The Jane Gifford Trust has launched a rare solar-powered boat as part of a plan to allow sightseers on the Mahurangi River to experience a range of transport options – from ancient to modern.
The Hauiti will complement the Trust’s flagship vessel the Jane Gifford, which is New Zealand’s last remaining sailing scow. Other boats in the trust’s expanding fleet include the steamship Kapanui and the fleet will soon also feature traditional Whitehall rowing boats, whose design dates back to the 1890s.
Trustee Peter Thompson says all the boats will add to the atmosphere on the river and its tributaries – especially once extensive river dredging operations are complete – which is expected to attract even
The Hauiti is an ex-navy whaler built in 1962 and was formerly used for training sailors in rowing, sailing and motorboating.
Peter says when the trust acquired it, it was almost beyond repair. Deficiencies included a large hole in the boat’s hull below the waterline.
But two years of work by Peter, trust members and other volunteers at Peter’s workshop in Woodcocks Road, Warkworth, has seen it transformed.
In addition to undertaking extensive repairs, the trust completely refurbished and modified the boat – removing the centreboard and adding comfortable seating and a canopy. The centreboard is no longer needed as the boat will not be used for sailing.
The boat was named Hauiti in honour of a former steamship of that name that plied the Mahurangi River in the early 1900s.
The original plan was to install a conventional diesel engine in Hauiti, but volunteer Peter Sewell suggested a quieter electric motor might prove a better option.
That suggestion was accepted and prompted the decision to use solar panels alone to power the motor and charge the boat’s battery. It’s rare for a boat to be entirely dependent on solar energy, but it means that the Hauiti does not need to source any fuel or electricity from land.
There are five solar panels on the Hauiti’s roof, each generating 200W.
The boat was launched in the Mahurangi River just before Christmas and immediately began to perform just as hoped.
On a bright, sunny day it can reach 4.5 knots without relying on previously stored energy in the battery.
Peter says even on cloudy days, drain on the battery appears to be minimal as it is still being continuously recharged.
The boat has so far reached speeds of 6 knots and the boat has a theoretical top speed of 6.9 knots.
The quietness of the boat has proved a boon for observing marine life and birds, which are no longer frightened off by a noisy motor. Bird song and fish jumping in the water can also be more easily heard and therefore spotted.
The boat would originally have accommodated up to 18 sailors. The carrying capacity of the modified boat is still to be determined, but it will be for smaller groups only.
Trustee Daniel Hicks says the variety of vessels now available to the trust means it will be able to cater for both large and small groups and offer different kinds of experiences.