Baroona was a hard-working (not always best-loved) ferry, in service from December 1934 until 1988. As a farewell honour, Waiheke named a beer after her.
A long working life
She was built in NSW, Australia, allegedly for a wealthy farmer who named the boat after his sheep station. In Sydney Harbour, the Baroona was nicknamed ‘Barmaid’s rest’ for her owner’s preference for company.
In 1905, Baroona crossed the Tasman to the Kaipara Harbour, where she carried passengers and cargo until 1912. In 1915, sold to Sandfords, she became a trawler until 1928.
George Niccol turned her back into a cargo ship and re-powered her with a new Lister Blackstone diesel engine. Then he re-built her as a two-deck ferry, for the run to Motuihe Island and Surfdale on Waiheke. In 1965, she had a major engine breakdown (that some thought was terminal), and was laid up at the Devonport Wharf.
She went back to work however, and by Christmas 1967, Baroona was considered too small for the high-season Waiheke run.
She kept working as a commuter ferry to Waiheke. Old-timers recall a love-hate relationship with the uncomfortable old ferry.
She was sold in November 1989 to Craig Walker and Richard Read. They were going to use her as a floating market and restaurant on Waiheke. This grand scheme foundered.
She then drifted around, outstaying her welcome at various moorings around Auckland Harbour, while people discussed trying to restore her.
Jan Vail outlined the Baroona’s final years in a Gulf News article (17 July 2009):
“In 1994, the Baroona was forced to moor in Big Shoal Bay. This was very inconvenient as it meant frequent trips out to her with batteries to keep the bilge pumps running. She made an unscheduled, unmanned trip 100 metres down the harbour early one day exciting motorists and prompting police to call the harbour authorities.
“She then spent all winter bogged in the mud of Sulphur Beach near the Harbour Bridge where she became a familiar sight for commuters using the Northern Motorway. She was then moved to a regional council mooring in Shoal Bay near the Upper Highway Bridge where she sank on 23 December 1994.
“The sinking was blamed on vandals but it was open to conjecture as to whether this was the case. She was re-floated in early 1995.
“In the same year, it was considered by some of the trustees that the Baroona could be restored and re-commissioned for passenger service. They obtained funds to have the vessel slipped at Oram’s Marine but an engineer looked at the hull and condemned it. Sadly, her working days were over.
“Eventually, after being moved from one mooring to another and much acrimony as to who owned her, the Baroona was placed on a trailer and taken to 888 Great South Road, Manukau City where Keith Wagner converted her into a nautical themed restaurant on dry land. The restaurant opened in 2006 as a burger bar and drive through, only operating for a short time before closing in 2007.”
One of her skippers, Jim Hansen, wrote a book called The Saga of the Baroona. You can get it at Auckland Libraries.
Hull built of: Wood
Owners: North Shore ferries 1965-1981; Devonport Steam Ferry Group of Companies, 1981-1983
Built by: R Wickham, Newscastle, NSW in 1904
Length: 107 feet
Beam: 21.5 feet
Draft: 7.9 feet
Gross tons: 136
Engines: 1 x 8-cyinder diesel, Lister Blackstone UK; later 2 x 6-cylinder diesels Kelvin UK