The former Whangarei-based tug boat Waitangi is currently chugging its way to Vanuatu on a new lease of life.

Two men who worked on the sturdy little vessel when she was still owned by the Northland Harbour Board are among the crew of 10 who set off from Port Nikau on a chilly, wind-whipped Thursday afternoon. They are Marty Wedding, a former ship's engineer and the skipper on the delivery trip to Port Vila, and Clint Laurence.

Five of the crew on board are from New Zealand and five are from Vanuatu.

Now renamed Kokiri, the Waitangi was purchased by Tuna Fishing Vanuatu Co Ltd in July. The company's owners, Vanuatu opposition MP and former cabinet member Chris Emelee and his wife, Northland-born Maryann Emelee, were among a small group farewelling the crew as they left Whangarei on the 2380km voyage expected to take six days.

Tuna Fishing Vanuatu owner Chris Emelee.PHOTOS/JOHN STONE
Tuna Fishing Vanuatu owner Chris Emelee.PHOTOS/JOHN STONE

No special work was needed to make the tug seaworthy for her trip across the Pacific.

"She's been well looked after even though she's been sitting at the port for a long time," Mr Emelee said.

'She's a little beauty' seems to be the general consensus of people who once worked on the tug or have admired her classic looks while she's been sitting on the berth, waiting for a new lease of life.

During the preparation for the trip many former crew or harbour board workers came to check out what was happening with "the beautiful little tug" that was brought to Whangarei Harbour over 30 years ago.

"Many people have fond memories of her. One of them was 74 and he said 'if you need any crew, let me know'," Mrs Emelee said.