Notes – from Barney T Daniel

The position my father now had as inspector of fisheries required him plus a mate to patrol the fishing fleets of Auckland and protect the oyster beds from the depredations of those who liked their oysters straight off the rocks and down their gullets. If caught by the Inspectors, these could be costly as a fine of up to 10/- would be imposed on the offender.  This was only a part of his duties, however, and to assist in these operations he was supplied with a 40 foot launch called the “Anzac” powered with a 30 or 40 H.P. Doman petrol engine having a fair turn of speed, being a bit narrow gutted, however, and without much protection for the helmsman as she had no canopy over the open cockpit.  This matter was rectified later and this improved conditions for those aboard very considerably.  Panmure had been chosen as it was a basin that was an offshoot of the Tamaki River providing good anchorage for the “Anzac” plus an area where boats and gear could be stored, etc

After Christmas as a rule all the family, plus Spot the dog and a stray cousin, embarked in the Anzac for some cruising around the Hauraki Gulf. The Anzac was ideal for this and we lived to some degree on the best, fish being plentiful and varied with plenty of fresh vegetables which the Captain had given to him at most spots where we chose to anchor for the night, being well-known to most people around the Gulf, and in return he had fish to give these good folk or perhaps a dogfish or so to bury in their gardens or under a fruit or lemon tree.

The Captain’s assistant usually at this time took his annual leave so we usually spent about three weeks away, the Captain’s duties of patrolling the vast areas of oyster beds kept us on the move so that we covered quite a bit of the Gulf, rarely spending more than one night or perhaps two in the same spot. The temptation to poach oysters, all Government controlled, proved too much for some people, particularly the day tripper.

About this time of the year, of course, there were many day excursions by ferry boat to places like Motutapu, Islington Bay, Browns Island, Motuhie, Motutapu, etc., sometimes up to 2000 people would be disgorged onto these beaches half of whom would be children, as a prime outing for all the family this was hard to beat and cheap into the bargain. The old man had a system worked out for the apprehension of poachers which he leisurely put into effect after lunch, by which time the day trippers had a full belly and time on their hands to sample a couple of dozen oysters.

These forays, of course, were frowned upon by the Marine Dept. and notices to this effect were prominently displayed, adding that a fine of £10 was liable if transgressors were caught in the act. Whenever this happened the sheer size of the Captain was frightening enough to the average poacher so they gave in pretty easily.  I think he gave more warnings than summonses as the latter meant a court appearance for him as prosecutor and was a time-wasting device according to him.

It was not long after the above episode that the Dept. installed a brand new three cylinder 30H.P. Twigg engine, this was one of the last of its type produced by Twiggs of Auckland, it was a massive piece of cast iron painted green, reliable, economic, and suited to run at very low revolutions without fuss for hours on end, most of the Fisheries Dept. vessels had them installed and were still going up until the ‘50s.

The Anzac with her new engine took on a new lease of life and never had cause to raise doubt in the minds of her crews when the going got a bit on the hairy side. These engines were remarkably simple, they ran on benzine and had magneto ignition, were salt water cooled, and there must have been some special cast iron in their construction that was impervious to salt, the cooling circulating water around the blocks and heads cooled the exhaust manifold and finally was discharged via the exhaust system to atmosphere or more correctly at about the water line of the hull.  They were very quiet running and it was no trouble to imitate the sound which went something like “Chugga ta chug”, “chugga ta chug”.  The benzine of those days came in case lots, two four gallon tins to each case so the cases once used came in for a variety of uses of a permanent nature whilst the tins lent themselves to a multitude of ideas both decorative and useful.

Living aboard Anzac was pretty simple, cooking was done in a galley with a couple of primus stoves, the washing-up done in a basin or bucket in the cockpit, it did have a patent lavatory but was used only in emergency being frowned upon by the Captain as another thing that could go wrong and finally sink the ship. Lighting was Kerosine lamps or lanterns and all these chores were my responsibility as “bucko” when away.  It was only natural that my education in ship-keeping was undertaken both by the Captain and his mate so you learnt quickly and early that of the two methods of doing things aboard a ship, it was wise to concentrate on the right way and thus escape the wrath of either of those two worthies when the wrong way was indulged.

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The Hauraki Gulf is considered by many, particularly those who live north of Hamilton, to be one of the finest cruising grounds in the Southern Hemisphere. Australians, with their Hawkesbury River and Queensland Barrier Reef, could excusably be critical of this claim.

Southern Argentina and Chile possess a vast area of channels, inlets and fjords whose atrocious weather reduces their popularity for cruising. As a boy who grew up cruising in the Gulf, there was no place quite like it, until later in life I discovered the Marlborough Sounds nearly fifty years ago.  The Gulf has taken second place since those days.

To return to the Gulf, however, and its scope as a training area in the ways of the sea, this tale about cruising does not deny the wealth of talent that its waters have produced over the last 120 years. These are the ship and boat builders, designers, engineers, seamen and yachtsmen of world renown whose love for these waters has brought fame and fortune to this land.

