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Pickmere Atlas of Northland's East Coast

In a digital world where navigational charts can be accessed at the push of a button, there is still a special place for a Pickmere Atlas when cruising the Northland waters, which includes an exceptional collection of hand drawn charts. While you can’t expand these charts with the pinch two fingers, you will still find some exquisite detail of every nook and cranny of the coast, and a unique level of local knowledge that is unavailable on a modern charting platform.

It’s the perfect navigational companion, and for good reason; firstly, it is tactile, and its A3 (opening to A2) format gives an immediate visual overview of the Northland coastline from the Moko Hinau Islands to Spirits Bay (Cape Reinga). But what stands out is the passion, dedication (both personally and professionally), and uniqueness of one man’s life work – Arthur Hereward Pickmere, aka “Pick”.

In summary of the Foreword by Captain C. B. Thompson, and the Introduction by his daughter, and publisher Janet Watkins; Growing up in Whangārei, on the banks of the Hatea River with the boatshed at the bottom of the garden, Hereward found, like Kenneth Graham’s Water Rat that “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing around with boats.” He also owned and sailed the first seven-foot prototype of the present-day ‘P’ class fleet.

In 1927 Hereward qualified as a hydrographic surveyor and went about surveying and charting many of Fiji’s outlying islands, including the Yasawas. He then turned his attention to Northland’s coastline for military mapping purposes, for the Lands and Survey Department during the second world war.

It was during those years that much of his initial charting was done, and he gained a lot of local knowledge from local residents and from Māori elders. Winsome, a 1918 34-foot flushed decked launch, became his most cherished boat and was known to many who observed her habits as the Rock Hopper, where he spent much of his time crafting his work.

Winsome, Hereward and his family spent many summers mooching north, east and south amongst the rocks, over sand banks, into caves, and up mangrove creeks - he always made notes, overwriting maps, drawing sketchers and substantiating previous work. He combined adventure with caution and these qualities are expressed in the production of his Atlas.

Hereward was truly a remarkable character whose enthusiasm for cruising and exploring the coastline impacted all who came into contact with him. His was a warm personality and a cheerful welcome awaited any yachtsman who discovered him in an anchorage aboard his launch Winsome.

To stand on the shore of an Easterly gale

To play with an Octopus in a Kelly pool

To watch the shadows race over danthonia hills

To gather mushrooms in autumn

Eat cockles off a beach barbecue on New Year’s Eve

To snorkel in caves

Play a kingfish on a spinner

Gather shells on an ocean beach

Race to the Trig beacon on a rocky crag

To row around cliff shores

Watch fish in the clear water below

To lie on the hot sand

To swim and dive and

To bunk down at night to the sound of the sea

- are the things we have always been able to enjoy.

Hereward was always cautious. If the area was unknown, he would nose up on a rising tide but always when the sun was high and the sea calm. He never anchored off ocean beaches or left Winsome without an anchor watch except in reliable anchorages. Throughout the book there is an element of caution, and in his own words: ‘remember always, it is the duty of the persons using these charts, responsible for the safety of any craft and its crew, to take all seamanlike precautions’.

Janet published the first edition 1974, with seven reprints through to 1997 and there was an attempt to digitise the charts, however ‘red tape’ made the task too challenging.

With no further publications, a Pickmere Atlas has become a collector’s item. The Atlas came in three colours over eight reprints from 1974 - 1997, originally in red, then blue and later editions in dark green. Currently a good condition copy is fetching NZD$150 - $250 and an original NZD$400 - $600, depending on the condition.

There is often surprise at these values, however with only a finite number of Pickmere Atlases available, it continues to be a treasure for any boaty exploring Northland, and will only continue to appreciate in value.

(Written with the permission from Dave Pickmere, Whangārei).

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