A family history blog

Wreck of the Nordic

This recount of the wreck of the Nordic was compiled from recollections from locals, including Murray and Rose Aitken, Colin Burrell, Lyn Sissons and Ron Keith as well as newspaper articles about the salvage operation and newspaper clippings and other information about the yacht’s history provided by Ingrid Peek.

The 26-foot keeler “Nordic”was built by Max Peek between 1936 and 1948 and launched in Redcliffs, Christchurch around Easter of that year.  After lots of sailing and family holidays around Lyttelton and the Sounds, she was sold to the Lloyd family in the late 50s early 60s.

In the weekend before Easter 1962 the family were on the first stage of a planned six month cruise around the Pacific.  They were motoring through a bad storm off the coast of Leigh en route to Russell. On board were Mr and Mrs Lloyd, with their two young children David (8) and Annette (4) asleep in the cabin below. Mr Lloyd went to check on the children and discovered David frothing at the mouth and Annette unconscious on her berth, the result of carbon monoxide poisoning from fumes leaking into the cabin from the motor. They turned and headed for Leigh to get help for their children, but in their panic for the children and the confusion of the pohutukawa branches moving about in the storm they mistook the lights from the township for lights from the shore guiding them in, and were driven onto the rocks in a tiny bay just south of the harbour. Despite the treacherous sea and high winds many locals from the town came down to help, braving the pounding surf to bring back the occupants, carrying the children up the cliffs to the waiting ambulance, and securing the yacht. Unfortunately the little girl was dead when the doctor arrived from Warkworth, but her brother was taken to Auckland Hospital and recovered. Leigh residents Lewis Aitken, Peter Burrell and Fred Franich earned Humane Society bravery awards for their efforts that night. Another man, who is believed to have been a visitor to the area, was also given an award. The bay is still referred to as Nordic Bay by locals in memory of the tragedy.

In the days afterwards the yacht was salvaged by Claude Greenwood, who purchased it from the insurance company for £80. The lead keel was removed and the yacht was towed round to the Whangateau slip supported by oil drums. Claude and his son Howard along with several friends rebuilt the yacht, and 17 months later 300 locals came to watch it being relaunched into the Whangateau harbour before being moored at Ti Point. It had many good years cruising round the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula. In late 1968 Lew Peek, son of the original builder, tracked down the yacht at Bucklands Beach, and leaving a note in a bottle he was able to make contact with the owner and purchase her, bringing her back to Lyttleton, she was once again put into service providing many happy family holidays around the South Island. She was sold again around 2016, but languished until she recently changed hands again. Her new owner is now in the process of a complete refurbishment.

These photos of the recovery work the morning after the wreck were taken by Vern Smith.

Local residents Claude Greenwood, Jim Aitken and Howard Greenwood secure the yacht.

The general scene the morning after.

Locals working on the yacht the morning after.

The large easterly swell threatened to further damage the hull by rolling the yacht around on the rocks. Boulders were placed in the cockpit to minimise the movement against the rocks.

At the Whangateau boat yard. The damage was considered as possibly too big a job to repair, but the yacht was strongly constructed so was worth fixing.

2 thoughts on "Wreck of the Nordic"

  • Roger Peek says:

    Purely as a matter of subsequent interest, I encountered the owner of “Nordic” in January 1975 – 13 years after the salvage. He was a pilot for Air New Zealand (for whom I also worked) and was about to sail her from her home port of Lyttelton up to the Marlborough Sounds. We met quite by chance and the “Nordic” just came up in a conversation we were having.

  • Sam says:

    I am the current owner/caretaker of Nordic and would love to meet anyone who was involved in the rescue or subsequent rebuild

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