THETIS (II) & Building Motor Boats at The Lane Motor Boat Company
thanks to current owner Paul Harris & indirectly Max Carter for photo & details
Thetis was built by the Lane Motor Boat Company in 1955. In a 2004 note to Chris McMullen, Max Carter describes the ‘process’ i.e. like all LMBC boats they came off a model. A solid 1/2 model was carved, usually 3/4″ to the foot – a convenient scale. All these Lane models were unfortunately most likely destroyed when the Panmure office (Riverview Road) & workshop burnt down.
In terms of design style – Max commented that American magazines like ‘Yachting’, ‘MotorBoat & Rudder were always lying around & inspiration for Thetis may have come from these & past models on display.
It worked like this (Max Carters words) – “a solid half model was built from a block of kauri & once the modeler was satisfied, the profile & deck line were penciled around onto the ‘plan’. After an assured waterline & the mould station intervals had been marked onto the model a saw kerf was made part way into the model. Pieces of stiff thin card were rough cut & inserted into the kerfs – a pencil run a around the section & the centre line, deck line & assumed waterline marked on. The card was then very carefully trimmed to the section outline & the section transferred to the ‘plan’.”
The only people at Lanes (at that time) that could calculate the volume off the ‘plan’ was Dick Hart & Max, they got the sections by triangulation. Max was taught how to do this & other basic calculations by Sandy Sands at Seacraft, were Max had been apprenticed.
The Thetis model was craved by Peter Parsons from a block of kauri during breaks. The ‘brains trust’ would pass comments like – ‘more flare’, ‘less tumble home’ etc & if Peter agreed he would scrape a little off a little with a piece of broken window glass & glass paper. They used to have an old mirror there & they would place the models on it to see the effect of both sides – moving it around to see it from all angles.
At the time Max worked for LMBC the yard consisted of an old tin shed, which was the office, lunch room, toilet & joinery shop all in one. There was no road down to the lower shop set into the riverbank, the only way to get there was by a narrow winding path or by water. Materials had to be slid down the path. Max recalls sliding the Grey Marine engines down the hill, knowing that if they got it wrong & they were damaged they would all be sacked. In 1955 everything was still in short supply & you needed an import licence, the Butlands seemed to have no trouble sourcing Thetis’s engines.
LMBC only had a table saw, a band saw, thicknesser & buzzer. The only portable tools being a disc grinder & a few electric drills. Most holes were drilled by hand. Hulls were built right side up & cleaned off by hand plane, blade scrapper & long board (a long & arduous job).
Thetis was built in the shed but they lofted it on plywood in the Anglican Church hall across the road. Like all Lane boats they built on shadow moulds so they could trim a bit off or pack the moulds.
Thetis was single skin, the rule being 1/32″ per foot for planking so it was probably 1 3/8″ thick. They would hold the planks to the moulds with temporary screws & place the steam bent spotted gum timber inside & drive the fastenings while hot (really hard work).
Launching were always an exciting time because no one knew the weight of the vessel & everyone had an opinion of where the hull would float & trim. Once launched they would measure the free board at the stem, stern & amidships & work out the weight.
Max recalls at the launching there was a big crowd gathered including a lot of ladies from the Navy League, Ray Pateman was to work the winch & the rest of the yard workers were to stay in the background to retrieve the cradle & any wayward blocks floating down the river. All workers were issued with white overalls for the day & given strict instructions on what to do & to behave. The bottle was broken & Thetis duly launched down the ways when Rays white overall got caught in the winch & ripped his clothes off – everyone thought that was a even greater event than the launching.
Note: at this time, the order of seniority at Lanes (Max’s memory) was Peter Parsons – foreman, Ray Pateman – leading hand, Dick Hart, Clarence Thorpe, Russell Philpot, Trevor Ford, Roy Deane, Bill Bailey, Max Carter, apprentices were Jimmy Emptage, Bob Ryan, Gary Linkhorn & Arthur Ellis.
An amusing tale from Max Carter – Lanes used to contract painters who came & went as the job progressed. One day one of the painters was limping & had his forearm in plaster. When questioned on what happened he replied he had been on a scaffold painting the outside of the city morgue when a guy in a white coat lent out of the window & asked “Do you want a hand?” & to his reply “Yes”, passed him a severed hand, with the result he stepped back off the scaffold & fell.
Also attached of interest, sent in by Scott Taylor, son of the broker – Mac Taylor – is the 1964 sale papers when Jack Butland sold Thetis to Dr. Jefcoate Harbutt for 13,350 pounds, a lot of money in those days. In chat with Harold Kidd it appears that on APYMBA records Jack Butland sold the boat to G Robertson, maybe they did not inform the APYMBA of the sale & Harbutt was missed out on the records?
As an aside – the present owner, Paul Harris, knew Dr Harbutt as he flew him & his family to the Harbutt farm at the bottom end of Waiheke in the 1960’s & Paul lived up the road from Mac Taylor in Devonport – its a small world we live in.
I hope I have assembled & retold these ‘tales’ accurately – if not I’m sure someone will pull me up & correct me 🙂
New photos ex Ken Ricketts 15/09/2014
Ken Ricketts reports that having recently spoken with Thetis’s owner that the 2 in line, 6 cyl, 4-cycle, 120hp Gray Marine engines, installed in 1960 (still there today) are a very rare model & type. They were manufactured during WWII for the American forces & could possibly be the only 2 in NZ. The owner believes her original owner Jack Butland in the later 1950’s probably reconditioned, or war surplus imported them. Ken commented that until now, the only 6 cyl, in line, Gray Marine diesel engines he had heard of, were the 2-cycle, Gray Marine conversion of the 671 Detroit series.
Below are 2 photos of the manufacturers handbook.
Has anyone else ever head of them?