Museum volunteer master Bob Hawkins tells us something of the early days of Breeze, from his own experience.

By Bob Hawkins | 19 April 2022


I was still employed at sea in 1980 when the Breeze keel was laid at Tiki Landing, near Coromandel, so my involvement with the vessel hadn’t yet begun. The builder, Ralph Sewell, had moved with his family some years earlier into a self-constructed home on the edge of Coromandel Harbour. Photos from the Cliff Hawkins Collection show Ralph’s earlier creation, the ketch Ripple, under construction at Milford (completed and launched at Okura).

Breeze was built in a similar traditional fashion by Ralph, along with his family and some semi-skilled labour, at Tiki Landing.

The two photos below show Ralph using a mallet and chisel to shape the stem of Ripple. The second photo shows Ripple at Tiki Landing where Breeze was launched in October 1981. After fitting out, which included the suit of sails made by the Auckland firm Boyd & McMaster, the vessel sailed on various shake-down cruises, including ‘showing the flag’ at the start of the 1981 Whitbread Round the World Yacht race.

A ‘Breeze Sailing Club’ was set up around this time with a nucleus of sail enthusiasts and what could be called part-timers, run by a small committee including Captain Jim Cottier (a real square rigger), Peter Sewell and myself. The club operated for a couple of years but suffered from a lack of funds and solid support. Everyone wanted to go sailing but there was no time (and not enough bodies) left for maintenance! The other key factor was that Breeze had not been completed to marine survey standards which seriously limited her operation as a training vessel. In 1985, the sinking by a group of French terrorists of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior sparked a rash of interest in sending Breeze up to Mururoa as a replacement in the nuclear bomb protest fleet. Under the command of Captain Jim Cottier, a crew was put together, the vessel stored and off they went into the wide blue South Pacific.

Upon return after a boisterous journey, poor little Breeze was somewhat worse for wear. The vessel was sailed up to the Bay of Islands where she languished, sailing only occasionally and in need of love and care. The chance came in 1991 when the New Zealand Maritime Museum was in the early stages of being set up. Arrangements were made to purchase her and, with the aid of one John Street, Breeze came under the ownership of the museum. John will also be remembered for fighting the ongoing battle against the infamous ‘boat tax’ then being forced upon by the Muldoon government, which John and the lawyers won!

Continue to part two.

You might also like