A group of international yachties who regularly visit Whangarei have created a fund to give back to the local community.

The group, who hail from America, Germany and Britain, have formed the Black Ball Yacht Club, which is open to all who sail into the Town Basin.

David Irvin, from Maine in the United States, lives aboard Rewa and has been one of the driving forces behind the club and the fund.

"It's a way for all of us yachties to give back to the community."

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This was his fourth summer in Whangarei and he said it is a special place, where he feels welcome and the people are friendly.

The name of the club is taken from the black cannon ball which is part of the time ball on the roof of the marina office.

Whangarei Marina Office assistant manager Sharron Beck believes the time ball is the only operational time ball left in New Zealand.

The time ball rises at 12.55pm every day, and drops at exactly 1pm. It is a historic time signalling device which mariners used to set their chronometers too.

The club originally wanted to focus on improving the time ball, but the idea quickly grew into creating a fund to encourage local people to get involved in marine activities. The fund is fuelled by the donations of visiting yachties.

A donation box will sit in the Marina Office so visiting yachties can pitch in.

Irvin said the scope for what the fund could be used for is wide, ranging from apprenticeships for boat-related trades, sea-based youth development or environmental projects.

He said yachties who make donations can also make suggestions. Next spring, the club will decide how to spend the money. The total is up to $1000 after a month.

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Irvin wants to see the fund continue the following year.

The time ball is still getting its upgrade - Jan and Carl Paul off yacht Sequoia are from San Francisco and are former software engineers. The couple have ordered the parts from the US to install a cannonball sound, and a recording which explains what the time ball is.

Jan Paul said it is also their fourth summer in Whangarei and they love it here too.

"We know all the local vendors, the mechanic, the sail maker. We know they're here year after year, they're like friends."

Beck said the club's idea is a good one.

"It's nice that they're acknowledging the spirit of our town, and we appreciate their appreciation. It's like they're adopting us."