The first New Zealand scow was built in 1873 by the Mieklejohn family at Omaha, inspired by the timber scows which operated on the Great Lakes in North America. They were ugly, clumsy square boats with flat bottoms designed to draw little water and to beach squarely on the beach. They also carried all their cargo on deck making loading and unloading easier.
Over 130 scows were built in New Zealand over a period of 50 years. They were a common sight around all the beaches and bays of the Hauraki Gulf. They were used to transport timber, sand and all manner of goods.
The remains of the last scow trading on the Hauraki Gulf under sail, Rahiri (formerly called Daphne) can still be seen on Blackpool Beach, Waiheke Island as shown in the feature image.
The scow Jane Gifford can still be seen sailing on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. She was built in 1908 by Davey Darroch at his Ōmaha boatyard and named after the Scottish immigrant ship which had brought Darroch and his family to Auckland in 1842. She had a busy and varied life carting granite, shell, road metal and general cargo.
By the 1950s the Jane Gifford had reached the end of her working life. In 2005 Peter Thompson and Hugh Gladwell set up the Jane Gifford Restoration Trust and purchased the old hulk for $10. Through fundraising and volunteer labour they restored her to her former glory. The Jane Gifford can now be seen tied up to the wharf at Warkworth. She operates a full schedule of sailings for schools and members of the public.