'Queen of the Kaipara' says Francie boating tragedy shows danger of 'roaring' Kaipara seas

Flora Thirkettle, 'the Queen of the Kaipara', on the wharf she built at her house in Helensville, northwest of Auckland.
JOSH FAGAN

Flora Thirkettle, 'the Queen of the Kaipara', on the wharf she built at her house in Helensville, northwest of Auckland.

Flora Thirkettle has seen a lot of shipwrecks but none like this.

The 88-year-old said last Saturday's capsizing of The Francie charter boat has stunned the community and sounded a warning of just how "roaring" and "wild" the Kaipara seas could be.

She has spent her life fishing by the old wrecks of the Kaipara Harbour, near the sandbar area known as the 'graveyard'.

"The Queen of the Kaipara" has spent her life fishing the waters of the Kaipara Harbour catching plenty of fish like the ...
PETER MEECHAM

"The Queen of the Kaipara" has spent her life fishing the waters of the Kaipara Harbour catching plenty of fish like the Seven Gilled Shark jaw she holds in this photo.

Thirkettle, whose fishing exploits have earned her the nickname 'the Queen of the Kaipara', said people needed to be aware of the serious hazards of the Kaipara.

READ MORE:
Meet the 84 year-old who boils up sharks
Kaipara boaties raised fears with skipper before tragedy
Kaipara Harbour Disaster: Search continues for missing person
Families mourn victims of Kaipara boat tragedy
'The epitome of your ideal Kiwi dad': Two more victims of Kaipara boat sinking identified

The bar that The Francie attempted to cross had the potential to be "wild", she said.

Flora Thirkettle, who's known as 'the Queen of the Kaipara', stands in front of the Helensville Cruiser Club with the ...
JOSH FAGAN

Flora Thirkettle, who's known as 'the Queen of the Kaipara', stands in front of the Helensville Cruiser Club with the national flag at half mast.

"You can easily lose control with the flow of water going out if the wind is going the wrong way.

"There's a terrific tide that roars out of the Kaipara and if you've got a strong wind coming in, which is predominantly southwesterly, it's fighting against the strong tide going out and creating the massive steep, big headed waves."

"It was obviously a strong southwesterly (last Saturday) because none of the other fellas went out." 

She is critical of Francie's skipper Bill McNatty making the decision to cross the bar.

Ad Feedback

"There's no reason they should have crossed the bar," she said.

"There were a lot of other commercial fishermen down there and none of them went out over the bar. It was obviously a mistake. The boats that were in there that stayed in the harbour got all the fish they wanted." 

Onboard one of the boats that remained in the harbour was her son, grandson and some of her great grandchildren.

She said her daughter rang her with the news that a boat capsized and for a brief moment she feared she may have lost three generations of family. 

"She (my daughter) heard a few people talking about it on their yuppy phones and she rang up and told me they had a problem down there. But luckily she rang back once they found out it wasn't Reggie."

Thirkettle, who knows the area better than almost anyone, got into commercial fishing as a solo mum in order to feed her seven children.

"When I bought this house it had a boat with it and a dinghy, with two nets in it. I got enough fish to pay for the house and the boat and rearing seven kids."

She said the area was good for catching mullet, flounder, kahawai, and occasionally sharks - she uses their livers for shark oil. 

It was an increasingly popular harbour for charter boats, or "party boats", as she refers to them.

The ill-fated journey of The Francie on Saturday afternoon claimed the lives of a group of friends, along with skipper William "Bill" McNatty.

​There were seven confirmed dead and one man still classed as missing on Tuesday.

Thirkettle said there were a lot of lessons that would emerge from the incident.

"I just hope people take notice of what happened and don't do it themselves."

LATEST ON THE SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN

The search for Taulagi Afamasaga, 56, continued on Tuesday.

Search and rescue officers on quad bikes scoured beaches at low tide at the northern tip of South Head while the Police Eagle Helicopter carried out more aerial sweeps of the shoreline south and north of Kaipara Heads.

Meanwhile the Transport Accident Investigation Commission now has four investigators working on its inquiry into the sinking. 

The focus is on gathering information from the survivors, next of kin, police, members of the Kaipara boating community, and the Coastguard, TAIC said in a statement.

Chief Investigator Captain Tim Burfoot said the Commission team was keen to gather as much information as soon as it could while memories remained fresh.

A great deal of information had already been collected "but it is still early days in the investigation."

Some debris washed up on local Kaipara beaches had been collected by police and would be passed to the Commission for analysis.

"The location of the wreck is currently unknown. The Commission will consider that aspect of the inquiry once all other evidence has been gathered and analysed."

