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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website

The twin screw steam tug Lyttelton of 1907

enquiries for public excursions or charters

Built:    1907 by the four Ferguson Brothers in the Newark Shipyard at Port Glasgow
Yard No :    174
Displacement:    292 gross registered tons
Length:    124 feet or 38.10 metres
Beam:    25 feet or 7.65 metres
Draft :    12 feet or 3.506 metres
Propulsion : Coal fired compound steam engines.
Previous Name:    Canterbury

The latter part of 1907 was a memorable time to be at Lyttelton, the port of the city of Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island. Dr Hammersley imported the first pair of Belgian Barge dogs, Sir Ernest Shackleton arrived on the Nimrod from London via Cape Town and the port's largest ever crowd; some fifty thousand came down to see him depart on his epic voyage to Antarctica. On the 11th September The Lyttelton Harbour Board took delivery of it's new tug, which had made the twelve thousand mile voyage from the Clyde under her own steam.

Nearly a century later, the Canterbury, subsequently renamed Lyttelton after her contemporary sister, can still be found docked at the No. 2 Wharf opposite Norwich Quay. She was retired from service in 1970 and in the absence of an immediate buyer, the Tug Lyttelton Preservation Society was formed and took over the preservation of the vessel at the end of 1972. A year of hard work was needed to re-commission the ship and many fund raising projects were required to buy the extra equipment necessary to obtain a New Zealand Marine Department Passenger Survey Certificate. She commenced her new role as a passenger vessel late in 1973 and it is hoped that she will continue to display a part of the historic past for many years to come.

This beautiful vessel is lovingly maintained in full working order by an impassioned bunch of volunteers. Museum exhibits occupy the captain's cabin, officers' quarters, saloon and other cabins. The engine room is particularly impressive: all polished Brass and oily pistons, it was at the cutting edge of technology in its heyday, with steam power assisted steering.

The Second World War

During this period she made a number of major sea voyages. In January 1943 the vessel went to Bluff at the Southern most point on the island and returned to Lyttelton on the 23rd with the former government steam yacht Hinemoa of 1875. Nineteen months later she would tow the stripped hulk to a point 60 miles North-East of Lyttelton, where the Hinemoa was sunk by explosive charges in 120 fathoms.

11th September 1982: 75th anniversary re-enactment of the completion of her maiden voyage.
The ship is the China Navigation Company's Kweichow, on her last voyage to New Zealand.

Public excursions

Throughout the summer season, usually from December to April or May, the Society operates a Sunday afternoon harbour cruise to the Lyttelton Heads. During the cruise, she calls at all the bays and points of interest. There is a full commentary telling of the history and interesting features of the harbour and surrounding areas.

Charter sailings

The Lyttelton is available for charter from approximately September to June for one hour up to a full day of eight hours. A three hour charter allows a visit to Port Levy while six hours would take in Little Akaloa. Trips can also extend North along the coast as far as the Waimakariri River mouth. Able to accommodate 120 passengers, she is popular for parties and weddings receptions, etc.


Tug Lyttelton Preservation Society

The tug is maintained and operated by fully qualified and competent Society members as well as by other Society members who have been able to gain experience in seafaring ways through their membership in the Society. Each year she has to undergo a very stringent survey by Marine Department Surveyors to obtain the passenger certificate necessary for us to operate.

Bi-annual surveys; June 1999 and July 2001 with her shafts drawn

Finance for maintenance and running expenses amounts to many thousands of dollars each year and these are raised solely by the money received from passenger fares and charter trips plus a small amount in membership subscriptions.

Postage labels issued by the society in 1990.

14th January 2001: enlarged image opens in a new window


All enquiries for public excursions or charters of the tug LYTTELTON can be made to:

Tug Lyttelton Preservation Society
P O Box 19659

Phone: +64 3 379 1973 or +64 3 322 8911
Fax: +64 3 379 1975 or +64 3 322 8911


Thanks to the Banks Peninsula District Council and Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for many of the images and Marcus Castell for the research.

This page is part of the Preserved New Zealand Ships of Historic Interest section of the
New Zealand National Maritime Museum
Maritime Record web site

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NZ National Maritime Museum

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