The Wrecked Heron ’boat bar’ at Happy Wanderers in Kelso on the KZN South Coast
The Wrecked Heron ’boat bar’ at Happy Wanderers in Kelso on the KZN South Coast

From bay to bar

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Sep 4, 2021

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AS A coastal city, Durban has never been a stranger to high seas and buffeting gales with battering rain.

But “Wrecked Heron”, the “bar boat” at the Happy Wanderers Resort on the KZN South Coast, has seen some stormy nights and provided some terra firma on land and at sea during her long and unusual journey.

The vessel, which was built in Knysna in 1957 by by Louw & Halvorsen and launched in Cape Town, started out as The Heron and was a well-known berthing vessel in Durban harbour.

But, once her port days were over, she was used as a fishing boat before being left in an unsightly state and abandoned at the Bluff Yacht Club.

Then, in 2004, Richard Osborne (now deceased) and his wife Jenny saw an opportunity to add an unusual twist to the bar at their Happy Wanderers Resort in Kelso, close to Umzinto.

Jenny Osborne, who is still the owner of the popular resort, sent a brief history of The Heron, particularly when it came to installing the boat as a bar.

“On our honeymoon, we went to the Maldives and stayed on an island which had a restaurant where half of a wooden boat was its buffet counter.

The Heron being lifted into a cradle at Bayhead in Durban harbour: the first step in the vessel’s move to the South Coast in 2004. Picture: World Ship Society (WSS) Port Natal

“We decided that we would look for one back in South Africa. We searched the country and landed up at the Bluff Yacht Club. We found what we were looking for,” said Osborne this week, adding that the yacht club committee member on duty took them out in a dinghy to look at The Heron.

“Back ashore, we abandoned the idea of a buffet counter and decided that we should look at making a bar out of The Heron. The owner of The Heron owed anchorage fees and had ‘fled’ the country. We put in a tender and bought it.

“We stripped her down in the car park, knocked the bar walls off and removed the ceiling and moved her in, rebuilding as we went along,” she said, adding that the total weight was 5.7 tons of rare Burmese teak, copper keel, brass and copper nails and bolts with a phosphor bronze rudder and propeller.

“She was hoisted, hauled, hoisted again, face lifted and restored close to her former beauty, cosmetically aligned and finally given a new home and identity: the Wrecked Heron Ladies Bar & Restaurant,” said Osborne.

The couple decorated the bar with genuine maritime lamps and other pieces of interest, particularly in brass or copper.

Osborne said that while many a happy wanderer had enjoyed a cool cocktail or icy brew at the bar since then, “occasionally, she (the boat) shudders and creaks when she hears the comment: ’I got wrecked at the Heron!’”

But some serious damage was wreaked on the vessel during the storms of 2007 which hammered the KZN coastline, starting in March.

IOL reported at the time that the swell from the storm was estimated to be at least 5m at some points, which led to flooding along large stretches of the province’s coast.

Gale force winds in excess of 80km/h were reported at the height of the storm. According to former news agency, Sapa, emergency services rescued at least nine people, and the Durban beachfront was left littered with debris in the aftermath.

The Wrecked Heron was not spared in the onslaught, with Osborne saying that a second storm in June “with these heavy seas returning and they showed no mercy”.

“They ripped in and took all that was in their way – pools, buildings, a Lapa, concrete and vegetation”, with the pub’s roof caving in.

But she added that Richard had secured the vessel in concrete when they first brought to the resort, and along with the resort’s “black cat being a good luck charm”, the boat was not swept away.

In the repairs that followed, the vessel was shifted into a “new mooring” which required some heavy duty work, but the boat now faces the main entrance. It was renamed “The Resu-Wrecked Heron of the Ladies Bar & Restaurant”.

She said that the pub and adjoining restaurant were run under the captaincy of Fred Dlamini, along with First Officer Wiseman Dlamini and a committed crew in the galley.

Additional source: World Ship Society Port Natal

The Independent on Saturday

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