La Reta (Sayandra – ML410)

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In Fiji

LA RETA (Sayandra – ML410)

details & photos ex Bob McDougall , Russell Ward & Ken Ricketts + the   ‘Workboat Study Group’

La Reta  started life & was launched in December 1942 as “ML 410,” for the Royal New Zealand Navy, & built by P Vos Ltd., at their slipway, at Auckland Harbour’s Western Reclamation.

Miss Fay Vos, the builders daughter, christened her, whilst Lt. Gordon Crisp, the first C.O., looked on proudly.

She was commissioned on January 25th 1943 & immediately sailed for the Wellington region, where she spent much of her wartime service.

After WWII, she was sold to a person by the name of Jarvis, who sold her to the Cook Islands Producer Board.

She was by then named, La Reta.

She left for Rarotonga on 19th May 1949 & stayed there for 2 years, after which she returned to Auckland & undertook excursion work (fishing trips) from 1950 to 1965 & in 1963 was renamed Sayandra.

Russell Ward  recalls she then had a flat / boxy top & vertical oblong screens to the open bridge but the Fairmile wheelhouse. He remembers some brave soul ‘tarting’ up a Fairmile in the early ’60s and running three day gulf excursions. Had male and female heads at the aft end of the deck house, this might account for the big water tank above in the above picture. Russell particularly remembers the toilet arrangements because he tried to talk them into giving him a holiday job as deckhand & had a good look over.  He also commented that in the photo she has a RDF and a loudspeaker on the foredeck which would suggest commercial use.

The most recent photo above was most likely was taken in or around the mid 1960s.

Power was originally 2 x 530HP Hall Scott V12 petrol engines replaced by 2 x 6-71 175 hp GM Detroit diesels after WWII.

To view / read an great Evening Post article on the building of the Fairmailes click the blue link below. (ex Harold Kidd)


10-11-2015 I recently received this great story from Vern Lake, one of the former crew – its a cool read. Enjoy. Alan H

I have been following and reading your very interesting articles., among others in my search for information and possible pics of where the Fairmile LA RETA is and what happened to her. La Reta (Q410) was used as a day fishing excursion vessel operating from the Princes Wharf launch steps on Quay St Auckland, under the command of Captain XXXXXXXXX (deleted by AH), retired ex Royal Naval Captain. ( I was always led to believe that Captain XXXXXXXX owned the LA RETA ) also operating from the same launch steps as a day fishing excursion vessel was the 60ft? Florence Kennedy owned and operated by Len Sowerby, also there was a much smaller vessel Shannondoah  also operating as a day  fishing excursion vessel,  owned and operated by Abe or Alby? my memory of his correct name is a bit hazy.
I worked and lived aboard the LA RETA for a few  years during the 1950s/early60s, the Engineers’ name was Bill Daveny, I was the deckhand/ Coxwain, also doubling as  Second Engineer on almost a daily basis on the homeward voyage as the Engineer had to berth the boat due to the Captain being drunk! ( I had to go to the side door of the Captains’ favourite Hotel every morning with a sugar bag to collect two bottles of square Gin and a dozen tall bottles of beer, the Captain had many habitual drinking mates who went out every day, they stayed in the wheelhouse drinking all day) I went below to operate the throttles and manual gearbox levers as per the ships telegraph signals from the Bridge. Captain XXXXXXXX misjudged the timing to signal the engine room on one occasion and the ship ended up with the bow under the wharf, luckily no one was injured!
 My Dad first took me out fishing on the LA RETA when I was 10 in 1951/52. I was a frequent passenger after that, the Engineer was a friend of my Dad so he took me under his wing and taught me well, I was the youngest on the Auckland waterfront to obtain my proficiency certificate of Radio Telephone Operator in 1959, LA RETA still had the wartime radio, compass and searchlight which was mounted on the Bridge, the Auxilliary engine was a Petters, mounted on the Starboard side of the engine room. We could comfortably carry 120 people with ample room for all to fish, there were regulars who went out 5 days per week, selling their fish on the pub black market!
I came to Australia for a holiday in mid 1962, liked it here so stayed, the Engineer was sent to Queensland early 1963 with explicit instructions to get me to go back to Auckland to crew on LA RETA as she was or had undergone alterations to become a luxury cruise vessel, I declined the offer, choosing instead to Skipper a 40ft Prawn Trawler on Moreton Bay Q’ld. The last I heard she had gone to the Islands then up to Canada. I have tried searching for her on the internet for 10 years, I made enquiries to the Canadian Marine Officials but with no luck,  early this year I got an email from a Lady in Auckland she said LA RETA was renamed Sayandra and was wrecked in the Islands and subsequently blown up as she could not be salvaged. Late last night I was again looking at your site and came across the above article that you posted early this year.

I would be grateful if you could email me any further info/pictures etc of the LA RETA/SAYANDRA. All my photos were lost during one of our big Queensland floods, La Reta was a big part of my younger life, ( I am now 75 ) I actually shed a few tears when I learned that she is now in Davey Jones’ locker…. VERY SAD ENDING to a fine ship!!!!!
My email address:

19 thoughts on “La Reta (Sayandra – ML410)

  1. Sayandra, I had the pleasure of sailing on her several times out of the Tradewinds hotel, Lami Suva, she used to do a 3 day tourist trip from Suva down to the Astrolabe reef, I was then the Chief Engineer for Pacific Lumber Co, we had a small mill at Naikorokoro Kadavu, it was very convenient for me as I could leave Suva in the morning, down to Solo light then up the Lagoon and the team would come up in a punt from the mill and pick me up.

