The Sinking of HMNZS Wellington
By Grant Porter
Photos Grant Porter and Pieter Pieterse

Sunday, 13th November 2005

Today dawned clear with a 15-20 knot Northerly blowing. Berthed at Queens Wharf, Wellington were 3 Waveney Class Lifeboats. Trust Porirua Rescue (based out of Mana, ex RNLI 44-017), Westgate Rescue (based out of New Plymouth, ex 44-010) and Kaikoura Rescue (based out of Kaikoura, ex RNLI 44-022). Also in attendance was a Brede Class Lifeboat, Sealord Rescue (based out of Nelson, ex RNLI 33-12). At 0600hrs, these vessels departed Queens Wharf to form an escort for the decommissioned frigate HMNZS Wellington, which was towed out of Wellington harbour and out to Island Bay where it was to be sunk at 1500hrs.

The Waveneys’ role in this event, was to turn and hold the frigate due south, at it’s mooring, which was the direction that it was to go down. The Waveneys proved their worth both in holding the frigate in position and allowing towlines to still be made fast to the frigate. As it turned out, only 2 of the three vessels actually got towlines attached, due to deteriorating weather. At 1520hrs, the charges were triggered. Very impressive considering that the vessels were only 40-50 meters away from the explosions. As the frigate went down, she was continuously held in position by the Waveneys.

As Murphy’s Law would have it, our towline was snagged by a private fishing vessel (also involved in the towing procedure) which caused our line to part and we lost 60 meters of line. Needless to say, we were not impressed.

This was the last time that 3 ex-RNLI Waveney lifeboats will ever be seen together in New Zealand. Just to put some minds at rest, Mana Coastguard and New Plymouth Coastguard have no intentions of getting rid of their Waveneys in the near future. The vessels are just to practical to be replaced by anything else.