Waimarie Paddle Steamer

A cruise aboard the iconic Waimarie Paddle Steamer is undoubtedly one of the most authentic ways to experience Whanganui River’s scenery and history.

Salvaged from the bottom of the Whanganui River where she sat for around 50 years, the Waimarie Paddle Steamer (previously known as PS Waimarie) was restored to her former glory and re-launched in 2000 to make her New Zealand’s only authentic coal-fired paddle steamer in operation. Today, we can but dream of the hustle and bustle of the trading settlers and iwi who knew the Waimarie Paddle Steamer of old. Instead we can enjoy her resurrection with a leisurely river cruise more fitting to her stately grace. Loved by adults and children alike, a scheduled or private charter cruise on the Waimarie Paddle Steamer offers a unique view of Wanganui.

 

Her history

The Waimarie Paddle Steamer was designed and built in 1899 by Yarrow & Co. Shipbuilders at Poplar, London and transported in kitset form to Wanganui.

Originally named Aotea she was operated by the Wanganui Settlers River Steamship Co until 1902, when she was sold to Alexander Hatrick and renamed ‘Waimarie’ meaning good fortune – peaceful waters. By which time the Whanganui River was operating as an international tourists’ mecca. Alexander Hatrick boasted a 12-strong fleet of riverboats operating under the name ‘Hatrick & Co.’ that provided access from the coast to Taumarunui.

Side paddle vessels were used on the Whanganui River as there were many shallow rocky rapids and log littered areas preventing the use of propulsion units lower than a ship’s hull.

Having the broadest beam of all the work boats Waimarie navigated some 239 rapids to carry a wide variety of cargo and mail, but also ferried passengers on scenic excursions to Hipango Park, followed rowing races and sailed under the moonlight to South Beach for guests.

She was nicknamed the ‘queen of the river’ and attracted tourists from all over the world to do ‘one of the worlds greatest river journeys’.

Our grand lady continuing operating until 1952 when an accident left her listing badly and before she could be rescued, floods filled her hull with silt. Left to this demise the Waimarie remained sunken and in despair for the following forty years, abandoned but not forgotten.

In 1992 enthusiasts established a community heritage project to salvage, restore and operate the P.S. Waimarie once again. Many thought they were mad but the process of acquiring funds, sponsorships, materials, volunteer labour and professional expertise to reach their goal had begun. Tapu (a sacred protection) was lifted on the 4th of January 1993.

Once extracted from her watery resting place, all sorts of salvage treasures came to light including the starboard navigation light, lamp and whistle. The Waimarie’s restoration became Whanganui’s official Millennium Project following seven years of incredibly hard work, passion and determination. The success of the project reflects the inherent generosity and commitment of Whanganui’s citizens as over 67,000 volunteer hours contributed to the project and every problem found a solution.

At 11:45pm on New Year’s Eve, 1999, the P.S Waimarie was blessed with a final karakia (prayer) and re-commissioned for her new life on the Whanganui River on 1 January 2000, as New Zealand’s only authentic paddle steamer.

Invited guests boarded the paddleboat for the midnight millennium voyage followed by crowds of well-wishers and admirers cheering and waving from the river banks. Whanganui’s own ‘queen of the river’ had been brought back to life 100 years after her original build.

In her first year of operation, the Waimarie Paddle Steamer carried over 25,000 passengers.

Waimarie® purchases the coal that fuels the Waimarie Paddle Steamer’s engine from a small, local company based in Hamilton called Puke Coal Mining.

Her vessel

During ‘Project Waimarie’, the original design and manufacturing methods were followed as closely as possible, though the restored vessel complies with all modern safety standards.

She still boasts covered and open sun decks, two saloons, two toilets and a galley.

Her original engines have been reconditioned and are still in use today. All the hull plates were cold riveted – with approximately 40,000 rivets.

Her boiler

The Waimarie Paddle Steamer’s original boiler was removed when she was salvaged in 1993. Her new boiler is a replica of the original.

The original boiler was built at the shipyard of Yarrow & Co. at Poplar, London in 1899. This type of boiler was made for use in torpedo boats capable of reaching speeds of 32 knots and the beauty of it is the speed of raising steam from cold. The boiler could be up to pressure in an hour. These were the first successful water-tube boilers used in naval vessels.

The replica boiler differs from the original only in that the steam drum ends are welded; on the original the steam drums ends were riveted. The original boiler was re-tubed in 1918 and 1936.

The replica boiler was lifted into the vessel on 19 May 1999.

On the first firing of the restored Waimarie Paddle Steamer’s boiler, steam was raised from cold to 160 psi in 55 minutes.

Her specifications

General

  • Gross Tonnage – 80 tons
  • Register Tonnage – 53 tons
  • Waterline Length – 100.2 ft
  • Waterline Breadth – 16 ft
  • Propulsion Side Paddles – 2
  • Speed – 10.5 knots
  • Passengers – up to 150 (100 for private cruises)
  • Mandatory crew – 6

Engine

  • Makers Yarrow & Co, Poplar, London, 1889
  • Engines Two single-cylinder, double acting, non-condensing, inclined horizontal with Gooch valve gear
  • Bore & stroke 9″ x 24″ – 86 IHP
  • Drive Direct to paddle shaft
  • Cruising revs 42rpm
  • Cruising speed 6-7 knots
  • Max rpm – 70
  • Max speed 11 knots
  • Reconditioned in Wanganui and tested on 10 May 1999

Boiler

  • Yarrow water tube boiler
  • Working pressure 160psi
  • Max. evaporation rate 8000 Ib/hr
  • Grate area 14 sq ft
  • Water tubes 1 1/4 dia x 616
  • Coal consumption 4 cwt/hr

Her survey and repairs

With many of her operational features maintaining their 1900 origins, an in-water inspection is necessary every year and once every five years out of the water – this ensures ongoing safety to passengers and crew.

During the winter of 2016, the Waimarie Paddle Steamer was carefully removed from the river by crane and placed on a cradle adjacent to the Kowhai Park while her five-year survey is carried out.

The Waimarie Paddle Steamer was designed and pre-fabricated in Yarrow, England as a flat-bottomed riverboat. The hull and super structure would not be stable enough to survive a sea tow to a suitable facility.

Cruising on Friday

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