Captain Timothy Nicol never got to see his book about New Zealand lighthouses published but would have been thrilled it's now on bookstore shelves, his wife Joanna said.

Tim, 83, from Paraparaumu, died on March 31 from prostate cancer, while Sunset to Sunrise was being published.

Sunset to Sunrise, an illustrated history of New Zealand's lighthouses, by Timothy Nicol.
Sunset to Sunrise, an illustrated history of New Zealand's lighthouses, by Timothy Nicol.

The book, a labour of love, is not only his legacy, but a fascinating history of all of New Zealand's lighthouses as well as stories of hardship and perseverance endured by stout-hearted keepers and their families.

Tim was safety services manager from the Maritime Safety Authority [now called Maritime New Zealand] from 1990 to 1999.

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Together with lighthouse engineer Ken Belt, who lives in Paraparaumu Beach, they maintained and renewed all of the country's lighthouses travelling widely by land, sea and air to do so.

His seagoing career, his camera and passion for the safety of mariners led to the eventual writing of Sunset to Sunrise in his retirement years.

Tim had a solid base to work from because of his role with the authority as well as his numerous photographs of lighthouses he had taken in the course of his job over nine years.

He started the project in 2001 and chipped away at it while leading a busy life that included many interests such as woodturning and tramping.

"A lot of his time was outdoors but when he was at home the main focus getting this lighthouse book into shape, which of course was huge, being history, because there was a lot of archival research and going to different parts of the country," Joanna said.

Before the couple went away on holiday to the Coromandel at the end of 2017 Tim had finished the manuscript.

"We had five samples set out ready on the table to send to publishers when we got home," Joanna said.

"Interestingly a year to the day, when we sent them to five different publishers, that same date, November 22, the publisher [New Holland Publishers] rang and said he had the book in his office.

"Tim knew before he died that it was going to be published because the contract was on its way to be signed which was very satisfying."

Joanna was "absolutely delighted" with the book.

"It's history that is valuable for New Zealand."

She said her husband was a humble man and a great raconteur.

"Everybody says that, and being a raconteur, he's written a good book.

"Even I enjoy it.

"I might be biased as his wife, but I'm not a nautical expert at all and I just enjoy it as a read."

The front cover features one of Tim's photographs of a lighthouse at Cape Fowlwind.

"We sat there for a while waiting for the light to go on and then this glorious sunset emerged and it is very synonymous with the title."

Tim's lifetime love of the sea started in his childhood years in East Africa and seeing large ships at Mombasa.

"Off he went, at the age of 14, to HMS Worcester, on the Thames, and trained as merchant naval cadet."

He became captain in the British Merchant Navy, sailed the world, and in 1970 arrived in New Zealand to lecture, set up safety standards, rebuild the marine radio system and manage the country's lighthouses.

"I think he always felt called to the position of being able to ensure the safety of mariners in whatever way he could."

Sunset to Sunrise is in bookstores now or via www.newhollandpublishers.com