Laying back with Red Boats and Riverhead blues
Where else on a sunny Sunday afternoon could be found sunken wrecks, explosives dumps, flying boat moorings, a parade of luxury waterfront estates, cold beer and hamburgers to die for?
Look no further Aucklanders, and visitors from afar.
All this and more is within easy reach of MV Hogwash as it chugs sedately through the gentle upper reaches of Waitemata Harbour bound for the Riverhead Tavern.
Hogwash is one of a little fleet of Red Boats – including a couple specially set up for fishing trips – which tootle about Auckland’s magnificent harbour on tours, charters and party hire.
These little ships are not the last word in luxury by any means but they do the job with cheeky bravado.
Hogwash, for example, is a hardy, harbour-friendly vessel which goes about the business on Sunday ferrying folk up to the well-restored Riverhead Tavern – a welcoming pub of historical significance and conviviality.
Timing depends on a high tide and the Riverhead cruise is usually from about 12.30pm to 5.30pm.
On the hour and a half cruise to the pub skipper and Red Boats owner Andrew Somers keeps up an informative commentary about interesting spots and events from the upper harbour’s past and present.
His young son Jackson is deckhand while crew member Fiona keeps the drinks flowing.
Waters in these reaches are flat and calm as the harbour’s edge drifts by to the subdued thump of Hogwash’s diesel engine.
There’s a bit of genteel ducking and dodging off Herald Island around a group of big yachts preparing for an afternoon sail down harbour.
Smatterings of kayakers keep their distance – they’ll catch up later in the bar.
A safe haunt of water skiiers, several whiz by trying out new tricks with varying degrees of panache.
Skipper Andrew takes much of his commentary from the well-worn pages of Malcolm Hahn’s fascinating little history book God Willing and Weather Permitting.
Passengers see the sites and hear about Clark’s Pottery at Limeburners Bay; Kauri Point naval armaments depot - where huge naval shells have been replaced by guided missiles and rockets; Taunhinui defensive pa at the entrance to Hellyers Creek; Hobsonville air base ramp and wharf – once home to Sunderland and Catalina flying boats; a Lockheed bomber crash site; the first Paremoremo wharf; the skeletal remains of the wreck Hawera; John Brigham’s Waitemata flour mills and much more.
At Riverhead it’s an easy climb up a winding flight of wooden stairs – with a half way seat if anyone needs a wee sit down – to the food and drink department.
A bee-line to the outdoor BBQ Shack revealed some of the best ‘burgers and chips around.
Mojo-cranking bands from the Auckland Blues Club play most Sundays under a marquee, and are hot favourites for a gnarled cluster of fans, including some of the growing old less gracefully variety.
After a couple of lazy sunny hours it’s back on board Hogwash for the cruise home to Westhaven.
Refreshed kayakers, a bit more animated than when they arrived, button themselves in and slide off with the breeze behind them on a slowly receding tide.
No commentary on the homeward stretch but the jukebox – on low volume for this mainly mature expedition – gets a hiding from a handful of littlies.
No-one in our party of six - including one who got to use his super gold card for the first time - had heard of the Red Boats or the fascinating cruise to Riverhead until they were “press ganged” a few days before the adventure.
Along with other folk of similar laid back persuasion we had a great time doing something completely different on a nice day and will be back.
Next time it should be hot enough to commandeer the open top deck, provided Old Collie can negotiate the steep ladder without dropping the beers…
Find out more about the Riverhead Tavern at www.theriverhead.co.nz
Red Boats runs a range of cruises and fishing trips with more details available at www.theredboats.co.nz