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|The Topsail Schooner Huia in Wellington Harbour.
A fast, handsome topsail schooner, the Huia was a good example of the many small traders which plied the coasts and islands of the southwest Pacific. Her measurements were:250.78 tons gross when built; length 115ft. 1in. (35.1m); beam 25ft. 2in. (7.68m). She was launched in 1894 far up the Northern Wairoa River on the west coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Her builder, James Barbour, produced many fine small ships using no plans but developing their lines from half models. The Huia was the most famous and longest serving of his ships until, in January 1951, when on a voyage from Noumea to Vila she ran on a reef and caught fire.
Most of the Huia's life was spent on the New Zealand and Australian coasts, voyaging as far afield as Queensland and Fremantle, with one voyage in 1917 to San Francisco. From 1912 to 1948 she was operated by the Nobel Explosives Company and In the last year of her life she came under Fijian registry. She made one voyage to Pitcairn Island where she took the islanders to Henderson Island to get wood and coconuts.
The Huia was not the fastest of new Zealand built schooners but, although there is some doubt, she did claim the record for the west to east crossing of the Tasman. In 1895 she put out from Newcastle NSW for the Kaipara, and ran straight into a gale. Under staysail, lower topsail and reefed foresail she roared of downwind across the Tasman. It was a matter of keeping going - conditions were so severe that they could'nt reduce sail. Apparently the watch had to sit astride the main-boom to stop themselves being washed overboard. The galley broke adrift and the water tanks were washed over the side. Arriving of the Kaipara Bar, it was impossible to cross so the Huia was hove to for two days until the weather moderated. The passage claimed for the Huia was 4 days, 16 hours.