The Spirit of Queenstown is lowered into Lake Wakatipu at
Kingston. Photo by Christina McDonald.
The wind picked up and Sir Clifford Skeggs nervously
remarked ''we should have another boat here'' to help shelter
the airborne catamaran.
An army of orange-vested men and two cranes - one of which
made a special last-minute trip from Christchurch to join its
Invercargill colleague - slowly but surely lowered the
26m-long, 8m-wide boat into Lake Wakatipu at Kingston at noon
Those who had turned out at Kingston's wharf clicked
continually on their cameras.
The Spirit of Queenstown is the latest addition to
Southern Discoveries' family which includes four Milford
Sound vessels, the Blue Duck Cafe and Bar in Milford, four
information centres in Te Anau and Queenstown, the Go Milford
coach service, 50% ownership of KJet, and other services.
Apart from having to bring in a second crane which ''made it
a wee bit more expensive'', all went to plan, much to the
relief of Sir Clifford, whose family owns Southern
''[I'm] absolutely relieved ... there were some very tense
After its maiden voyage from Kingston to Queenstown the
catamaran was welcomed into Queenstown Bay by KJet jet boats,
an enthusiastic welcoming crowd and more clicking cameras.
From November, the boat will take up to 150 passengers on
tours to Mt Nicholas.
At present, Real Journeys' TSS Earnslaw takes passengers
across the lake to Walter Peak. Sir Clifford said the
Spirit of Queenstown offered ''a modern service versus
the historic steamship''.
''It's a wee bit speculative, of course - it's a new venture.
We believe it's got reasonably good potential.''
The multimillion-dollar catamaran was purpose-built in
Australia by Aluminium Marine.
Project manager and engineer Jack Louwerse said usually the
company built boats for ocean use and for use in the tropics.
"This time, where there would usually be air-conditioning
there were heaters, Mr Louwerse said, and where you would
have more cover on the boat from tropical rain ''obviously
here you want to be in the sun''.