Wellington harbourmaster Mike Pryce says goodbye after 28 years of keeping watch over the water

Former Wellington Harbourmaster Captain Mike Pryce on the Wellington waterfront.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Former Wellington Harbourmaster Captain Mike Pryce on the Wellington waterfront.

After 28 years of watching over Wellington Harbour, harbourmaster Mike Pryce has said goodbye.

Retiring just one day shy of his 70th birthday, Pryce spent the first half of his professional life working at sea and the second half with his eyes fixed on it, in his role as the Wellington regional harbourmaster.

Captain Pryce's fondest memories of his time as harbourmaster were watching the fireworks, the powerboat races and special events held on the harbour.

Former Wellington Harbourmaster Captain Mike Pryce has retired after 28 years of service.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Former Wellington Harbourmaster Captain Mike Pryce has retired after 28 years of service.

There was always something different happening on the water, he said. "But the variety was what kept you challenged." 

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Wellington Harbour plays host to commercial ships, Cook Strait ferries and local punters, Pryce said.

Harbourmaster Mike Pryce on the tug Toia tandem towing the hulks of the abandoned fishing vessels James Cook and Szaps ...
SUPPLIED

Harbourmaster Mike Pryce on the tug Toia tandem towing the hulks of the abandoned fishing vessels James Cook and Szaps from Miramar Wharf out into Cook Strait for scuttling in December 2007.

So there was always something different going on, and thanks to Wellington's wild weather, usually something unpredictable too.

"We all know the danger with Wellington as the weather can change quite quickly."

"[There was] never usually a 'typical' day, even when you think that you have the day planned. Unexpected incidents with shipping can take place, or severe weather can cause problems."

Wellington Harbour master Mike Pryce at the Beacon Hill station.
ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

Wellington Harbour master Mike Pryce at the Beacon Hill station.

Originally from a small port town north of Blackpool in the United Kingdom, Pryce retired from the harbourmaster role last month.

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As harbourmaster, he was charged with responding to marine oil spills along the west coast of the lower North Island, as far north as Otaki, and on the east coast as far north as Castlepoint in Wairarapa.

During his 28-year tenure, he was involved in everything from cleaning up oil spills to the sinking of old ships, coordinating fireworks, powerboats and swimming races.

Harbourmaster Mike Pryce with the ship used in the making of the King Kong movie in February 2010.
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Harbourmaster Mike Pryce with the ship used in the making of the King Kong movie in February 2010.

In his much-loved capital harbour, it was his responsibility to ensure there were no conflicts of interest between casual paddle boarders and cargo ship deliveries.

Before coming aboard as harbourmaster, Pryce spent 23 years as a career mariner.

He worked his way up the ship ranks, while travelling around the world, regularly completing six month 'tours' on tankers.

The ship used in the making of the King Kong movie.
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The ship used in the making of the King Kong movie.

His longest non-stop voyage was 18,901 kilometres from Dampier in northern Australia to Taranto, Italy, via the Cape of Good Hope. It took 38 days.

But his longest single role as the Wellington and Porirua Harbourmaster afforded him different opportunities.

"The harbour scenery is magnificent," he said.

Pryce on board old fishing trawler "Seafire" in 2009. The abandoned hulk was prepared for scuttling but in the end it ...
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Pryce on board old fishing trawler "Seafire" in 2009. The abandoned hulk was prepared for scuttling but in the end it was allowed to go to a dive-site organisation in Tauranga and scuttled there.

"The fact that you can see across Cook Strait on most days shows that New Zealand has a very clean atmosphere. In some ports you might not even see across the harbour."

Pryce will keep his role as the editor, secretary and president of the New Zealand Ship and Marine Society.

 - Stuff

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