In 1921 my father, Captain C. Daniel, joined the Fisheries Branch of the Marine Department as an Inspector of Fisheries. His duties covered the Hauraki Gulf which, viewed from its chart, is a large body of water plus many islands and tidal inlets.  To cover this ground he was supplied with a launch called ANZAC and a deckhand as a mate.  The ANZAC, built about 1915 by a Mr Collins I believe, was a noted “flyer”, her dimensions were 40‘L’x9.5‘B’x3.5‘D’, powered with a four cylinder Doman petrol engine.  She had, prior to acquisition by the Department, won a number of races for her class.  The reason for her purchase was the speed at which she could apprehend any fishing inside restricted limits.  The ANZAC’s appearance on the fishing grounds and her known ability for speed acted as a deterrent on any illegal activities by fishermen – an ability considered justified by modern day patrol boat design, poaching a part of life that has intensified the vigilance to combat these occurrences.

During the summer school holidays our family, Dad, Mum, plus three children, spent a lot of time cruising in ANZAC. My father now had four assistants – his mate taking his annual leave – to help.

The ANZAC had a few alterations made by my father, two masts that spread three sails, more ballast added and a dodger over the open cockpit. The luxury of a toilet was a rarity in those times.  A bucket was the usual means of coping with hygiene on a boat when in company with other boats.

One trip I made in ANZAC was to Mokohinau and Cuvier Islands. The Fisheries Branch did the odd servicing of these important lighthouses in the approaches to Auckland Harbour.  Mokohinau lies about 15 miles north west of Miner’s Head on Barrier Island, the site of the wreck of the “WAIRARAPA” in 1894 with the loss of 32 lives.  Cuvier lighthouse is about 12 miles from Cape Barrier on the southern end of Great Barrier.  The occasion for this trip was the return of a keeper’s wife and a new-born infant to Mokohinau, plus stores and mail for both lighthouses, manned in those days by three keepers to each station and their families.

We left the old Nelson Street wharf, now reclaimed land occupied by the city produce markets, at 6.30am bound first for Mokohinau about 60 miles from Auckland. The ANZAC could average 10 miles per hour – fast for those times – arriving at Mokohinau, with good weather, around 1pm that day.  The mother and babe were ferried ashore followed by mail and stores.  The keepers wanted time to reply to some of their mail, but time was pressing.  The Captain, anxious to get on his way to Cuvier, was adamant – “twenty minutes and I’m off”.  At the expiry of this limit, and hastily written letters, we departed on the second leg.

The passage to Cuvier, about 50 miles, was set inside the Barrier in perfect weather with three sails assisting, good time was made, arriving about 6pm and being summer, sufficient daylight to complete landing the mail and stores. Cuvier Island is larger than Mokohinau but surrounded with plenty of reefs and rocks and landing there, difficult enough in good weather, now began to show signs of deteriorating with an increase in the wind.  Departure and course set for Auckland.

Cape Colville, about 20 miles from Cuvier, was reached around 9.30pm, the wind from W.S.W. increasing near gale, backing to West, “a dead muzzler” for Auckland, our destination. Capt. Daniel decided to head for the southern end of Waiheke Island bringing the seas, quite a bit now, onto the starboard bow quarter easing the motion, helped with the small staysail, the only sail ANZAC could carry.

Two events I actually recall were my father’s instructions to George Migan, his mate, to stay close to that “B” old machine and make sure it kept ticking over. Fortunately the fuel tank had been topped up before leaving Cuvier, benzene engines of this period, whilst rugged enough, could be temperamental brutes at times.  This remark describes the conditions we were experiencing now, rain reducing visibility down to zero, at the same time trying to keep to a rough compass course, judging the seas now steep and short, and I quote “Ye Gods, it’s as black as the inside of a pig’s gut”.  The motion was so violent sleep was impossible and I spent a miserable time hanging on in the cockpit, our speed down to three knots until we began to get a bit of shelter in the lee of Waiheke where course was altered for North Harbour on Poniu Island, anchoring there at 3am.

ANZAC had steamed about 160 miles in 20/21 hours – the number of times she went up and down in the same hole from Colville to North Harbour on the 25 mile passage another 25 could be added.

Between 10am and 11am we turned out of our bunks, had a mighty breakfast, and the Captain, mug of ship coffee and pipe going well, remarked “What the devil happened to Spotty?” (my dog) – “I booted him in the guts when he got under my feet while steering – I must have hefted him overboard.”


Spot – B.T Daniel Collection.


The mention of the name “Spotty” produced a quiet little thumping sound and the next we knew out he crawled from the tiller flat! This is where he had gone to sulk and nurse his grievance over the treatment given him by a man he loved as only a dog can love.

Those long gone days, like the actors and the sets of this play, have passed on or disappeared, but the memories of it are retained by the boy fortunate to have played a minor part, forever indebted to the experience gained and to those who gifted it to thousands of boys on the threshold of life.

B.T. Daniel 16th May 1991