The little tug that never gives up

The William C Daldy is the little tug that could.  Just like the little engine in the children’s story, the Daldy was called on to save the day when others had failed.

It happened one day in December 1958 during the construction of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.  A storm gathered strength as a 1200 ton pre-assembled section of the bridge was being floated into position and the section was in danger of breaking free.  The little tug responded to the call for help and managed to pull for 36 hours non-stop to keep the section under control. Disaster was averted and the cost of 40 000 tons of coal was considered a bargain compared to the alternative scenarios.  There are photographs of the unfinished bridge, and of the Daldy looking proud, in the museum onboard.

Despite a masculine name (she’s named after the first chairman of the Auckland Harbour Board) the William C. Daldy is a pretty lady with a distinctive mustard yellow funnel and smart navy paintwork. She lives at Hobson Wharf  behind the Voyager Maritime Museum and she’s available for parties and private functions and tug boat racing. She also happens to be one of the star attractions of  the  annual Auckland Heritage Festival. During the 2 weeks of the festival, she gives hour long tours up and down the harbour with  interesting commentary and plenty of photographic opportunities.

The William C.  Daldy was built on the Clyde in Scotland in 1935 and cost £40 000.  It took her 82 days to sail to Auckland where she worked tirelessly for 41 years until her retirement.  Luckily for us, she managed to dodge the shipbreakers bullet and was sold by the Auckland Harbour Board to a preservation society for $1. The Board then donated $1 back to the newly formed society which has been her guardian ever since.  There are plenty of dedicated volunteers and enthusiasts on board the Daldy and it’s only because of them that this little tug survives.

They like visitors to get involved when they are on board and passengers have complete run of the boat as long as they don’t obscure the Captain’s view (fair enough I thought). Steam engines are endlessly fascinating to young and old and you can climb deep into the boiler room and talk to the worthy men who keep the boilers stoked. You can even help shovel coal if you feel so inclined.

I resisted the urge to shovel  but I did thoroughly enjoy an hour shuffling around the harbour even on a wild day with winds blowing at 41 knots (that’s  87 kms per hour for you landlubbers).  Apart from some harmless spray on board as the tug did her 180˚ turns, she was solid as a rock. The trip gets up close to the Port of Auckland, the bungy platform underneath the Harbour Bridge and all the new developments along the waterfront. Travelling on the Daldy is just like driving a campervan, I found. People on other boats smile and wave at you and you wave back.

Public sailing times, historic photographs, sailing  stories and technical information can be found here

Categories: New Zealand

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