Waipa Delta prepares for epic journey north

12:23, May 29 2009

The Waipa Delta's final dinner cruise along the Waikato River is on Saturday, with the owners of the replica paddlesteamer already preparing to sail it to Auckland as early as Tuesday.

The iconic vessel's fate was sealed after owner Mark Goudie and Hamilton City Council couldn't agree on a deal to keep it in Hamilton.

Waipa Delta spokeswoman Robyn Thomas said while Saturday's final cruise would see the end of a 24-year connection with the city, it was also good to have some certainty.

"It'll be sad for the nine crew on board and the passengers I'm sure, but what's done is done. We're definitely sailing away on Tuesday."

Rather than lift the vessel out of the water at considerable cost, the Delta will sail to Auckland.

The voyage is one that needs three days of suitable weather and will be a large logistical effort. At this stage the boat will sail for 42-hours non-stop north along the Waikato River, up the west coast, and around Cape Reinga before docking at Mangonui in Northland.

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The epic journey will require at least two skippers and the Delta will travel at a top speed of about 10 knots.

Mrs Thomas said the boat would be stripped of anything that didn't need to travel, to make way for fuel and up to 20 people. "Once we reach Northland, we'll be making a lot of publicity stops on the way to Auckland."

Plans are also under way to set up a live webcam on the boat for the historic trip north.

The Waipa Delta will set up for business at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, with first cruises pencilled in for October 1.

Waikato Times