by Des Ryan
Auckland has long been known as the 'City of Sails', but it will really earn its name in the next couple of weeks as a fleet of tall ships from a number of countries arrive to begin the Tall Ships Festival.
Tall ship Spirit of New Zealand sails past the Sydney Harbour Bridge on her way to cross the Tasman Sea
There will be at least nine ships and over 800 sailors will converge on the Auckland waterfront over Labour Weekend (25 - 28 October) when the inaugural Tall Ship Festival makes its impressive arrival. Put the date in your diary and be there if you are anywhere within reach of Auckland.
Right now the fleet is sailing east across the Tasman after celebrations in Sydney. They will arrive first into the small Northland town of Opua in the Bay of Islands.
Next they will be led by New Zealand’s own Spirit of New Zealand, a three-masted barquentine, sailing down the north-eastern coast to Auckland.
Spectators will be able to watch the ships from vantage points around the Waitemata Harbour as the ships leave North Head to be guided into berths at Hobson, Queen's and Prince's Wharves by an historically precious and culturally significant Maori waka / canoe.
Thousands are expected to attend the three-day festival - hosted by Auckland’s Voyager New Zealand Martine Museum.
Some of the ships have come all the way from Europe. One such tall ship is the three-masted Bark Europa from The Netherlands. At 102 years of age, this magnificent vessel is the oldest and largest in the fleet.
The fleet will also include the Dutch schooner Oosterschelde, the smallest vessel, Australia's Young Endeavour and the
Lord Nelson of the United Kingdom - the first tall ship in the world to have been designed and built to cater for people of all physical abilities - will also arrive with the fleet.
The public will have a chance to explore the ships as they are opened to the public on Saturday and Sunday, giving spectators the chance to marvel at some of New Zealand’s own beautiful tall ships.
Another recognisable New Zealand tall ship, the R Tucker Thompson, will also appear at the festival. This traditional gaff-rigged schooner was commissioned in the 1970s, and was completed in the 1980s by R Tucker Thompson’s sons after his death. It has continued to provide life-changing challenges and moments for the youth of New Zealand ever since.
The Voyager New Zealand Martine Museum’s own tall ship The Breeze will also make an appearance at the festival as this wonderful free-entry museum allows visitors to further explore New Zealand’s strong ties with the sea.
The Tall Ships Festival is a unique event that is set to transform the Auckland waterfront for one special weekend, and will be complimented with a variety of nautical themed events held around Auckland’s thriving waterfront.
• Spirit of New Zealand (NZ)
• Young Endeavour (Australia)
• Lord Nelson (United Kingdom)
• Picton Castle (Canada)
• Bark Europa (Netherlands)
• Oosterschelde (Netherlands)
• Tecla (Netherlands)
• R Tucker Thompson (NZ)
• Breeze (NZ)
Tall Ships Festival events:
Friday (25/10): Ships arrive into Auckland at 2 - 3pm (approx)
Saturday (26/10): Crew parade along waterfront to The Cloud on Queens Wharf for official welcome and powhiri /Maori welcome - ships open for public viewing from 11am
Sunday (27/10): Ships open for public viewing from 10am, festival and activities on Auckland’s waterfront and the Cloud
Monday (28/10): Ships depart at 12.00pm with a full naval salute from Orakei Wharf