Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Leyland O'Brien scows Print E-mail

“The most picturesque fleet at that time (1923) included the big scows, Moa, Rangi and Seagull, owned by the Leyland O’Brien Timber Co. One could always pick a scow engaged in the log trade by the marks left on the decks by the toes of the timberjack.”




Ted Ashby takes up the story of the Rangi’s last trip….

“In 1937 the Rangi was coming up from Tauranga with a load of (my father’s) logs in a fresh north-easter, and when she rounded Cape Colville the wind increased to gale force, but with a weight of logs, a buoyant load and wind astern, she was romping home making for the Motuihe Passage under lower canvas running free to port. As she was getting up abreast of the Noises a heavy gust hit her and the port chainplates on the after-shrouds carried away, opening up a nasty leak and creating a risk of her being dismasted.

Peter Pederson, a really good resourceful scowman, put her over on the other gibe to take the strain off the pulled chainplates and set a course through the Rakino Passage, finally rounding up under Motutapu, where he was only partly sheltered, and dropped anchor. Here the wind inceased to a full-size gale. They carried on pumping but the water was gaining.

Peter made a decision to dump some of the logs and, knowing him and knowing that he knew the risk he was taking, it certainly was a major decision. He knew she had to be lightened but he also knew, with the water in her bilges and the list she was carrying, that when he dumped logs off to the side she was listed the water would start to work back through the timbers to the other side, and once she listed that way it would rush across as she had no solid partitions to slow up the flow of water.

This is what happened, and before he could lighten her on the other side, to get her back on even keel, she heeled overPederson and his crew took to the ship’s boat, but found the wind and sea too heavy to make back to Motutapu, so just backed away and let the wind and sea cazrry them towards Castor Bay, bailing as best they could. When nearing the shore a big sea overturned the boat and Pederson and three of his crew mates were drowned. One crewman and a boy were saved. By the next morning the Rangi was in pieces.”

From “Phantom Fleet. The scows and scowmen of Auckland” by Ted Ashby, published by AH and AW Reed, 1975.

My father was the last person to see the crew alive when he farewelled them as they left Tauranga.

1) When the Rangi sank they sent a message ashore (in morse) and the entire crew should have been saved, but ashore everyone was too drunk to man any boats and so they never went out.
2) In “Phantom Fleet” the name Pederson is incorrect. It should have been Peter Johannsen Petersen.
From Ena Watkins 4 March 1982.
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