The New Zealand Maritime Museum is excited to announce the return – at long last – of the brigantine Breeze. Public sailings onboard this iconic vessel will be available on fortnightly Saturdays from Labour Weekend, October 22nd.

This so-called “little tall-ship” has undergone a significant overhaul since it last sailed publicly in 2016. Vincent Lipanovich, Director of the Maritime Museum, says passengers can expect an “energetic and exciting experience” onboard.

Sailing on Breeze presents such a unique experience for maritime enthusiasts and novice sailors alike – passengers will be invited to roll their sleeves up and experience the thrill of sailing a traditional vessel as they take in the sights of the Waitematā Harbour.

Lipanovich says the museum had planned to relaunch Breeze in January this year, but Covid lockdowns delayed final remediation work. He says the delays were disappointing for crew and potential passengers alike, and museum is thrilled to finally be in a position to offer public sailings from Labour Weekend.

“We still get emails and messages from people who sailed on Breeze years ago. It’s such a special boat and it feels wonderful to finally have this vessel available for people to experience and create new memories.”

Built by the late Ralph Sewell and his family, Breeze was launched in Coromandel, in October 1981. The Sewells had an agenda: to construct and sail a nineteenth-century coastal trader to be able to teach old-school skills. To step aboard Breeze is to travel back in time. The ship’s 10 sails are still hoisted and trimmed by hand – no winches to be seen. The anchor is weighed with a hand-operated windlass.

Ralph also wanted to promote fraternity.

“[Breeze] will enable enthusiasts to further their association with the sea and benefit from the company of kindred spirits,” he wrote.

Breeze came into the museum’s fleet in 1989, four years after it had sailed from Tāmaki Makaurau to Mā‘ohi Nui (French Polynesia) to protest France’s nuclear testing programme. In 1991, it took out the Russell Boating Club’s annual Tall Ships race. It’s a regular at the Mahurangi and Auckland Anniversary Day regattas, and in 2021 did a celebrity turn escorting the mullet fleet as the boats took part in the 100th Lipton Cup. Ralph Sewell would have approved; he built mullet boats as well as square-riggers.

The 25 museum volunteers who take turns to crew Breeze are dab hands at teaching novice crews. ‘She doesn’t point straight into the wind like a yacht,’ says master Bob Hawkins. “You can’t push her – she won’t go fast into the wind. The ship’s idiosyncracies require collegiality,” he says.

“To keep Breeze going, everybody has to act together.”

Public sailings on Breeze are available from 22 October, 2022. Please visit the Breeze page on the Maritime Museum website for up-to-date information. Due to the dynamic nature of the vessel, passengers must be aged 12 and over. Sailings last three hours as passengers explore the Waitematā Harbour.