Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 22, June 1978

by DON MUNRO (Mt. Maunganui)

On 10th January 1922, I joined the three mast top sail Scow "ZINGARA" as a deck boy at the wage of ₤4.0.0 per calendar month. I was 17 then and thrilled to join my first ship, and a sailing ship at that, without engines except for a donkey boiler and steam winch for cargo purposes only.

The "ZINGARA" carried three yards on the foremast, setting upper and lower square topsails as well as the big fore and aft sail. The crew comprised of the master, mate, one AB, 3 ordinary seamen, cook and yours truly, the deck boy. Captain Olsen was known (behind his back) as Jumbo; the Mate as Hooligan Fred; and the Cook, as Blue Nose Charlie. I never did know the proper names of the latter two gentlemen.

My first voyage, which was from Auckland to Hokianga took 15 days. There we loaded a full cargo of sawn Kauri and the deck cargo was stowed so high that it was necessary to reef the big fore and aft sails in order to clear the deck load. The voyage back to Auckland took only six days. Next we loaded a railway engine, carriages, railway irons and sleepers for Onerahi, Whangarei. The Northern railway was not at that time connected with Auckland.

From Onerahi we received orders to sail for the mouth of the Waihou River in the Firth of Thames, to load 300 tons of fresh water sand for Auckland. Having no engines, a tow launch met us in the bay and towed us to a bend in the river abreast of the small township of Hikutaia. At high water the ship was moored fore and aft over a sand bank close to a small river Island. At low water we were high and dry for about 2½ hours each tide and it was then that we went over the side and shovelled wet sand into large cargo baskets to be lifted by the steam winch, driven by Hooligan Fred and tipped by Blue Nose Charlie. This meant that we only worked five to six hours in every twenty four but we worked against the incoming tide and by the light of Kerosene flares on the night low water. With the ship securely moored on the bank the Captain went home to Auckland and we did not see him again till "ZINGARA" was fully loaded a week later.

After a few days our fresh meat supplies ran out, but we had authority to buy a sheep on the hoof, from a local farmer. Not one man on board would admit to ever having killed or dressed a sheep, nor would any volunteer for the job. The result was that in a cross country jaunt we found a farmer willing to deliver a dressed carcass to the opposite riverbank at 7 a.m. next morning at extra cost of course, and minus skin, head and other parts, usually described as offal, today. This did not exactly please the Skipper. After a week the loading was duly completed and the Captain returned with a tow launch from Thames. After a rather adventurous tow down river with the deeply loaded ship, we eventually reached the open sea and could make sail for Auckland. So ended a week in the country for "ZINGARA" and her crew.