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The Kestrel Auckland

A tale of a death on a boat, The Kestrel and the importance of stopping 

My Mum has been researching our family tree and found a rather poignant tale about my Great, great, great Grandfather. A widower, it seems he had been on his way to surprise his daughter in Devonport. After travelling by train from Waihi on the 8th of April in 1912, he caught the ferry, The Kestrel, across the harbour to his final destination. The Kestrel then was a new boat, just 7 years old. With land in sight he stood, staggered to the rail and then collapsed, dead.

It’s a sad story. Maybe he had one last wish to see his daughter. Did he know this trip would be his last? How did she, his daughter, feel about all of this?

What made the story even more interesting is that my Mum, her Mum and their siblings used to catch The Kestrel all the time from Devonport – completely unaware of the link it had to their Great great grandfather. Although they all did say they felt strangely connected to it.

It’s the kind of story that always pulls me in and I set out to see if the Kestrel was still around. Could I go and sit on it and feel that pull to generation past?

Now I found out about this story in April 2016. The Kestrel by this time would be 111 years old. A really slim chance it would still be around right?

Well, here’s where it gets more interesting still…

The Kestrel did indeed survive 111 years on the water. After years of this quintessential, iconic harbour ferry taking people across the Auckland Harbour she served some time in Tauranga as a floating restaurant before a campaign in 2010 saw her bought back to Auckland and moored at the viaduct.

This was until 7 March 2016 when she mysteriously sunk after her superstructure broke away from the hull.

What?” you say!

I agree. I was so close. This boats been here for 111 years. I’ve been in the same city as it and I find out my Great (x3) Grandfather died on this boat a month after it sinks.

I felt so compelled to see it. I googled. I looked at pictures. I even wrote to The Kestrel Preservation Society to let me know if I could see it in it’s salvaged state but no reply.

Maybe I just wasn’t meant to see it.

But still, something nagged at me about it. Every now and then I would go back to searching for it online but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

A year passes and I’m looking through some of my old pictures on 500px for a client who was looking for a cityscape of Auckland and I come across this picture that I had posted. Suddenly it all comes flooding back.

It’s 13 November 2013 and I’m at a work function. The sun is setting on the water and I need to get back to the kids at home but instead of walking to my car I walk the other way to find the boat I’d been staring at all evening. I walk toward the boat. It sits in the golden water and it’s like it calls to me. I remember wishing I had my camera, but I don’t so I pull out my phone to take a photo. I sit there for ages and look at it – wishing I knew more of it’s stories. The boat of course is The Kestrel.

I posted this photo in 2013 and the last line I wrote was I’m glad I did. Looking back those words have so much more meaning now.

But the point of these 600 words is not to tell you about my family tree, a death on a boat or even The Kestrel.

It’s to remind you to stop.

Stop and listen to that little voice inside you that tells you something is important.

Even when logic tells you that you are far too busy.

Take photos.

Take a moment to pause and to be.

You never know when you will be so glad you did.

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