Waitematā Ferry Tales

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Sally Fodie began her working life as a nurse aide in Oamaru. She was thirty years old when she came to Auckland with her husband in 1981 and began working on the Waitematā Harbour.  Initially, she was a deckhand before skippering the ferry GLEN ROSA, which ran from Auckland to the North Shore. Later, she skippered KESTREL for a decade.

"I am a water person although I grew up in the high country of Otago, as far from the sea as you can get. I had a wonderful childhood surrounded by rivers, lakes and mountains and learnt to sail with the North Otago Yacht Club whilst living in Oamaru. I owned a Laser sailing dinghy and sailed in regattas and club races. Once, I beat Russell Coutts in a race on Dunedin Harbour. The fleet was becalmed and the wind came up from the rear- pushing us tail-enders through the fleet and across the finish line!

On the Sea Bus KEA

People often say that I was the first female ferry skipper but that’s not true. I was the first female to skipper KESTREL and proud to have that privilege. Jane Taylor gained a commercial launch masters ticket in 1953 and worked as a skipper in the Bay of Islands for many years. Fran Bird was also one of the earlier ferry skippers. Dee Pignéguy’s book Saltwater in her Hair is a good reference for this sort of history.

Berthing KESTREL at Devonport was quite demanding. On an ebb tide I would clear Queens Wharf and head for the Navy Base, keeping up harbour. Once there, a transit was gained keeping Bean Rock Lighthouse just behind Devonport Wharf buildings. The ebb tide would increase the speed and push the vessel off the berth. It was important to keep steerage way and it took great judgement and a good engineer to stop the engine at the right moment and put it astern. Swinging the wheel hard to starboard pushed the bow away from the wharf and would cut the stern in and across the tide. The mate had to get a line on the bollard and blow a whistle to let the skipper know it was on. The flood tide was easy.

I loved my career on the Waitematā ferries and if I lived my life all over I would do it again, but eventually the time came to move on and try other things. I had set a goal and I wanted to move south after my fiftieth birthday. My husband of 43 years (Tony) and I missed the south and so 13 years ago headed home and opened Omarama Antiques: collectibles and rare books. We don't suffer freezing winters though; every year we shut up shop and travel to warmer climates. Life is good!  We also have an idyllic little house in Kakanui, on the east Otago Coast and spend part of each week and part of winter there. It is a beautiful place and I do not miss the responsibilities of life on the ferries".


Omarama Antiques - the reason we shut in Winter!                   Our home in Omarama

The exhibition Ferries on the Waitematā at the New Zealand Maritime Museum runs until 4 October 2015. It includes paintings by W.W Stewart and photographs from the Museum’s collection, as well as excerpts from Sally Fodie’s book Waitemata Ferry Tales – a collection of ferry related anecdotes. Two of the ferries Sally worked on are still in Auckland. GLEN ROSA is moored on Hobson Wharf at the New Zealand Maritime Museum and KESTREL can be seen alongside the Tank Farm in the Wynyard Quarter.