Captain Burfoot said the gathering of evidence would continue for some time. The Commission had the ability to issue urgent safety recommendations at any stage if required.

 - Stuff

Comments

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

National wins Auckland

Nikki Kaye was ready for a "tough fight" for Auckland central electorate and she got one from Labour rookie Helen White.

A nasty scare in Central Auckland could have cost National the country's biggest city, but they still landed on top.

Brave boy calls help

Police had to free a person trapped under a vehicle in rural Northland.

A child passenger called emergency services then directed them to a rolled car in Northland.

West Auckland election results

Te Atatu candidates, Labour Party's Phil Twyford and National Party's Alfred Ngaro.

Who are the winners and losers in the west Auckland electorates?

David Seymour emerges victorious

David Seymour addresses the party faithful at ACT's election night celebration with deputy Beth Houlbrooke.

The leader of ACT has once again swept to victory in Epsom – but could still end up in opposition.

Wellington

Hutt South turns blue

Chris Bishop with his partner Jenna Raeburn at the Queen of Jackson pub in Petone after a hotly contested inaugural ...

Chris Bishop takes Hutt South by wooing Wainui.

Capital painted red video

Wellington City deputy mayor Paul Eagle comfortably won the Rongotai seat with 16,983 votes.

Wellington's electoral candidates painted the capital red on Saturday night.

Wellington pummel Waikato

Sam Lousi scoring for Wellington against Waikato.

Ruthless Lions score five tries to one and pile more misery on Mooloos with dominant display.

Opportunity lost for Morgan

Gareth Morgan called on the Green Party to join National in the new government, rather than represent the environment ...

The Opportunities Party evidence-based populism fails to give chief Gareth Morgan any seats in Parliament.

Canterbury

Webb's in, Wagner's out video

Labour's victorious Christchurch Central candidate Duncan Webb shares a moment with Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson at the ...

Canterbury remains relatively static from the 2014 election – except for one important seat.

Live: Election night

Winston Peters faces a choice: support Bill English's National, or join with a Labour-Green bloc led by Jacinda Ardern.

There's been no clear result. NZ First's Winston Peters faces a choice: support National or join a Labour-Green bloc.

Two robberies in 15 minutes

Police officers attended robberies at two Christchurch shops on Saturday night.

Knife-weilding man robs dairy of cash soon after man steals money from another shop.

New shops and foodcourt planned

A new foodcourt and seating areas for diners will be added at the southern end of Northlands mall.

Christchurch's Northlands Mall is planning to embark on another extension.

Waikato

A timely drop in Waikato's 'ocean'

Eliza Webster, who commutes twice weekly to Auckland for university, is counting on a commuter rail between Auckland, ...

National's spending promises are timely for the growing Waikato and Bay of Plenty, but some say there's other priorities.

First time MP romps in

Tim van de Molen says he is more than up to the challenges ahead of him.

First time National Waikato candidate Tim van de Molen won the Waikato seat with ease.

Māori electorate rout video

'Maori are returning to Labour because we're talking about the issues that matter' - Labour's Kelvin Davis says.

Labour has dominated the Māori seats and booted the Māori Party out of Parliament.

Live: Election night

Winston Peters faces a choice: support Bill English's National, or join with a Labour-Green bloc led by Jacinda Ardern.

Follow the live blog of who's in and who's out of the Beehive.

Taranaki

Tamati tackled short of line

23092017 News GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Howie Tamati, M??ori Party candidate for Te Tai Hau??uru watches the results come ...

Touted as a possible kingmaker before the election, Howie Tamati trailed in his electorate, as Māori Party faces possible oblivion.

Young keeps NP seat

Jonathan Young, with wife Maura, at the election party held at The Plymouth Hotel.

National's Jonathan Young has retaken seat with 49.7% of the vote.

Kuriger ready for next three years

Re-elected Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, middle, with supporters at Te Awamutu Golf Club on election night.

Taranaki King Country MP Barbara Kuriger said she will work to bridge the gap between the rural urban divide

National keeps Borrows' seat

National MP Nathan Guy has kept his Ōtaki seat, easily.

The city had been in the safe hands of four-term National MP Chester Borrows.

Manawatu

Winners are grinners video

Ian McKelvie is the National candidate for the Rangītikei electorate.

National candidate Ian McKelvie has won Rangitīkei comfortably.

Fourth time around

Iain Lees-Galloway has easily won the Palmerston North seat for the fourth time.

Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway has emphatic election win in Palmerston North.

Ōtaki, Whanganui staying blue

National MP Nathan Guy has kept his Ōtaki seat, easily.

