The maiden voyage under sail was taken in 1995.

The ship was the subject of a daylong Air Force search in December 2007 when it did not arrive in the Bay of Islands from Vanuatu as scheduled with nine on board.

Marine Precinct manager Phil Wardale said Alvei would be the first tall sailing ship to be hauled out by the new travel lift.

"The intention is to have the boat hauled out of the water at the start of next week," he said.

He said earlier this week the precinct hosted 90 marine industry people visiting Tauranga for the annual New Zealand Marine Operators Association Marina and Boatyard Conference.

Alvei by the numbers

- 38m square-rigged schooner
- 3 masts
- 16 sails
- 538 sq m total sail area
- 7km of rigging
- 17 crew maximum
- 1920 built as a cargo ship
- 1995 converted to a sailing ship.
- Source: alvei.org