Tweed sailors land NZ naval ship on adventure of lifetime
TWO Tweed residents are on the adventure of a lifetime.
Experienced sailors Pat Miller and Bill Fenelon flew to Auckland over the weekend as part of a consortium to take over ownership of the former navy dive tender vessel HMNZS Manawanui.
The vessel, which had been decommissioned by the Royal New Zealand Navy, was handed over to the Major Projects Foundation, of which the Tweed sailors are members, on Monday, with the crew due to begin sailing it back to Newcastle, Australia, where it will undergo a total refit.
Once completed, the vessel will be ready to begin her new life conserving maritime heritage and helping Micronesian communities.
"It's the classic friend of a friend story," Mr Miller said before departing.
"Demolition company Major Projects tendered for the vessel on behalf of a group of sailing mates with no real expectation of winning it.
"Bill Fenelon (now master of the vessel) and myself (crew member) were swept up in the project through our love of the sea and thirst for playing with big grey things that once went 'bang'."
But Mr Miller said the foundation, who the local lads are donating their time and skill to, had a serious project in mind.
"Throughout the south Pacific there are over 3000 shipwrecks in various stages of corrosion," he said.
"The group of mates had known of this for some time and have been working with researchers worldwide to determine how much oil is left. With that came the realisation that the threat to reefs and island state economies could be enormous. So the Major Projects Foundation was born to undertake the research and counter the threat."
The Tweed sailors will be joined by a crew of 15 experienced sailors who will drive the shop home.
Once refitted, the former HMNZS Manawanui (which translates as 'Big Heart') means will undertake a shake-down voyage up the Queensland coast before engaging with researchers and oceanographers in earnest.
But Mr Miller, who lives at Byrrill Creek and drove the marketing of this year's Murwillumbah Art Trail, lamented they would not be able to get the ship under the Condong Bridge for a visit to Murwillumbah as part of the festival next year.
"All the other bridges might be a problem too," he said.