Nathan Guy and Harate Hipango set to retain electorates for National.

Tamati tackled short of line

Te Tai Hauauru Maori Party candidate Howie Tamati with supporter Jack Niwa

Touted as a possible kingmaker before the election, Howie Tamati trails in his electorate.

Nelson

Smiths wins Nelson, O'Connor takes West Coast-Tasman

23092017 NEWS PHOTO / MARTIN DE RUYTER / STUFF

Rachel Boyack, Labour Part candidate concedes to Nick Smith, Nelson MP ...

Nelson and West Coast Tasman MPs retained their seats.

Death of a gentleman

Ron Brinsdon, pictured in 2005, on his dawn can collection run in Hardy St. He and a friend would flatten the cans and ...

Homeless man Ron Brinsdon died after collapsing in Nelson. Behind the familiar face was a hidden story.

WOW tribute to late designer

The Art of New York City created by Martin de Ruyter, Karen Stade and Troy Stade, modelled by Nicole Gibson.

The memory of a young designer who took out the World of WearableArt Awards top prize is being kept alive in a garment at this year's finals.

Close race tipped in Nelson

05092017 NEWS PHOTO BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF
Nelson MP Nick Smith at his election campaign launch party at the Trafalgar ...

Three Nelson candidates give their verdicts on the campaign.

Marlborough

Ardern: 'We hoped for better'

Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern addresses her supporters as she waits for an election verdict.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says her party was hoping for a better result, as National stays 10 points ahead.

Smith cleans up

National's Stuart Smith has been re-elected in Kaikōura.

Stuart Smith wins easily in Kaikōura

Opportunity lost for Morgan

Gareth Morgan called on the Green Party to join National in the new government, rather than represent the environment ...

The Opportunities Party evidence-based populism fails to give chief Gareth Morgan any seats in Parliament.

Youngest MP in 42 years

Chloe Swarbrick said said she wasn't sure what New Zealanders would think of her entering Parliament so young.

At 23, Chloe Swarbrick is on the brink of making it into Parliament - but she's not so sure how some Kiwis will respond.

South Canterbury

Dean comfortably wins Waitaki

National Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean addresses her supporters at an election night function at the Oamaru Opera House after ...

Jacqui Dean wins a fifth term in Parliament

Falloon takes seat video

Green Party candidate Mojo Mathers watches the first results come in with members of her campaign team, from left, Ray ...

National's Andrew Falloon has won the Rangitata seat, but National's majority is down.

Hydro 'dangerous'

Timaru's Hydro Grand Hotel has been assessed as being a dangerous building likely to cause injury or death.

Damning report says Hydro Grand is dangerous, likely to cause injury or death.

Time to spring forward

Butcher Jim Bower's early mornings will be even darker and busier when Daylight Saving kicks in on Sunday.

Dust off the barbecue, it's time for long evenings as Daylight Savings starts.

Otago

Revealing ancient and heavenly stories at Cardrona

Cardrona astronomy guide Alex Thom peers through Cardrona's new telescope.

Cardrona Alpine Resort is reaching for the skies with its new visitor attraction.

Flames beat back rescuers

The fire was in one unit in a block of four.

Neighbours reportedly tried to rescue the occupant of a Dunedin flat where a person died overnight.

Woman rescued, police thank app

A Christchurch woman was found on Ben Lomond, near Queenstown, about 12am on Friday.

A Christchurch woman was rescued from a Queenstown mountain after her husband tracked her location through a phone app.

Eyes to the sky in Alexandra

Neil Sutherland, who lives at the Alexandra Airport at his hanger, will be displaying his home-built plane at the Wings ...

It's not every day planes down the main street of Alexandra.

Southland

Live: NZ Election

Winston Peters faces a choice: support Bill English's National, or join with a Labour-Green bloc led by Jacinda Ardern.

The general election has not delivered a clear result on the night and NZ First leader Winston Peters faces a choice: support Bill English's National, or join with a Labour-Green bloc led by Jacinda Ardern.

South's election night

It was all smiles for Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, pictured here with her husband Mark Billcliff.

Invercargill will have two MPs in Parliament, Labour's Liz Craig and National's Sarah Dowie.

Craig will become Labour list MP

Invercargill Labour Candidate Dr Liz Craig is set to become a list MP after the 2017 general election.

Invercargill Labour candidate Dr Liz Craig lost the battle for the Invercargill electorate seat but will still become an MP.

Ria Bond to leave parliament

NZ First Invercargill candidate Ria Bond with her father Ariki Hoterene-Shortland at the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargill.

There were tears of disappointment for former MP Ria Bond.

Ad Feedback