details & photos ex Judith Wallath
Stella was built by Lanes of Totara North in the mid 1950s. Benjamin (Ben) Le Clerc, farmer of Otara, Helena Bay, bought her from Lanes. Stella was 32 ft, built of kauri, with a petrol motor and set up as a game boat. Later, while moored at Helena Bay, a petrol explosion occurred which blew out the forward hatch. She sat on the beach for three months while having a 40 h,p, diesel motor installed.
Disaster struck again on the 21st April 1963 when Ben was returning from a fishing trip with eight men on board, and a catch of 13 hapuka. The boat hit a rock off the Wide Berth (Limerick, Rimiriki) Islands. A mayday signal was sent which was picked up at Russell and Port Charles. In the meantime the boat broke up and the men clambered onto a rock. The first to answer the mayday call were Jack Foote of Footes Bay and Mr J.D Prestney, manager of Mimiwhangata. A runabout was sent out, which laboured to the mainland with 11 people on board. Mr Prestney was off-loaded at Mimiwhangata. He raced to his Landrover and flashed his headlights to attract the attention of the Kitty Vane which was approaching from Tutukaka.
Meanwhile the other ten proceeded towards Helena Bay where disaster struck again. The runabout struck a submerged reef and began to sink. All had to abandon ship once again and cling to a small dinghy which was being towed. It was 3 a.m. before they reached the mainland again. 21 year old Glenys Foote was the heroine of the event. She rowed the dinghy that transferred the men from the rocks to the runabout, and then later rowed the 8 men to shore while Ben swam.
So woodys can anyone add to the history of Stella. Was she salvaged or slipped away to Davey Jones locker? There is some confusion as to her length some say 32′ others 38′, can anyone confirm?
Harold Kidd Input
STELLA apparently WAS a total loss when she went aground on the Limericks, Wide Berth Island, on 21/4/1963, that is according to Madge Malcolm’s book “Where it all began”, but the wreck doesn’t appear in “Shipwrecks of NZ”. She was then owned by B.C. Le Clerc of Helena Bay and was a 38ft bridgedecker. I think she was probably supplied by Lanes at Totara North but was undoubtedly built by Lanes at Auckland, despite the Sam Ford-type waist windows.