New vessel needed
Brian Litten has logged more rescues with the Howick Coastguard than you can count.
The 85-year-old was there when the first rescue boat was pushed into the water off Howick Beach in the summer of 1957.
And he's looking forward to seeing a new one in action once a fresh fundraising campaign is complete.
Mr Litten says the original boat was bought in response to a tragedy in 1956.
Three young boys drowned when bad weather capsized their boat during a fishing trip.
"The fire brigade was called, as it was for everything in those days, but there wasn't much we could do. It was in the winter and we couldn't get out there."
The deaths prompted a community fundraising effort and seven months later a rescue boat was patrolling the waters.
"The sailing club and other people went door-to-door. They reckon every house in Howick was visited. They raised enough to have a boat built.
Fire Service members including Mr Litten put up their hands to crew the new boat.
"It was quite an interesting thing to do. Howick was a funny place back in the old days, everyone was into everything.
"At least half the fire brigade were members of the sailing club anyway and we all messed around with boats."
Mr Litten says the $750,000 vessel the Coastguard now wants to buy is very different from the £600 original.
"It was a boat and it went but it wasn't particularly suited for the service. The darn thing was that awkward.
"You'd get a bit of sea coming up and you couldn't see through the windscreen so you had to pop your head through the hatch where you could drown in a face full of water - it was alright in fine weather."
Mr Litten looks back on his 52 years of rescuing with fondness but does have a few haunting memories.
"The worst ones are the people you can't find, rather than people you find who are dead - you can't do much about that," he says.
"There have been several occasions when people have been missing and we have spent hours out there doing search patterns and have never found them. They are the ones you wonder about."
Mr Litten is the only original member still involved and looks forward to seeing the new boat in action.
"Now is the time for the community to help so we can keep helping our people in need on the water," he says.
Operational manager Alan Martin says Howick Coastguard is one of the busiest units in the Hauraki Gulf and probably the country.
"We do somewhere around 200 jobs a year and we need to make sure our equipment is fully up to date and will stand the test," Mr Martin says.
The unit already has $160,000 but needs community support to help bridge the $590,000 gap, he says.
The sale of the present boat will give it a boost and the unit has applied for grants.
The new boat will be a 9.5 metre Naiad rigid inflatable.
"We haven't looked to reinvent the wheel, our current boat is exactly what we want, we just need a new one to keep us out on the water for the next 10 years."
Go to tinyurl.com/coastguardhowick to make a donation.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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