KELVIN- Extreme Classic Voyaging

Small motor vessels are not often used for off shore voyages or extensive coastal cruising. One would expect that if a vessel did undertake such journeys it would be of a comparatively modern design and laden with an endless range of modern high tech equipment. But not so for David or Davey Jones as he is known around the coast of New Zealand and Eastern Pacific, and his crew mate Charlotte Townsend. Davey has circumnavigated the North Island thirteen times and he thinks this is the ninth or tenth time around for MV Kelvin.

Well known Port Chalmers boat builder, Steve Carey, who served his time with Millar & Tonnage, built the “Kelvin” for Alex Gunn, at Carey’s Bay. She is 42” x 10”3” with a 5’ draft. Her construction is of single skin Kauri plank on steam bent frames or ribs. With a fuel capacity of 1,000 litres and with additional deck tanks of another 2,000 litres, she has a total range of 3,500 miles. “Kelvin” also carries a small sail area to be used for motor sailing and stability purposes. It is understood that the construction of “Kelvin” took quite some time as Steve led a very social life in the area and Kelvin’s construction was done at a leisurely pace. However she was finally launched and used for fishing out of Port Chalmers.

While under previous ownership and returning to Port Nelson in heavy fog during 1989, “Kelvin” lost her way and grounded on outer side of Nelson’s boulder bank. For various reasons she remained there for several days and sustained severe damage. Her port side was totally ground to pieces. Eventually she was salvaged and written off by the incumbent insurance company.

Tommy Poynton a talented young shipwright/boat builder tendered for her and his bid was successful. Tommy had served his time under Jack Guard, boat builder of Nelson. The aim in bidding for this boat was to go Tuna fishing and Kelvin looked very suitable for the job. He obviously had a love for this type of traditional workboat.

Tommy set “Kelvin” up on the hard and went about rebuilding her. He replaced most of the planks in the starboard side, fitted new floors and bulkheads, as well as engine beds. A new deck was fitted and he built a totally new wheelhouse. At this time Winston Rountree was replacing the engine in “Sanicola” and he had no further use for her old JP4MGR Lister. Tommy purchased this for $50.00 and installed it in Kelvin and it is still going strong. Other second hand gear was obtained and fitted to the boat. Tommy commissioned her and his dream to go tuna fishing had become a reality.

During one of his trips north he called into Tauranga to shelter from bad weather. During one of the nights whilst in port, he lost his footing and fell into the Harbour. It was very late at night and there was no one at hand to assist him. He was found dead on a nearby beach next day. This was a shock to the local fishing industry and particularly to the men of the tuna crews. He is remembered for the drive and energy he displayed to enter the fishing industry in the way he did by rebuilding Kelvin.

One of his closest friends was Davey Jones and he purchased “Kelvin “off Tommy’s estate. He knew she was a very practical boat and as Davey states “She is such an efficient vessel on long trips. At 800RPM doing 6.1 knots she only consumes 3.5 litres of fuel per hour”.

That was many years ago and since those days Davey and Kelvin have done thousands of miles around the coast of New Zealand, Eastern Pacific and the Tasman including parts of the Eastern Australian coast. Late last year Davey and Charlotte visited the Chatham Islands. In January they had planned to visit Tasmania to take part in the Wooden Boat festival but they could not find the right weather pattern so they decided to head north via the West coast.

Kelvin is currently March 2013 in the visitors berth at Karanga Plaza and she is worth a visit. Defiantly not an ordinary boat!

12-12-2015 Update ex Baden Pascoe ex Davey Jones

Kelvin heading south stop over at Hicks Bay


23-12-2015 Update from Michael O’Dwyer

I had a wee chat with Davie Jones of the Kelvin who has stopped in Napier on his umpteenth circumnavigation of NZ while waiting for a weather window to head south.

He was full of facts about the history of his boat. I know it has featured in WW before but here are a few facts that he gave me.

Built 1929 by Steve Carey in Port Chalmers for Alex Gunn a farmer who was told by his doctor to get more sea air to improve his health.
42’4 “in length.Now on it’s fourth engine an 83hp Lister. The original engine, a Kelvin hence name was replaced by a Bolinder oil engine which needed to be started with a blow lamp. Next was a 371 GM, followed by the Lister. Burns 3 litres an hour at 6 knots.

Great character boat with a great character aboard. I signed his well used visitors book.

Kelvin in Napier Dec2015

UPDATE 08-01-2020 – Kelvin and her skipper Davey Jones departing Auckland today on her (best) 19th trip North. Photos below ex Baden Pascoe, who commented that in his eyes DJ is without a doubt one of New Zealand’s greatest ambassadors of classic work boats and their use.

