Avid Whangarei boaties Pat and Les Gray could only watch as the trimaran they had sailed for 20 years along Northland's Coast was engulfed in flames on its Whangarei Harbour mooring.

The couple sat in their small inflatable boat only metres away as the inferno destroyed years of sailing memories. They had only been ashore for an hour after four days on the harbour when Mrs Gray noticed smoke coming from the boat about 4.30pm on Monday.

"By the time we got back out there it was just an inferno and there was nothing we could do," Mr Gray said. "We watched her burn to the waterline."

Together the Grays had sailed as far south as the Coromandel and to Whangaroa in the North aboard the vessel named Ailsa after Mr Gray's mother.


He said it was too early to say whether they would get another boat; it would be a major financial outlay as Ailsa was not insured.

The vessel was nothing but a burned out hull yesterday morning sitting on the harbour floor at low tide. How the fire started was a mystery as the power and gas had been turned off. Mr Gray said it was possible an electrical fault may have sparked the fire.

Bryn Heatley, son of Whangarei MP Phil Heatley, said he was watching television when he noticed a huge amount of smoke billowing from the boat so he dialled 111 immediately.

Onerahi Station Officer Mike Chubb said the boat burned very quickly.