Auckland, New Zealand, DESTINATIONS

FEATURED: A day sail aboard the R. Tucker Thompson


When the R.Tucker Thompson Trust invited us aboard for a day sail, we jumped at the chance. Sailing on a tall ship in the gorgeous Bay of Islands of New Zealand? Sounds like our sort of family adventure!

WHERE: We are boarding the R. Tucker Thompson at the wharf in Russell, the Bay of Islands.

WHY: We are spending the day sailing in the beautiful Bay of Islands with a lunch stop at Motuarohia Island where we will go ashore and explore.

HOW LONG: We leave Russell at 10am, returning at 4pm.

R. Tucker Thompson began building his ship in the later 1970s using a traditional gaff-rigged schooner design married with more modern materials. And with brass fittings and wooden decks and spars she certainly looks the part of a 19th century ship and is a most majestic sight under full sail. Built in Mangawhai, the ship was launched in 1985.

R Tucker Thompson Bay of Islands New Zealand

We boarded the ship at Russell wharf where we met the crew and had a quick lesson in sailing and safety. We motored out of the inner bay and then raised the sails – a team effort needing lots of eager hands and pulling power. We had calm seas and a lovely breeze making for a smooth sail (but if you are susceptible to a bit of sea sickness, the ‘Paihia Bomb’ seasick tablets available from the local Paihia chemist come very highly recommended!).

R Tucker Thompson Bay of Islands New Zealand


R Tucker Thompson Bay of Islands New Zealand

We had turns at the helm steering the ship (and for the more brave of us – a climb up the rigging!) before the crew brought us out morning tea. It was then a short sail to a sheltered bay at Motuarohia Island where we were ferried to shore and went exploring. It’s a quick 15 minute walk to the top of the island where we had wonderful views out over the Bay of Islands. Back down the hill, the island has a lagoon (with a snorkel trail!) for exploring, a sandy beach for swimming and a grassy area for simply relaxing. Lunch was served back on the ship – a tasty bbq and salad.

R Tucker Thompson Bay of Islands New Zealand

After a sunny morning, the clouds came in and we had a rainy trip back to Russell but the crew had plenty of wet weather gear to keep us warm and dry whilst we helped sail home. For those who weren’t so keen on the rain, below decks was warm, dry and comfortable and a few of us indulged in an afternoon nana nap to the sounds of the sea and the creaking rigging.

A day sail on the R. Tucker Thompson is a great outing for kids. The crew were friendly, helpful and encouraging – eager young sailors will enjoy pulling up sails and stowing ropes. For the very young, there is a good stock of child-sized life jackets for extra reassurance as they move around the ship.

The day sail season runs from November through to Easter. If you have less time, the crew also offer a shorter late afternoon sail. In the off-season, the ship is still kept busy with a series of Youth Development Voyages providing young people (13-18 years) 7 day voyages designed to develop confidence and leadership. By taking a day sail upon the ship, you’ll be contributing to the continuing good work of the R. Tucker Thompson Trust.

Learn more about the ship and the Trust  at


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