Loss of the ‘Santina’

On 25 September 1933, seven fishing vessels left Island Bay at 4am that morning for their daily fishing. At 6am a southerly gale sprang up and all of the launches except two returned to port. The ‘Santina’ had broken down and another launch stayed to assist. When it was realised that the second launch wasn’t powerful enough, it too returned to Wellington to get the assistance of the Harbour Board’s tug ‘Toia’.

The ’Toia’ departed the wharf at 10am and returned at 1pm without having seen anything. It was decided to make the search by air, and one of the Wellington Aeroclub’s Gipsy Moths left the Rongotai Aerodrome at about 2pm. It returned at 3pm without sighting anything. In the evening, a piece of the hull belonging to the launch was found at Breaker Bay. An extensive search continued to be made but by the 27th, hope had faded.

The four crew on board the ‘Santina’ were:

Vincesco Costa (owner and skipper of the launch), aged 50, married with three children, lived in Trent Street.

Paolo Panozzo, aged 42, married with two children in Italy.

Generara Amitrano, aged 40, married with two children in Italy.

Ronald Frank Alley, aged 15, who had recently joined the crew.

A funeral service was held at sea in the afternoon of the 27th by the Italian fishing fleet 1 ½ miles southeast of Barrett’s Reef. Twenty-six launches left Island Bay at 2pm and the service was organised by the Cook Strait Fishermen’s Association.

The service was conducted by Rev. Father N.B. Maloney for the three Italian members of the crew, and by the Rev. G.C. Blathwayt, vicar of St Hilda’s church Island Bay for Ronald Alley. The Basile brother’s launch ‘Prince Umberto’ with the official party and wreaths on board started off from port first. At the position the ‘Santina’ was last seen, the leading launch stopped and waited as the other vessels swung around her in a broad circle. The burial service was read and the wreaths consigned to the sea.

Ronald Alley, the young member of the crew was the son of Frank Alley and his wife Mabel Rose Smith who married in London in 1917. He was 24, she was 20. Ronald’s birth was registered in Buckinghamshire the same year. A daughter Winifred Mabel was born in 1919.

The family moved to New Zealand and two further daughters Elizabeth and Lilian were born in 1930 and 1931. Frank worked as a waterside-worker. The family were living in Reef Street, Island Bay, when Ronald was lost at sea.

Mabel died in July 1939 at their home in Melbourne Road, Island Bay, aged 41 and was interred at Karori Cemetery. Frank died in 1953 aged 59 and is buried with her. Their plot is unmarked.

Plot: *Ch Eng 2/K/360

Wellington fishing launch tragedy: impressive funeral service at sea for the crew of the lost craft. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19331004-33-01
Sea funeral, Wellington. Smith, Sydney Charles, 1888-1972: Photographs of New Zealand. Ref: 1/2-047740-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22863361
Alley plot