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Skeleton in the harbour

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February 2019 Issue

Moturekareka Island, Hauraki Gulf

With its many islands, accessible shoreline and relatively sheltered waters, Auckland boasts some of the country’s best sea kayaking. Perhaps one of the more intriguing destinations is the wreck of the Rewa. The skeleton of this abandoned ship pokes out of the sea very near the shore of Moturekareka Island, south-east of Snells Beach. Using the nimbleness of a sea kayak, you can paddle right into its belly in all but the lowest tides.

The Rewa is not your typical sea-wreck story of terrible storm and tragic loss of life. No-one died when it sank; it happened on a relatively calm day, and its final resting place owes more to farce than tragedy.

Built in England during the late 1880s, the 3000-tonne, three-masted sailing ship was first known as the Alice A. Leigh, and for more than three decades she served to transport goods around the world – and during the First World War even escaped a German U-boat torpedo. However, after arriving at Auckland in 1922, the ship (now renamed the Rewa) was all but abandoned.

For almost 10 years, she lay moored, largely left to rot. Enter Auckland renegade Charles Hansen, who bought the ship for £800 in 1931. He planned to make it an offshore luxury gambling den, figuring that normal landlubber laws didn’t apply at sea. A tug towed the Rewa to Moturekareka Island, but that’s when fate intervened. The planned scuttling onto a sandbank went badly; instead of resting evenly, the ship listed, with its stern in deep water. That ended the whole crazy venture. Ever since, it’s sat there gathering mussels, whelks and barnacles.

Paddling among the encrusted hulk is just one enjoyable aspect of kayaking in the area. At high tide, it’s possible to shoot the narrow passage that separates Moturekareka from its neighbouring Motutara Island. You’re sure to witness gannets arrowing into the sea, and if you’re lucky, watch little blue penguins porpoising along the surface.

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4hr to paddle around the island
Campground on Motuora Island (book at www.doc.govt.nz)
Scandrett Regional Park, accessible from Snells Beach, or Martins Bay