The safe haven of Napier's inner harbour proved to be just about the toughest part of the latest journey of double-hulled waka Te Matau a Maui when it was set adrift from its West Quay moorings.
The waka returned from a 1500km-plus round trip to the Chatham Islands on January 23, and an unscheduled, unmanned departure from its berth when set adrift by unidentified individuals just four days and a few hours later, between midnight and 1am on Friday.
Lead navigator Piripi Smith, who has been with the waka hourua since before it was launched 12 years ago, said some repairable damage was done but it could have been much worse had not been for the alertness of the skipper of fishing boat the Brenda Kay, moored near the waka.
The Brenda Kay was back at its mooring on Tuesday but skipper Bill Mason was unable to be contacted by Hawke's Bay Today.
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He is said to have secured a line to the waka as it started to drift toward yachts and launches berthed at the Napier Sailing Club marina.
Smith said a handrail had been ripped free and there was other minor damage that must be repaired before the waka puts to sea again – with a history of about 20 Pacific voyages, the navigational training of more than 200 crew, and educational experiences for thousands of Hawke's Bay school children.
Smith says vandalism, theft and even defecation on the deck have all been part of the indignities inflicted by those illegally climbing aboard over the years when the waka is moored and unattended.
"It was the first time someone has actually untied our mooring lines intentionally," he said.
But over the years fishing vessels have been freed from their moorings in the marina at night-time, in one case two on one night.
Smith was planning to discuss issues of security with council authorities, pending possible better location within redevelopment of the Iron Pot.
The impact of the pandemic has put-paid to most school visits, and the next voyage may be some time away, although a coastal voyage is planned for waka hourua gathering Te Hau Komaru later in the year at Kawhia, on the west coast of the North Island.