Torea almost as good as new

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012
Southland Times photo
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
Pictured, from left, Torea skipper Peter Leask, crewman Shane Wixon and Nicholson Engineering's Ross Phillipson on board the vessel as it is lowered into the water for the first time since it ran aground near Ruapuke Island in August.

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An oyster boat that ran aground near Ruapuke Island in Foveaux Strait and became the focus of a four-day salvage effort is back in the water.

The 20-tonne Torea was slowly lowered into the sea at Bluff yesterday after six weeks on the docks.

In August the vessel, with 26 people aboard, hit a rock and started taking on water before its skipper, Peter Leask, ran it aground.

The passengers, part of a charter trip, were all rescued but Mr Leask said the salvage crews spent four tough days floating the vessel.

He said it was a massive relief to have the Torea back in the water.

"My livelihood flashed before my eyes at one point and it is great to be in a position to look forward to March 1 and the start of the new oyster season," he said.

Mr Leask said it was hard to put an exact dollar figure on the 72-year-old oyster boat but said she was worth millions to the oyster industry.

"With her seasonal catch, the equipment on board and the jobs and families she supports, the Torea would have been a devastating loss," he said.

Getting it back to Bluff and into dry dock had tested the skills of the New Zealand Diving and Salvage crew.

Director Dougal Fergus said that during the salvage operation, soft sand and the water depth had made it very challenging. Extra equipment and manpower had to be called in.

Mr Leask said that at one stage it looked like the Torea would refuse to float. The boat had a hole on the port side and damage to the bow which had been repaired.

"She has also been sandblasted and been given a new coat of paint," said Mr Leask, a boat builder.

There was still some internal work to be completed and the winch equipment had to be fixed, he said.

"This is all work that can be done in the water."

The experienced skipper said he had no doubt the repairs would stand the test of time and the battering of the sea.

"There has been a huge amount of work from Bluff tradesmen to get to this point and she [the Torea] will be around long after I'm finished oystering."

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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