Replacement ferry takes to Strait
The wheel has come full circle for Interislander skipper Jonathan Birdsall, who was on the bridge as the ferry Stena Alegra prepared for its first passenger sailing across Cook Strait last night.
Captain Birdsall was the night skipper on the Aratere when its starboard propeller fell off on a routine sailing from Picton to Wellington on November 5 last year.
The absence of the Aratere from the busy summer sailing schedule meant KiwiRail, owner of the Interislander fleet, had to charter Stena Alegra as a replacement.
The ferry, which sailed to New Zealand from the Baltic Sea, where it was doing crossings between Poland and Sweden, sailed from Wellington to Picton at 5pm, under the command of night skipper David Gale.
The British-registered ship is expected to be in New Zealand waters for at least six months while Aratere is repaired.
Among the the first vehicles to board the ship yesterday was Alexandra woman Kendra Breen's horse float rig.
Mrs Breen, a "barrel racer" at rodeos, was returning south with children Meg, 12, and Charlie, 9, after competing in a Whangarei rodeo.
There is a horse racing theme aboard Stena Alegra, whose bar is called the Jockey Club and the restaurant foodcourt is known as the Winning Post.
The Dominion Post