Story by Ken Ricketts
Designed by Wren Carey of Christchurch, as a pleasure craft for himself and his family. She was to be 17 meters long x 4.1 meters beam x 1.9 meter draft with 10 berths in 3 cabins. Her weight is estimated at 35 tons and she is perhaps a little different from other classic launches of that era in that she has a cruiser stern which, in a following sea  is very, very comfortable.
Well known boat builder, Andy Millar, of Millar & Tunnage, in Dunedin, was selected by Carey to build her, – which they did, from heart kauri, and completed her in 1934.  It is believed Wren Carey based her in Lyttelton, and mainly cruised Banks Peninsula, but there are photos, which show her in Picton, so Carey and his friends used her in the Marlborough Sounds, probably over the summer holidays. In those pre-war days.
Photos below show she sported 2 masts, the main mast, just in front of the wheelhouse, and the mizzen mast about over what is now the owners cabin, which is fairly well aft.
In those days the super structure stopped at the funnel, so access to the lower areas aft, would have been via an external hatchway, just aft of the funnel casing.
Her engine was Thornycroft, which must have been used as an auxiliary, with sail being used, when possible.
At the outbreak of WW2 she wascommandeered for use by the Lyttelton Harbour Board  as an inspection vessel..
At the end of hostilities, she became surplus to requirements, and was handed back to Carey, who then sold her in 1948, to the Lyttelton Harbour Board, (LHB) (refer Russell Ward’s comment below), as their pilot boat, and small tug. The LHB removed the old petrol motor, and installed a brand new Gardner 6L3 marine diesel, which is still operating perfectly today. They had an engineer in the engine room, who manually shifted the gearbox into forward, neutral & astern, on instruction from the skipper on the helm, but today a Morse system is used at the helm, which goes from mechanical, to electrical, to hydraulic, via an ingenious conversion system. She cruises at about 7.5 knots and uses about 6 – 8 litres of diesel an hour. There are very few 115hp marine engines today, with this low consumption figure, and the 4 new fuel tanks installed recently, will hold around 3,500 litres of diesel, which makes her ideal for expedition work or long passages.
LHB also removed her sails and the mizzen mast, and installed a radar above the wheelhouse, where the mainsail on its boom would have swung.
So began her transformation from a motor sailer, to 100% launch.
It can safely be assumed that Wairangi, during time with the LHB, has rubbed up against virtually every passenger and cargo ship visiting Lyttelton, from 1948, to the late 1980’s, when she was sold to Lionel Jeffries, an Auckland businessman, who used her as a pleasure craft. He also extended the superstructure aft, from the funnel casing, to what is  there today, using teak planking, to match the original wheelhouse upper works.
He sold her to Lew Ritchie, who used her as a dive and charter boat, out of Tutukaka, in Northland, for a few years, before putting her on the market, and finally selling it to Andrew Jackson, – a retired Auckland businessman, now living in Picton, who immediately started a large scale refit, and refurbishment of the vessel. Sadly, through years of neglect, it proved not possible to keep the exterior teak planks varnished, as many had split and needed filling, so they were painted over. To replace them would have been very costly..
Jackson was looking for an old, NZ built, classic launch, to undertake a couple of adventures abroad. At one stage, it looked like funding might appear, for an expedition, to search for the answer to what happened to Amelia Earhart, when she went missing in her epic 1937 round the world flight. A second plan, one which used her in Europe, in a 13 part television series,  looked like it may eventuate, but the worldwide economic downturn, saw both projects shelved.
With her low fuel consumption and huge range she is ideal for expedition work, and long range cruising.
The vessel has been fully refurbished, to the point, where the Jacksons now live aboard her, in the new Picton marina.
She still has her original call sign of ZMTM.
She is now for sale,  contact – Andrew Jackson on 021347988.

