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.