Owner hopes to restore historic scow

The Portland, was a boat without a keel and particularly suited to river sailing. Photos by Peter...
The Portland, was a boat without a keel and particularly suited to river sailing. Photos by Peter McIntosh.
Rotting boards on The Portland’s hull.
Rotting boards on The Portland’s hull.
The Portland, beached on the side of the Owaka River.
The Portland, beached on the side of the Owaka River.
Signs warn would-be boarders of the danger.
Signs warn would-be boarders of the danger.

Its owner has big plans for old scow The Portland, which continues to decay where it is beached on the lower reaches of the Owaka River, near Pounawea.

In April 2011, the scow, which had been moored 400m upriver for more than 30 years, sank in the Owaka River after it was damaged by floating logs and took on water.

It was refloated by members of the Owaka Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Its sale and resale has been the subject of media interest over the past few years.

Previously owned by Ray Mathieson, who bought it in 1979 and used it as a substitute "crib'', The Portland was sold in 2013 to a man who intended sailing it to Auckland.

However, an inspection revealed rotting planks, destroying that dream, and it was relisted for sale.

At the time a Catlins resident, who did not want to be named, told the Otago Daily Times the Auckland man sold The Portland after it was inspected by a shipwright.

He said two boats were used to turn and guide it downstream and then a tractor was used to pull it sideways on to the beach at high tide.

"Upon doing so, many of the rotten plankings came unfixed - it now resembles a sieve, rather than a ship. After inspection at low tide, the distressed representative contacted the Auckland owner, who was in the United States on holiday, regarding the lack of seaworthiness,'' the person said.

Several residents told the ODT that The Portland was then sold to a bystander for $5.

It is understood it has changed hands again since then.

When the ODT visited the 22.86m scow in October 2013, sea worms had chewed through many of the planks and it had taken on water.

That slow degradation appears to be continuing but the boat's owner, who did not want to be identified but lives in the South Island and has links to the Pounawea area, said he intended to restore the boat to its former glory.

The man said he bought the boat about a year ago, but gave no details of the circumstances of the purchase.

He said he was waiting on a surveyor to determine the cost and work required to restore the vessel.

There were options to explore restoring the ship if the structure was sound and the exterior was not too expensive to repair.

"It's a lovely old boat and it has a lot of presence about it,'' he said.

He said the community supported the boat being restored and some had already helped with ‘‘remedial'' cleaning.

It was "a bit of an icon'' and tourists and locals alike were often seen photographing the old vessel, he said.

He hoped to convert the boat into an accommodation destination.


'The Portland'

• Records at the Owaka Museum show the boat was built by George T. Niccol, of Auckland, in 1910.

• Originally owned by Wilsons (NZ) Portland Cement, it traded in the Auckland area until 1932, when it went to Nelson and traded between the Tasman Bay harbours and Wellington for more than 40 years.

• The Portland is the only surviving hold scow in New Zealand. Most of these ships were taken to the Pacific for war use and never came back.

• Originally powered by sail, it was later fitted with diesel engines. 


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