    I would get to the mill around midday, this gave me the afternoon and all the next day at the mill, then they would take me back the next morning to connect with the Sayandra to come back to Suva, spent many hours down in the engine room admiring the engines, the abiding memory is on the way home with the usual following sea she was as I had been told, roll and pitch like a B, a memory I will never forget, always seemed to catch more fish coming back than going out.
    As best I recall this would have been 1971 or 72

    As for her demise, I seem to recall she was caught with a mainly Fijian crew running drugs in the Solomons, I thought this is where she was written off, may have been another Fairmile, Michael Thoms


  2. I have some info on this as i was part of the crew that took the Fairmile to Fiji with Captain Miller


  3. Just found more info that says La Reta Q410 was sunk in Vanuatu in 1977.
    Dolphin/(Sayandra) Q400 after fire/explosion damage in 1944, damage from a cargo ship explosion nearby in Bougainville 1945, then hit by a ferry in Wellington 1947, loaned to Auck Coast Guard mid 1950s as Cumulus, then back to owner as Commodore then re named Sayandra, then caught fire and sank March 1980 and towed to Rarohara bay Gt Barrier Is, then destroyed by explosives 1982


  4. Just found some photos of Fairmile Sayandra being destroyed by explosives in Rarohara Bay Gt Barrier in March 1980, after being towed in and beached after a fire near Green Island. Was apparently owned by a Mr B Pirret, would this be the same boat ? from an article on wrecks around Great Barrier Is (–scuttlings/shipwrecks-around-the-coast-of-great-barrier-island/1980-seandra )


  5. G’day, wondering if you have more photos of LA RETA @ the Launch steps and fishing on Hauraki Gulf during the 1950s.
    Verdun (Vern) Lake


  6. Fascinating to read this history of the Kiwi Fairmiles. I grew up in Mackay, Queensland where a founding fathere (Tom McLean) of the local tourist industry had a fleet of 9-10 converted Fairmiles under the banner of ‘Roylen Cruises’. From ’48 to the mid-’60s these serviced the (family-owned) resort on Brampton Island (well offshore but inside the Great Barrier Reef). They all had tall cabins with a wheelhouse on top which made them rather top heavy, and requiring a lot of ballast rocks to be placed in the keels. As I recall they were prone to rolling viciously in anything other than fairly calm conditions. Our next door neighbour was the Electrical Engineer on Brampton Island (islands all had their own generators back then), and as a result my Dad got some building work there in the mid-60’s. Like La Reta I understand all but one of the Roylen Cruises’ Fairmiles have gone to Davey Jones’ locker….some coming to grief when I was still living in Mackay (I left in 1976). The Aussie Fairmiles are detailed here if anyone’s interested:
    The only surviving Aussie Fairmile is apparently now MV Challenger and berthed in Melbourne


  7. Pingback: Mystery Launches 13-01-2016 | #1 for classic wooden boat stories, info, advice & news

  8. My grand parents (FC & S Greaves) owned this boat from 74-76. I just called them in Adelaide and they are sending more info and a picture. My grand father said he had lots more info including newspaper clippings of the fire when she sunk (and the subsequent arrest of the then owners), and the boats log book from when she was converted.


  9. Fabulous pic in Fiji — what a lovely addition to the post & I stand corrected on the HP on the engines — my info was gleened from a book by an enthusiast who wrote about her– KEN RICKETTS


  10. I have a few other details on file for La Reta, as I have an interest in the fate of all the NZ Fairmiles.

    A small point, but her original Hall-Scott Defender V12’s were 630hp each, not 530. After being sent to Wellington for patrol duties, the entire fleet of 12 Fairmile B’s was deployed to the Solomon Islands for the remainder of the war.

    The following info was sourced from period journals and newpapers:
    She was named La Reta in 1947. She visited Auckland once on 27 Dec 1949, presumably from Rarotonga.
    In 1963 it was reported that La Reta had returned from Suva and was to undertake a series of 3 to 4 day cruises in the Hauraki Gulf, as Russell Ward recalled. She was converted to carry 20 passengers in 10 double cabins, and was to be renamed SAYANDRA.
    In 1965 she left Auckland for Fiji as a cruise boat.
    Dec 8, 1971 she damaged a propeller when she went aground on a reef off Nasese, Suva.
    The Sayandra was on her way to Levuka. She was towed off the reef at high water by the New Zealand ship Maranui. At that time Sayandra was owned by Tradewinds Marine Ltd, of Suva.
    May 1973, Sayandra was being considered by a Brisbane based group as charter vessel for protests against french nuclear testing at Muroroa, nothing suggests this went ahead, though.
    24/12/77 sunk near Vanuatu.

    I have a nice postcard-style picture of her in Fiji which I will send through. I hadn’t heard of Romandra, I wonder if she was ex-RAN rather than a Kiwi boat?


  11. I think one or both of these boats may have been owned &/or opperated by the late Claude Miller an ex pat., NZer, who was big in the tugboat industry in the 40s & 50s (oposition to Lance & son Harry, Julian, & went in to the tourist industry in Fiji, at that time. —
    As an aside, I have 8mm movies of messrs Julian & Miller, racing the Barbara W & Lady Eva respectively, in the launch race in the New Years Day regatta at the KIYC, in the 50s. — KEN RICKETTS


  12. “Sayandra” I think is the correct spelling of the two shown. In the ’60s there were two converted Fairmiles, “Romandra” and “Sayandra” operating out of Lautoka, Fiji, taking cruises round the Yasawa Islands and other islands on the west of Viti Levu.


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