History - Daring rescue

By: Bev Ross

A popular topic of discussion at the moment is last year’s appearance of the schooner Daring on the sands at Muriwai. High tides and some rough weather caused a large area of sand to fall away into the sea, leaving the hull of the ship exposed.

The schooner was originally built at Mangawhai in 1863 and registered as 40217 or 46521 by its creator Donald McInnes. Built of kauri with pohutakawa ribs, the ship was 53 feet long by 16 feet and 6 inches wide. It weighed 31 tons.  

Donald, along with Donald Hugh McKenzie, set up a boatbuilding yard in the Mangawhai estuary in the 1850s. It was south of Bullet Point and below Heather and Findlay Streets. It was in a small cove, where a branch of the river curved with the shape of the bay and supplied a relatively deep channel, where they could sail into and launch newly built craft.

Sketch of Daring by surveyor Edwin Brookes on the day of the schooner’s launch.

Although in business together, Donald McInnes was the partner who registered all the ships that were made there in his name. Both men were part of a Nova Scotian group who came to Waipu in 1853.  Having learned their trade prior to leaving their former place of abode, both men were capable of setting up their own business in Mangawhai. After a few years, Donald McKenzie married a local girl and moved to Auckland, where he opened a chandlery in 1867. He was elected chairman of Sir George Grey’s Central Committee and became well known as a shipping agent, owning 60 worthy craft at one time. He eventually became Mayor of Parnell.

Donald McInnes continued building craft at Mangawhai until the last known ship, Tangihua, was launched in 1877. McInnes also owned a shipyard at Freemans Bay, Auckland, where he worked after leaving Mangawhai.

It is recorded that he was only 22 years old when he built Daring. The Albertland Gazette reported on September 1, 1863, that, “The splendid schooner Daring, built by Mr McInnes, was safely launched at Mangawai. Being one of those fine mornings which frequently follow a storm, it was an inducement to many of the Mangawai friends to be present, as well as a few from the Wairoa and Oruawharo. At high water, the blocks and supports were struck away, and as the vessel began her onward course by the deeps, Miss McInnes, sister of the builder, in the customary manner named it the Daring.”

Under the command of Master Phipps, the vessel was lost at Kaipara on February 22, 1865. The little ship has now been rescued by the generosity and passion of men who have established a recovery processes for her timbers, which have spent 154 years under the sands.

Those of us at Mangawhai would love to see her returned to her area of creation, but that decision is for others to make.

Bev Ross, Mangawhai Museum


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