‘Echo’ of the Past
Sadly, Picton will soon farewell the hull of the scow ‘Echo’ which has sat aground in the marina to the north of the Coathanger bridge since 1972.
A.S. Echo was built from Northland kauri in 1905 and was bought by Eckfords of Blenheim around 1920. From her new home port she plied Cook Strait carrying goods to and from Wellington, making her way up the Opawa River to the township, only very occasionally being diverted to Picton when the Wairau Bar was closed.
The Echo served in the Pacific during World War II for 18 months from March 1944, when the US Military requisitioned her – reportedly to assist with spying on the Japanese Army’s activities. A Hollywood film ‘The Wackiest Ship in the Army’ – a comedy starring Jack Lemon and Ricky Nelson – was based on the Echo’s adventures during this time.
The Echo remained in service for Eckfords until the Wellington to Picton ferry service began in the mid 1960’s. After a time sitting aground, she was floated around to Picton where her hull was filled with concrete, initially for use as clubrooms for the Marlborough Cruising Club, until she was converted to a privately-owned restaurant/museum. Following a change of ownership of the restaurant early in 2012, increasing delipadation, maintenance and consenting issues led eventually to the sale of the hulk to Port Marlborough in September this year.
Sadly, engineering and shipwright’s surveys of the vessel have confirmed that the structure has now deteriorated beyond recovery. Salvaged parts of the Echo will be curated through the Marlborough Museum and Brayshaw Park, as a first step, and a memorial site to the Echo will be established near to her old berth on the Opawa River, in Blenheim.