Mystery Launch 16-03-2016


photo & details ex Robin Elliott

Another photo sent in by Robin ex the Whangarei Cruising Club collection. Photo most likely  from the 1940’s >  early 1950’s period and taken by Palmer Photography in Whangarei (1910-1999). Most by the late Graeme Palmer and possibly some older ones by his father.
In the photo the crane was from ‘S.G. Bignall, Ph 2802, Whangarei’,  also the gent holding the stern line has only one arm (no left arm) so maybe that helps in ID’ing the launch?

A little bonus viewing today – check out the latest (March-April) on-line addition of the USA ‘Classic Yacht’ magazine. Lots of great motorboat & yachts featured in this issue – link below

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11 thoughts on “Mystery Launch 16-03-2016

  1. When I was working for NZ Express in Christchurch around 1967 we did import work for G.T. Gillies Ltd. of Oamaru, all GMC spares.
    Just after the war Gillies, (foundry, motor vehicles, scrap merchant etc etc), bought a large quantity of US Ex-Army GM trucks – a pound each I was told – that he sat on for years quietly selling them off to Ministry of Works, Forestry and other Govt departments. He still had a few in his yard in 1967. The firm had a yard in Seaview in Wellington too that I went to once I moved up there un 1969.
    I remember Mr. Gilles well because not only was he unfailingly polite but he favoured the tam o’shanter as head gear. A rarity in 1967.


  2. Rongo as a noun = “peace” or it can mean a “sense” eg of touch. So
    That’s why, just after the Armistice, Cecil Leys renamed the 1911 Lanes-built MOLLIE to RONGO when he bought her from Colebrook in 1919. Colebrook had Joe Slattery build him the new MOLLIE, later ALCESTIS and RAIONA, that year. Leys re-engined the Lanes MOLLIE/RONGO with a 100hp Scripps and sold her to T Julian in 1928.
    When Leys bought Court’s GLADYS II in 1930 he renamed her RONGO II!
    The Auckland Star (Wilkie Wilkinson) got confused between the two big RONGOs at this time, and who can blame him?
    RONGOPAI = “good peace” or “good feeling”.
    Les Waldron’s RONGOTAI means “peaceful sea” or perhaps “the feel of the sea”.


  3. Robin, that could well be the name. I remember it was quite short, there were several Rongopai and two Oronga down at Tga .Could Harold tell us what “Rongo” means.
    Ken Lowe spent most of his life after ww2 as a mechanic with P.W.D. in the Cook Islands and retired to Whangarei while Nipper was on the tugs out of Auckland so that E.Lowe is most likely to be Ron.


  4. Brilliant stuff Ray!.
    The 1951/52 Fixture Card has a launch named Rongo owned by E. Lowe. Does that ring a bell?
    Unfortunately the Club only published member’s boats and names for 3 seasons.


  5. Who knows what the Yanks did with all their lovely gear in NZ?
    People like Giltrap and Valintine handled most of the stuff here.
    I’ve seen great piles of US Army vehicles and earthmoving equipment rotting in holes in the coral near Vila, not to mention the enormous quantities that were driven off Million Dollar Point on Espiritu Santo. No wonder the locals still have their Cargo and John Frum (America) cults.
    Wouldn’t mind a Jeep, Peep or Indian or two these days.
    I did own a share in a Leyland Retriever briefly, but it was too much and went to a crane operator in Milford.


  6. As a p.s. Ronnie Lowe had two brothers that I knew, Ken,the oldest then Ron then there was “Nipper” who drove “Hipi” for so many years. I don’t know if Billy Lowe was his father or G-father


  7. Harold, when I worked for “Leonard & Seon” logging on Matakana Island, they had two of those Macks, one with a 4cyl. Cummins. They were real beasties and ran on optional 24″ wheels, we used second hand DC3 tyres, radial tread for running in the sand. One truck later went to an old codger at Coromandel then to Taupo and finally ended up in a lake in Fiji somewhere.I have a full story on its life and times at home.How I picked it was the buggy steps up to the half door.
    The launch was about the fastest on Whangarei harbour, there was absolutely nothing inside, just the little Kelvin 4 cylinder and a petrol tank.She was probably built as an open boat with a little bow front cuddy and I think Ron built the cabin, such as it was, more of a large shelter.I last saw her outside a boat builders roadside shed on the Kaeo side approaching Whangaroa. She was all dollied up and looked just how it was away back when.
    Back to the Mack, they were designed and built to pull the 155mm “Long Tom” guns for the European theatre and nobody really knew how or why they ended up in N.Z. There was supposedly three of them in the country.The fromt bench seated 5 and the rag top was so that the whole crew were observers. Max speed was about 35 m.p.h.


  8. The truck is a Mack model NO or in army speak “G532-7 1/2 ton” Steve Bignall at the winch handles, built the crane himself using an old log hauler, prob. a Judd or A & G Price.
    The stretcher is far from being an old fence post, it was a length of Australian hardwood power pole. Notice the single whip lift and chains around the boat.
    The boat looks to me to be a sweet little “Lanes” about 27 ft with a Kelvin petrol, just look at the prop.And that looks to be Ronnie Lowe the owner in the cockpit. This was probably very early 50’s when he took it home and there she stayed until his house was removed in the 1970’s
    That location is on the Hatea river bank above the bridge and at the site of the old Telfer and Carr sawmill, now Hatea drive.
    And look at the young fella sculling around in the workboat, todays lad wouldn’t know how to do that.The old bloke with one arm could be Tom Clotworthy from Onerahi, He was a bullocky all his life and lost his arm snigging logs with a team when he was young


  9. Check out the lifting arrangement! You have to love the chain lifting strops and hessian fenders. Not to mention the strainer post spreader bar. No worries…


  10. No idea on the boat but the truck is perhaps an ex-US Army Diamond T 6X6 or one of the bigger Dodges at a pinch?


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