Nautilus has had a colourful life, travelling the world, since first being launched as family vessel used for picnics and racing in 1913. Since then she has run public excursions, ferry trips and charters and was involved in a rescue of a survivor from a tragic yachting accident. Nautilus was one of two motorboats carried by the hospital ship Marama during WWI which commenced duties in the Mediterranean in 1915. 

In 1913, Frederick H.E. Chester who was based in Belfast, Christchurch had Nautilus built by prominent boat-builders, Collings and Bell, in St Mary’s Bay, Auckland. As part of a public campaign, spearheaded by the Governor General, in 1915, Chester offered her for use onboard the New Zealand hospital ship, Marama. When in service for the war, Marama was doing harrowing trips in the Mediterranean and across the English Channel. Nautilus undertook several trips back to New Zealand with recuperating soldiers, stopping at ports for coal and supplies along the way. 

Post WW1 she was quite quickly sold to Harry Hawker, who used Nautilus to run excursions for the public on the Avon River and Avon-Heathcote estuary in Lyttelton. Around 1925, Hawker sold her, and she seems to have mostly been used as a private launch from that point. Among her owners was E.E. Coombes who was Commodore of Banks Peninsula Cruising Club. Nautilus has been altered several times, including being lengthened by 4ft.

Further research is being carried out on her use as a private vessel between the late 1920s and when she was acquired by Allan Williams in 1994. While in his ownership, Williams refit Nautilus with a new engine and enjoyed 17 years of family boating before donating her to the New Zealand Maritime Museum in 2011.

Five years of labour have gone into the restoration by a team of passionate staff and volunteers, during which every plank and component has been carefully checked.

Nautilus sailing times and days

11:15am & 1pm - Monday & Tuesday

Book a harbour cruise on Nautilus