12 thoughts on “Wairangi

  1. I was particularly interested in the record of the “Wairangi”. As a pilot who used her in Lyttelton I developed an affection for her that I did not find in similar vessels; including the “Strathallan” and “Tauranga” each built by Robb of Timaru. Despite her low power and speed, I used her during one wild night, in westerly winds gusting to 90 knots (at Christchurch Airport) to fetch and to rescue a very sick mariner from a Russian “Atlantik” Class which had stopped twenty-two miles off Godley Head. As her master refused to come closer to the port, she had to be boarded. First by offered gangway which, predictably, buried a third of its length into the sea with each violent roll. Having declined this, I finally boarded by the only means then offered; a lifeboat boarding ladder rigged from the boat-deck which oscillated wildly from being hard against the trawlers side out to twenty feet off it. Since the master could not be persuaded to close the land and the trawlers port agent, Geo. H Scales, had emphasised the critical condition of the mariner to be brought ashore it was not the time to pussy-foot around and I boarded her where she was and took into an urgently arranged berth (it was 0200) where Agent, ambulance, customs and police were waiting. The sick man having been removed to hospital and brief exchange of paperwork made, I returned the vessel to sea. It had all been in the nick of time … on the operating table it had been determined that the patient had but twenty minutes or so to live. My principal concern on the way into port however, had been for the forty-five years old “Wairangi” and her crew as she fell astern into the night, her lights disappearing wholly in the troughs and from the trawler’s radar screen, each at increasing intervals. Her crew; skipper Jim Hardwick, engineer Felix Hart and deckhand Bill Smith comprised a team of trustworthiness personified. It was simply business as usual. I am the one standing on the foredeck in more benign conditions, about to board a ship.


  2. I spent a bit of time on Wairangi after Lionel Ellis bought her from the Lyttleton harbour board. It was Lionel that put the extra cabin on top. He built it in a shed and hiabed it on to her. He was a bit lucky to get her to Auckland. She had previously hit the wharf a bit hard and had a crack around the bow.It couldnt be seen because of a large rope fender around the bow. In a big sea , the crack opened up and she took on water. While en route to Auckland , through Cook Straight , it was found out and Lionel chose to head East with the weather until it died down. The coastgaurd removed 1 very sea sick crew member , but the rest remained and successfully got to Auckland. Great boat.


  3. Pingback: Wairangi | waitematawoodys.com #1 for classic wooden boat stories, info, advice & news

  4. Owen Foster tell me she belonged to a close relative on his father’s side of the family, Lionel Ellis, when he was a boy of about 10. He went out her at that time, & remembers it well, & is thrilled to have her back in the family — KEN R


  5. WAIRANGI’S new owners are Owen Foster & Stuart Penno. Owen tells me from Napier today, that they have stopped in there after a very dramatic ride from Picton taking 36 hours, during which there has been some damage to fastenings in the bow/stem area, as evidenced in the recent photo, taken earlier this week, which is having to be repaired, before she comes on to Matiatia at Waiheke.
    I understand the work is being looked after by Hutchison Boatbuilders of Tauranga, whom I am already aware, are ideal for this type of thing, as they love classic boats.
    She is being slipped on Tuesday & they hope to be on their way again shortly thereafter, after having had a not originally planned, skipper change at Napier, as soon as the weather pattern is sufficiently stable, long term, for the remainder of the journey. Owen & Stuart live on Waiheke. Owen is aboard for the journey, as I would see it, as “first mate.”
    Will give further updates as they come to hand — KEN R


  6. WAIRANGI UPDATE. As I type she has been sold, has left Picton, & is on her way to Waiheke, via a partial refit & a paint, at Napier, which she has stopped for, on the way. Will advise of further updates as they come to hand. KEN R


  7. Pingback: 1934 Millar & Tunnage | waitematawoodys.com

  8. Lovely boat. I went out on her when she was in service in Lyttleton. I was especially interested to note the elegant interior woodwork. I don’t think the new deckhouse extension did much for the looks though.
    When WW2 ended, I seem to recall reading that she was not in fact handed back to Carey. He had to sue H.M.N.Z.Gvt for compensation because they passed her on to Lyttelton Harbour Board for use as a pilot boat. A bit shafty of them.


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