According to the January 1904 edition of the ‘English Yachtsman’, one Mr L.E.C. Beebe, a naval architect resident in London UK, sold a large schooner, the Privateer, to an unnamed yet enterprising colonial gentleman then resident in Her Majesty’s colony of New Zealand: That gentleman was Mr M.J. Burke of Canterbury. The three-masted, 108 ton composite schooner that he purchased, was 32 m in length with a 7 m beam and 3.7 m draught. Formerly named the Olga, she was built in 1874 by Henderson, Coulborn and Co. in Renfrew Scotland, featured a 6 x 5 m main saloon, eight large cabins and a ladies’ cabin, with bathrooms, and a further 25 berths. This beautifully sleek yacht, although almost three decades old, was in excellent condition and had won the Queen’s Cup at Dover.
After being fitted out for the arduous 100 or more day journey to the other side of the world, she embarked in the early British autumn of 1904 for her first port of call at Cape Town, South Africa. From there she sailed on to Melbourne, Australia before finally setting sail for home, in the port of Lyttelton, New Zealand. On arrival she was laid up for major carpentry work, with the cabins being refitted to suit a luxury pleasure yacht. The owner, Mr Burke, had planned a new year’s pleasure cruise for his new acquisition and the Privateer left Lyttelton on Saturday 14 January 1905 bound for Wellington via the Marlborough Sounds.
On board for the sail of a lifetime were Burke along with Captain W. Cameron, acting mate John Grubb and a crew of 22 including musicians, entertainers and local yachtsmen as well as the Christchurch artist William Menzies Gibb, son of John Gibb, one of Canterbury's first professional painters. William was on board to experience, and capture in paint, the wonders of the Marlborough Sounds. Sailing in pleasant, light variable winds the Privateer made Kaikoura that Sunday 15 January and anchored in Ocean Bay, Port Underwood on Tuesday 17th, with the crew taking to the schooner’s whaleboat and tramping into the hills for a spot of shooting.
Following this sojourn, on the way north along Arapaoa Island Privateer encountered a strong easterly as she made for Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound. At 3 PM on Thursday 19th the mizzen boom snapped in half in the heavy winds while off The Brothers islands. Sheltering in Ship Cove for repairs it was decided the makeshift boom was sturdy enough to last for the return to Lyttelton. After two nights she set sail again around to the Pelorus Sound, anchoring just outside of Havelock by Sunday 22nd, where the crew took on fresh water while exploring the town and its beaches.
After anchoring at Guards Bay the following day, and faced with persistent south easterlies, the Privateer sheltered under Long Island before finally setting sail in a head wind and bumpy seas for the Cook Strait on Wednesday 25th, arriving in Wellington on 26 January 1905. While in port she flew the Port Nicholson Yacht Club burgee, as Mr Burke was a member, and attracted a good deal of interest from the locals. After a couple of days sampling the delights of Pōneke, the Privateer set her sails for Whakaraupō Lyttelton Harbour, returning to port by 5 February 1905. Thus ended an excellent adventure of fishing, boating, tramping, shooting, painting and photography as caught in the photographic album of crew member Hubert A. Rhind.
After an Easter cruise to Akaroa in April 1905, Burke decided to sell his luxury pleasure cruiser owing to the rather large expenses he had accrued in her upkeep and betterment. Apparently, the recent amendment to the 1903 Shipping and Seamen’s Act required provision for a permanent crew for all larger ships, including the Privateer, making the venture prohibitively expensive. She was sold to the Australasian Methodist Foreign Missionary Society for missionary work in the South Pacific, and sailed from Lyttelton on 11 May, under Captain William Rennie, for their Sydney headquarters. The Privateer arrived at her new home port on 29 May 1905 after an atrocious journey across the Tasman in severe gales and surviving “tremendous seas”, proving once again she was a very capable schooner indeed.