Waikato River Explorer back for Fieldays after bad start to year

Waikato River Explorer owners Darren and 
Vanessa Mills are getting people to Fieldays by boat after a rocky start to ...
CHRISTINE CORNEGE/FAIRFAX NZ

Waikato River Explorer owners Darren and Vanessa Mills are getting people to Fieldays by boat after a rocky start to the year.

Hamilton's Waikato River Explorer is back for Fieldays after a turbulent start of the year.

A rainy summer, a burst water main, two cyclones and car-jacking thieves are all responsible for the worst possible start to the year for the river cruiser.

After running on "No.8 wire" innovation for the past couple months, managing director Darren Mills is hopeful it will be smooth sailing from here on out. 

Summer customer numbers were already low when a burst city water main blocked off access to the boat's Hamilton Gardens jetty in February.

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Cyclones Debbie and Cook, which drenched the Waikato in April, killed any prospect of a summer season for the Explorer. 

The Waikato river was flooded well above normal levels for two weeks, Mills said.

"In the five years we've been operating they've only flooded the river for 24 hours. Two cyclones in a row just slammed it."

Mills' pontoon at the Gardens was inundated and sustained heavy damage. A crane was called in to fish it out of the river. 

"It's basically wake up in the morning, look at the river level and say 'oh sh**, what do we do today'."

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They also had to cancel a busy Mother's Day when the "last resort" pontoon at Acacia Reserve was crashed into by thieves driving a stolen car.

"For a small business like us it's just horrendous. All our cash for winter disappeared."

The Explorer, a 15-metre vessel called Cynthia Dew, lost a third of its belting when pushed up against a pontoon pole.

Mills had boat builders travel from Tauranga to repair the boat in time for their Fieldays commuter service. 

During the event, held at Mystery Creek from June 14 to 17, four morning ferries will run every 90 minutes from 7.15am. There will be three trips every 90 minutes from 2.10pm.

One trip is already fully booked, and Mills expects few of the Explorer's 49 seats to be empty throughout the week.

And, with fingers crossed, spring will bring fine weather.

How to get to Fieldays:

Bus:

A free bus leaves both The Base and Hamilton's Transport Centre for Fieldays every half hour from 8.30am to 10.30am, with buses returning every hour from 12.00pm to 5.00pm.

A Fieldays ticket gives you a free ride on any urban Hamilton bus or regional service headed to the city's Transport Centre.

Boat:

Leaving from Hamilton Gardens, the Waikato Explorer costs $40 return for adults, and $20 return for children.

A jetboat will also travel the river route, leaving from Narrows Lane, Tamahere. The jetboat takes ten minutes to reach Mystery Creek, and costs $25 for adults, and $10 for children.  

Helicopter:

Fly from Hamilton Gardens at $125 one way and $195 return, per person. If you're flying into Hamilton Airport, a helicopter transfer costs $85 one way and $165 per person.

Or, you can travel one-way by helicopter and one-way by the river explorer for $165 per person. 

 - Stuff

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