The Motor Vessel Wairua will welcome the 2020 year by celebrating 115 years since its maiden voyage.
It's a celebration captain Sam Mordey has been planning for.
He has been able to track the vintage riverboat from when it left London, arrived in Whanganui and was then launched and commissioned into service.
Mordey said it has come a long way since it arrived at Whanganui's town wharf on December 9, 1904.
"It was just a bare hull in the beginning. They launched it incomplete because the boilers and the engines arrived at the town wharf on board the SS Huia and they had to launch the boat and tow them across because they didn't have a crane at the workshops that could lift the boilers or the engine."
After the MV Wairua was launched, the boilers were fitted and the boat was returned to the slipway so the cabin could be built.
The boat was put back in the Whanganui River on December 31 and set out on its maiden voyage on January 1.
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"It [the river] was State Highway 1 before the railway and roads were complete and for 34 years, if you were travelling between Wellington and Auckland, chances are you went on this."
Mordey has just completed his fourth season as captain after purchasing the MV Wairua from Dave McDermid in 2016 when he was 23.
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A definite highlight, he said, was negotiating the vessel through 19 rapids as it travelled 50km up the Whanganui River to Downes Hut in July 2019, a journey that had not been made in 81 years.
It is a journey that he had been longing to make and Mordey said he felt a real sense of achievement when he completed it.
"We have a duty to history and to the future to preserve the vessel but I believe we have a duty to preserve the traditional skills of navigation and looking after those skills as well."
He said it was essential to make the journey and to pass on the skills to skippers he is now training.
"It is vital, otherwise you get to the point where people would actually lose awareness that it had ever been done and that it's just as important to keep the stories and practices of the guys who were doing it alive as it is to keep the boat running."
Mordey has two part-time staff and operates his business all year round.
Between October and May, he offers picnic trips to Hipango Park, and in winter months runs shorter river cruises four days a week and every day in the school holidays.
"We don't do a high volume business, we focus on a niche market."
On the tour, people eat in a historic cafe, walk around beautiful gardens and take a tour of St Mary's Church at Upokongaro, he said.
"We're actually doing something tangible to protect the heritage of many things."
He said the easiest part of his job was driving the boat; the more difficult part was keeping people engaged.
"They don't want history rattled off at them for two hours, it has to be more than that."
Mordey said he likes to give an informal experience where passengers can get involved and become engaged and leave knowing the significance of the vessel.