26-03-2020 Update ex Baden Pascoe – Kelvin is still doing laps 🙂

Kelvin at Whangarei March 2020

Whangarei Town Basin March 2020


Hicks Bay


South of Hicks Bay on-route to Napier

17 thoughts on “Kelvin

  1. This morning I was taking an early morning walk near the Whangarei town basin and low and behold, in with the tide steamed Kelvin. As she neared the dock in the basin out popped Davey from the wheelhouse, casually dropping a spring line over a cleat to make a perfect one line berth, as the old Lister gently chugged away in reverse.
    It was great to catch up with Davey again.


  2. Hi, I recently bought a bunch of camera gear and an auction in Melbourne and found a heap of negatives at the bottom of the box. I have just had them developed and there are a lot of NZ photos as well as a few photos of a boat named Kelvin. I think the photos are somewhere from the late 30’s to the late 40’s. Let me know what your email address is and I will send them to you.


  3. The guy in Timaru , Ron Latimer , My uncle , fisher man , I remember this vessel as a boy
    Regards Dave,


  4. Hi, Peter, you would me most welcome to look over the Kelvin next time in Wellington. I am the world worst correspondent hence the delay in acknowledging your request. Please post me your cellphone number to P.O. Box 5137 Port Nelson and I will text you immediately. Regards Davey


  5. Hi Vicki and Davey,
    Thank you for this authoritative information which pretty much confirms the recollection of Ernie Athfield. If you plan to visit Wellington with Kelvin at some time I would really appreciate the opportunity to look her over.

    Peter Duncan.


  6. ahoy – vicki smith here typing for Davey

    Mike Monti – a shipwright at Miller & Tonnage from 1922 – 1974 kept a diary of every vessel that was launched in that period including Miller & Tonnage and Steve Carey
    A diary entry noted the Kelvin was built in 1929 for Alex Gunn
    That is corroborated by Marine dept. records
    She was registered on 24 October 1929 to 29th March 1935 to Alex Gunn as owner
    29 March 1935 – 12 July 1952 – E & W Athfield
    The Bollinder engine broke a crankshaft and a GM (83HP) was fitted in 1951

    She was then sold to a Ron Latimer in Timaru


  7. I have a Nelson Evening Mail cutting of August 9, 1989 relating to the grounding of the Kelvin on The Boulder Bank, Nelson. I tried to copy and paste it but not successful. It includes a picture of the Kelvin on its side on and the following article:
    ” A Nelson fishing boat ran aground on the Boulder Bank as thick fog shrouded the area this morning. The trawler, Kelvin, was heading off for a day’s flounder fishing with three other boats about 5.30am when it struck the rocks on the bank opposite Marybank. The boat, with skipper Mr Mike Trounson the sole occupant, was holed in one side and was listing when salvagers arrived. Mr Trounson was not injured. The Kelvin was the only one of the four vessels without radar. A fisherman from one of the accompanying vessels said the “fog was so thick, you couldn’t see the bow.” The other boats abandoned their fishing plans and stayed alongside the Kelvin, which was “pretty badly holed”. They radioed for help immediately and Nelson Coastguard was alerted at 6.15am. The Coastguard launch, skippered by Captain Dick King, left about 8.15am with diving equipment, pumps and flotation gear aboard. Salvagers were trying this morning to patch the hole with plywood and hoped to refloat the boat by high tide at 2pm. Nelson harbourmaster Captain John Westbrooke said the fog was particularly thick early this morning. The log ship, Dooyang Brave, was delayed for 30 minutes from entering port because fog reduced visibility.”

    Correction from my previous post: Edward Athfield (junior) did not crew on the Kelvin.


  8. I was fishing on Wellington Harbour on Wednesday 30 December when the Kelvin passed us on her way in. She attracted my attention because of the name. I believed she had a connection with my family. I looked for her on Thursday, but she appears to have moved on. So I did a web search and came up with your blog which confirm the identity. I then contacted my second cousin, Ernie Athfield who now lives in Queensland. He confirmed his Grandfather Edward (Ginger) Athfield, his great uncle William (Bill) Athfield owned her from before the start of WW2 (probably around 1935 through to the mid fifties and his father Edward Athfield also crewed on her.
    Ernie advises construction of the Kelvin started in 1929 and she was launched in April 1932. He said the other facts in the article are by and large correct.. They held the Kelvin until the Bolinder engine broke the crankshaft and they put in the GM, which broke them. At this time Ginger was in his 70’s. They sold her to a guy in Timaru.


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