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Farewell to the Buffalo

By Pauline Stewart

The crayfishing boat, the Buffalo, (not the HMS Buffalo wreck lying in the sand depths off Buffalo Beach) is somewhat of a legend in the waters of Mercury Bay and its home until Friday, when it was not out crayfishing, was Whitianga Estuary. Warren Horne, Captain and business owner with his wife, Sharon, have been crayfishing in these waters off New Zealands east coast since 1984.

But now the Buffalo has new owners - Dallon Gregory-Hunt and Bonnie Murchie. They have two small children, Mila and Kiwa Gregory-Hunt. What is interesting about this family is they come from the Chatham Islands, and they came specifically to buy the Buffalo.

Dallon had been searching for a crayfishing boat for a long time and had found nothing suitable. He had heard of the boat operated by Warren Horne during his search, but it wasn’t for sale. He decided to come and have a look at the Buffalo anyway. Warren and Dallon clicked as soon as they met and within the passage of a relatively short period of time, Warren decided that his beloved boat would be in good hands with Dallon and his family in the Chatham Islands. After all, he had spent thirty good years on his Buffalo. For Warren and Sharon, it was time to sell on the business and also sell the Buffalo.

It had been over thirty years since that day, Warren had ordered the boat to be built, and he felt so proud that he had a lot of input into its design. “We spent three years crayfishing in Western Australia on the Abrolhos Islands. We loved it and we had seen how good and seaworthy the boats were in Western Australia.” Ever since his surfing youth, Warren had always wanted to spend his working life on the ocean and to own his own boat. “The man who designed a lot of the Western Australia boats we were familiar with, lived in Geraldton, and I asked him to design our boat. This was our dream. Once it was built, we put it on a ship in Perth to come to New Zealand. We came to Whitianga in 1984 and bought the crayfishing business from a man for whom I had worked as a deck hand. His name was Ken Fisher, and when he retired, I was able to buy out his business when the quota system came through. Our crayfishing boat was ready to begin its working life in Whitianga.”

Warren chatted a little about his experience. “Crayfishing is an adventurous life. Your boat is always near the rocks because you need to work around the shallow reefs for the crayfish. The quota system is a good thing as it’s a management tool for the whole commercial fishery. It is good for fishing in New Zealand generally as a way of keeping control of fish stocks. The stocks come and go with cray fish because of the way they breed. It’s not what people think it is. You have good years and bad years. The whole life cycle of the crayfish depends on management being the key tool. Better that we look after it.”

Dallon and Warren, with Dallon’s Dad, Andrew Gregory-Hunt sailed to Tauranga last Friday, leaving the Whitianga Wharf for the last time. It was an emotional time for Sharon and Warren and their family and for the new owners too, as they have become close friends over the journey of passing on the boat, and learning all its’ characteristics to prepare for the future as a crayfishing boat in the Chatham Islands.

Warren is satisfied. “The cool thing is that the Buffalo is going to carry on being a crayfishing boat in the Chatham Islands. We have made very good friends with this family.”

Dallon and his Dad, plus another fishing friend will sail in the 43 foot Buffalo from Tauranga on to Napier and then on to the Chatham Islands r. From Napier, it’s 48 hours of rugged sailing to get to the Chathams, a distance of 736 kms or 397 nautical miles.

“I have taught him all I know about the Buffalo. He’ll do a great job,” says Warren.

Warren and Sharon are on their way back to Whitianga for a different life. “We have six grandchildren and they have all spent time on the Buffalo. They love the ocean. My daughter and her kids came over to spend a last few hours on the boat before it left on its new homeward journey.” Sharon, his wife, who has been the home Business Manager and chief caterer, says, “What am I going to do with Warren around the house all day?” Warren smiles “It’s going to be family and kids and (pause) of course, I’ll have to buy a little boat.”

Caption: Previous owners of the Buffalo gather with the new owners and family friends before the legendary cray fishing boat, Buffalo, leaves for the Chatham Islands.

From left - Doug Walters, Warren and Sharon Horne (previous owners of the Buffalo) , Maria Murchie, Margaret Fisher, Bonnie Murchie and Dallon Gregory-Hunt (new owners) with baby Kiwa, next to his sister Mila, held by her grandfather, Andrew Gregory-Hunt.


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