By Nicholas Keenleyside, Collections Specialist at the New Zealand Maritime Museum

While many maritime museums have significant collections of vessels of all types and sizes, not many still have operational fleets on the water - and even fewer have built any of their vessels. The decision to build a vessel for the museum was made by the trust board before the museum opened, and construction began in 1992. The scow Ted Ashby is a remarkable craft and is the last of her kind to be built.

What was initially called the Freightways Scow - after a major donor - was built by museum staff and volunteers at Mechanics Bay in the traditional manner: upside down on a rolling cradle. The project took 11,000 hours of volunteer labour and many generous donations from the community. Ted Ashby was launched in time for the opening of the Museum in 1993. The vessel is named after the scowman and author who worked on the craft for 50 years from 1923.

Ted Ashby is a gaff rigged ketch deck scow, typical of the fleet that once operated in North Island waters. Scows were once the workhorses of the coastal trade – robust sailing vessels which could carry heavy cargo on deck, such as logs and sand as well as passengers and livestock. Their shallow draught meant they could be operated from estuaries and beaches.

Keeping her on the water, operational and compliant with maritime regulations requires ongoing work by a dedicated vessel maintenance team. Recently the two masts were replaced, which was a major undertaking. Crewed by volunteers, the Ted Ashby plies her trade most days, sailing up the Waitematā Harbour under the Harbour Bridge, carrying parties of school children, visitors and Auckland residents on a trip into New Zealand’s maritime history.

Bearings vol. 2 no. 1 p.30 – An introduction to the scow.
Bearings vol. 5 no. 2 p.34 – Skills as cultural treasures
1993.287 – NZMM object file for Ted Ashby.

You may also like