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The Launch of Kaiapoi Rescue

On December 1st 2019 we were fortunate enough to be invited to take part in the official launch of Kaiapoi Rescue, the Coast Guard North Canterbury’s new rescue vessel. The following is taken from the speech prepared by John Thompson, Vice President and SAR Manager

Coastguard North Canterbury

Previously Waimakariri-Ashley -

A brief history 1-12-2019

The unit was first formed as Waimak – Ashley Rescue Lifeboat Society in 1978 after two separate fatal boating accidents occurred on the Waimakariri Bar, and later after becoming affiliated with the Canterbury Volunteer Coastguard Service, changed its name to Coastguard Waimakariri-Ashley.

Later, in 2018 the Unit changed its name again to Coastguard North Canterbury Incorporated to better reflect its identity and extended area of operation.

The original name of Waimak – Ashley came from the unit’s intended area of operation; from the Ashley River mouth in the North, to the Waimakariri river mouth in the South, a distance of about 7 nautical miles (13 Km), and as far out to sea as they dared to go, which wasn’t very far.

In those days the original members used their own jet boats until 1979 when they acquired a double ender propeller driven vessel sponsored by Asher Sawmill and named “Asher 1”. This vessel was not particularly suitable for bar or river work and was replaced in November 1980 by a double ender jet boat and named “Asher II”.

It was about this time that the first lifeboat station was opened having taken two years of voluntary labour to build. The building was later refurbished and extended to house a larger rescue vessel in the 1990’s.

“Asher II”, although an improved vessel, was also found to be unsuitable for bar work, especially in a following sea, and she capsized twice on the 6th of April 1984 while trying to rescue the French yacht “Fixen”. 

A search then began for a suitable replacement vessel which was both highly manoeuvrable but also stable in surf conditions. A 6.8 Metre Naiad with twin 120hp Suzuki outboards and inflatable buoyancy pontoons was chosen.

This vessel, launched in May 1998 and named “Kaiapoi 1”, has been highly successful and has served the Unit well for over 20 years. In 2009 she was fully refurbished with the addition of a partly closed in cabin, new air bags, twin 150hp Evinrude Etec outboards, and a suite of modern electronics including Radar, GPS, VHF radios, FLIR, and TrackPlus tracking system.

Being a much better sea vessel, the refurbished “Kaiapoi 1” enabled the unit to extend its operational area north to Motunau, out to the 12 nautical mile limit, and down to the New Brighton Pier in the South, an area covering approximately 300 square nautical miles. “Kaiapoi 1” is also able to be trailered by road to areas inaccessible by sea such as inland lakes or rivers, or to other coastal areas when sea conditions are too rough for normal transit.

In 2017, after serving 18 years of faithful service, it was decided to replace Kaiapoi 1 with a more suitable all-weather vessel. This vessel needed to be capable of handling heavier seas and providing a greater degree of safety in the extreme conditions often experienced in crossing the treacherous Waimakariri river bar and the rough sea conditions up the coast to Motunau at any time, day or night.

To this end It was decided to replace Kaiapoi 1 with a modern, naval architecturally designed sea going vessel which would also provide the crew with improved all-weather sea going safety and comfort in a totally closed in cabin.

Kaiapoi 1 would then be transferred to Coastguard McKenzie Lakes where she was badly needed to help cover the lakes in that wider area.

It was a consideration to replace Kaiapoi 1 with another RHIB but there has always been a bit of a concern from a possible bag separation if the vessel got hit by a large wave which often happens whilst crossing the bar, or an accidental puncture when pulling up alongside a vessel with sharp protrusions in heavy seas.

It was also decided that a shallow draft jet powered vessel would be more suitable for bar crossings at low tide. Instead of air bags it would have foam filled fenders to provide soft fendering and additional stability in heavy seas or surf.

Having settled on all of that, the late Paul Lawson from Coastguard Sumner was engaged as Project Manager, a professional ship’s master and experienced project manager.

Paul had project managed two other larger Rescue Vessels; Blue Arrow for Sumner and Bluff Rescue for Coastguard Bluff and the unit liked the look of these.

After considering the alternatives, it was decided that an 8.7M vessel specially designed by Naval Architect Tim Barnett of Barnett Offshore Design Ltd powered by twin 240 Hp turbocharged Yanmar diesel engines driving twin Hamilton Jet units best suited requirements.

During the building of Bluff Rescue locally at Icon Custom boats Ltd in Rangiora, the opportunity of watching the process arose and the unit was impressed with what they saw, so it was natural to look closely at them for the new build.

They eventually decided that Icon was the best option for them, and this has proven to be the case. Icon did an outstanding job and Coastguard North Canterbury cannot speak highly enough of them. The evidence is apparent in the new vessel “Kaiapoi Rescue”.

Coastguard North Canterbury and the Unit’s new boat build Committee appreciated the work of Gary Tomes, Andrew Scott, and the team from Icon for their cooperation, guidance and support during the building of their new vessel. Nothing was a problem and they were always approachable and professional.

Achievements of Coastguard North Canterbury to date include;

  •  Completely rebuilding their earthquake damaged building and boat ramp.
  • Putting “Rangiora High Rescue”, their RIB into MOSS (Maritime Operator’s Safety System) one of the few to do so in NZ.
  • And now they have replaced their primary rescue vessel – some achievement thanks to local support, the support of their Southern Region Head Office, and the support of Coastguard New Zealand.

But it’s not all been about the material things;

  • They have built up their membership with some very talented young people over the last few years.
  • Last year they won the 2018 Southern Region Rescue of the Year Award.
  • And then went on to win the 2018 Coastguard New Zealand Rescue of the Year Award
  • This year they have won the 2019 Southern Region Rescue of the Year award again,
  • Also winning the 2019 Southern Region Unit of the Year award.
  • To round it all off they also won the 2019 Coastguard New Zealand Unit of The Year award which they share with Coastguard Maketu in the north Island.

Not bad for a comparatively young Coastguard unit in a small North Canterbury District.