Sailing on the Spirit of New Zealand

Sailing in Cook Strait

These photographs were all taken on the Spirit of New Zealand. She was built about 12 years ago for the Spirit of New Zealand Trust which runs the ship as a leadership training vessel, mainly for teenagers. It is also chartered by corporate and other groups for leadership training cruises. Our days sailing was kindly and specially arranged for us by Det. Sgt. Ken Burt of the New Zealand Police -- to Ken, our thanks.

The Spirit of New Zealand is a steel hulled and masted barquentine (defined in the OED as a sailing ship with the foremast square-rigged and the remaining (usually two) masts fore-and-aft-rigged). . She displaces 225 tons. Her rigging includes three masts, three forward stay sails, two main stays, four square rigged sails on the foremast (from top to bottom, called the royal, the t'gallant, the main and the course). The main supports the main sail and the mizzen mast, the mizzen sail.

On the 15th, the weather in Wellington was great. We had a slight breeze, with temperatures in the '70's. We departed from the Queen's Wharf, Wellington about 8 in the morning. Our course took us out of Wellington harbour into Cook Straight which runs between the north and south islands of New Zealand. We made most of the trip out under power as to tack out would have taken 5 hours or so and we only had a little more time than that allotted to the trip. In the straight we tacked back and forth for a few hours, generally on a course of about 270 or 130 and at a speed of about 5-6 knots. Conditions were right for us to put on all sails, which created a magnificent sight. On the trip back into harbour, under full sail, we attained a speed of about 10 knots. At this speed even a school of dolphins were interested enough to join us and they spent several minutes playing in the vicinity of the bow. Once in the inner harbour we had time to sail around the harbour.

The photos in this collection show a few of the activities and people at various stages of the trip. (photo credits to Christine Scott)

The first task in obtaining power is to unfurl the sails. In this photograph, Ken is seen on the lowest yardarm unfurling the course sail. The sails above that have previously been unfurled (bottom to top) are the top sail, the top gallant and the royal.

  • In addition to unfurling the yard arm sails, the stay sails need to be raised. This is a task for hard working, coordinated seamen. Tony Poole leads his crew consisting of Tammy teWinkle, Gary Pluck, Paul MacPherson, Dave Dunham and Doug Knapp in time to the chant "two - six - heave". Wellington harbour is in the background. photo
  • On any hard working crew there are those who always seem able to get a comfortable job. Here Christine enjoys the labours of others. Wellington harbour in the
  • It's important to keep a keen watch from the bowsprit, which on this ship is about 24 feet long. Ken and Paul MacPherson show how it is done. (Fortunately the crew were on top of things). photo
  • More tourists -- this time on the bridge. Tammy, Christine and Tony Brown take a break. Crew member Elaine sits at the entry to the engineers stationphoto
  • Captain Lisa looks sanguinly away as Ken takes the helm (her ability to mask sheer terror is amazing!) photo
  • As we come back into harbour, it is necessary to reverse all that sail activity. This photo shows crewman Steve (outboard) instructing Ken (inboard) on the royal yardarm, with Tony Poole below (inboard) on the top gallant, in the art of furling a sail. The instructional techniques used are not unlike those used in learning to use computer software -- throw the unsuspecting volunteer into the middle of it and baffle him with jargon. Doing this learning over 50 feet above the swaying deck only adds to the fun! photo
  • Where does Ken get all this nautical talent? It has been passed down through the generations from his great-great grandfather, William Scott (1833-1906) shown here in a photograph taken in Knightsbridge, London, England about 1853 photo

This page is under development. Correcting comments and identifications of those unnamed would be appreciated.


©Kenneth Scott and others 1997 - 2011
email: ken at
last revised 12 December 2011