Timaru's first pilot boat, the Elsie Evans, is back at sea, after 59 years on land.
It was re-launched, after a $500,000 restoration makeover, in the Otago Harbour yesterday.
Otago Harbour Ferry chairman Shem Sutherland was at the launch and said it was perfect.
"Elsie behaved herself. The lift went fine, there was a little bit of mucking around getting her sitting on the keel being transported.
"It was emotional, our treasurer died a year ago and we would have liked him to see her going in the water.
"I've been on a high all day, been running around like a kid with a big smile on my face."
He hoped passengers would be allowed on Elsie by January.
"When we get the survey we will be able to take passengers. A stability test will let us know how many passengers we can take. We are looking at January next year."
The Elsie Evans was built by Auckland firm Charles Bailey Jr, as the first pilot boat for the Timaru Harbour Board and as a replacement for its paddle-tug Mana. It was launched on December 31, 1901, and named after the wife of the harbour board chairman at the time, William Evans.
The boat's main tasks were to tow small craft, tend the big steamers, take the health officer out to deep-sea sailing vessels and carry the pilots.
Those were roles it continued until 1927, when it was sold to Captain Percy Moss, of the Portobello Railway and Ferry Co.
From 1928, it was used as a launch to tow barges, carry freight, and ferry passengers when the company's other ferries Tarewai and Waireka were out of service. In 1944, it took over from the Tarewai and regularly sailed the 2.4 kilometres between Portobello and Port Chalmers, carrying up to 37 passengers. It was a role it continued in until 1954.
Life for the old launch took a turn for the worse after that. While several owners had big plans for the boat, nothing happened and it was sitting in a paddock when the South Canterbury Historical Society bought it for $1200 in 1997.
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