After almost 160-years, an ill-fated unique vessel has returned to its final resting place of Mangawhai, welcomed by a lone piper in an emotional dawn ceremony today.
The Daring is a 17m schooner built from Kauri by a Nova Scotian boat builder in Mangawhai in 1863. She was used to transport goods along the coast before there were roads or rail. But, eight months later, she stranded at Waikato Heads and was reported a wreck.
However, insurance enabled subsequent repair and re-floating before the vessel was aground again another eight months later in a controlled beaching after being caught in a strong wind.
The skipper considered this the better option rather than risk loss of boat and life on the Kaipara bar. Relaunching into a constant surf over following days proved fruitless and the uninsured Daring was abandoned intact on the beach and subsequently buried under sand dunes where she remained until becoming exposed on Muriwai Beach in 2018 by receding sand dunes.
The ensuing lengthy and complicated lift, shift and preserve rescue operation of the 31-tonne, gaff-rigged, two-masted ship involved staying in a tent village at the isolated site while the rescue took place using five excavators, a bulldozer and a boat haulage transporter carried out at low tide.
Archaeologists gathered around 100 plastic bags of artefacts from within and around the hull throughout the process, including clothing, shaving equipment, smokers' pipes, knife sheaths, leather shoes and belts and various fragments.
Auckland-based classic yachts veteran Larry Paul and four other Aucklanders formed "Daring Rescue" with the aim of salvaging and transporting her to storage where a preservation process could be done before public display back at Mangawhai at a cost of over $5 million. They were joined by three Mangawhai locals and became the Mangawhai Daring Trust.
"When it came out of the sand, its timbers looked like freshly sawn kauri, unbelievably preserved in the iron sands of the west coast," Paul said.
Effort was focused on conservation rather than full restoration as the wreck wasn't up for the latter. For the past nearly three years, The Daring has been kept in an Auckland superyacht facility and over $560,000, comprising mostly donations, has been spent on her recovery.
Daring's 6am homecoming ceremony was attended by over 100, including local iwi members who performed a karakia, and Paul said the lone piper was fitting given her Nova Scotian roots.
"It was moving and the chairman of the trust, Jim Wintle, was quite cut up to see it arrive. Everyone was very emotional.
"It was just this beautiful, cold morning with the lone piper, flashing lights on trucks, it was very significant," Paul described of the poignant moment.
He said, following the ceremony, the vessel was lifted by crane – to the soundtrack of Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home – onto its new and final resting place, a purpose-built steel cradle.
Paul said the ship was the only example of its type in the world and international archaeologists and conservators had visited the recovered ship.
She will now reside alongside the Mangawhai Museum for a three-year conservation project while a venue is sought to establish the Daring Discovery Centre before being open to the public. This will serve as an interactive and educational facility housing the vessel.
Paul said plans included an area where students can explore the vessel in a 3D manner while learning the history of the owners, builders and skipper along with viewing both the recovered artefacts and ship itself. The trust also hopes to include original tools, such as tree nails, used to build the vessel.
Further information, including how to donate toward the project, can be found at: www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz