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Peter Vandersloot takes the helm of the Ariana during her relaunch on January 24. PHOTO: KELLEY TANTAU

Restored Ariana joins ‘the 100 club’

It was a bright but brisk day on the Waihou River as the Ariana was relaunched in celebration of her 100 years.

The boat, which has been lovingly restored by long-time mariner Peter Vandersloot, had recently passed her tri-annual survey to ply the waters around the wharves of the Historical Maritime Park in Paeroa.

It’s hoped that she, alongside her sister vessels – paddle boat Tamiti and river-cat Kittiawa – will relive the days of water transport on the Hauraki Plains for another century.

“I found Ariana sunk in mangroves in the Weiti River north of Auckland, a total wreck,” Peter said, “but she had a good pedigree.” 

Ariana, made of kauri timber, was built by Lane Bros in Judges Bay in 1923. She was in private ownership until the end of World War II and was named Allison while she longline fished in the Hauraki Gulf.

After being discovered by Peter more than 20 years ago, he decided to restore Ariana’s hull and repurpose her as an 1880s river ferry in the style of the Northern Steamship company, the vessels of which worked all the river ports in the Firth of Thames.

“John Lidgard, a well known boat builder and designer, did the drawings and there is Ariana,” Peter told The Profile. “The whole project took two years.”

Peter donated Ariana to the maritime park but said for two decades he’d taken the helm and journeyed with her along the waterways between Thames and Te Aroha. 

“I needed a rest,” he said.

Now part of the maintenance crew at the historical park, Peter, following Ariana’s relaunching on January 24, said even though she’s now joined the “100 club”, it’s hoped she will enjoy the Ohinemuri and Waihou rivers “and all their tributaries” for another century.