What Happened To The Viking?


What Happened To The Viking?
words & photo ex Mark Davis

This is a great tale – I’ll let Mark tell it 🙂

“I stumbled across your web site by accident after reading an article in the Otago Daily Times about the Elsie Evans. It got me thinking if anyone may know it’ll be yourself or one of your members. My late mum used to tell me of her life growing up in Waihi. Her dad, my grandfather, Walter Caldwell, used to own a well known fish shop in Waihi, called simply Waihi Fish Supply, (which is now a burger bar). To supply his shop he used to have a small number of boats moored at Waihi Beach. This, I think was sometime between the two world wars. Anyway to get to the point, he purpose built a boat to his own design in the “backyard” of the fish shop. This is the boat my mum talked about the most. When finished and launched at Waihi beach, most of the then town, turned out for the occasion. The boat was christened the Viking. Mum told me the Viking was an excellent sea boat and remembers going out on it once or twice. Of course being a “girl” she didn’t know any of the important stuff. The story continues, as the world was plunged into another global conflict in the late 30’s the government of the day commandeered as many suitable boats as possible for coastal patrol etc, the Viking was one of these boats. That’s where the story could end, but as chance would have it someone told mum the boat ended up at the Auckland Maritime Museum on Quay St Auckland. I’ve looked on line but didn’t find any trace of her, (the boat not mum), so put it down to urban legend or similar.

So that brings me to this email. After taking possession of mums treasures after her death I came across a suitcase of old photos. Amongst the hundreds of unidentified photos is a picture of a boat being built in a “backyard” of what looks to be the rear of the fish shop in Waihi, (I have visited and still do visit Waihi many times). The photo doesn’t show much apart from a hull being laid over with planking and not a lot of detail, however if you like detective novels then this may appeal to you or visitors to your web site. Please let me know if you’re interested, one way or the other, and I’ll email you a scan to have a look. As we now live in North Otago popping down to the Maritime Museum to research this further is not on the cards anytime soon.”

So woodys, can anyone help Mark out? Is there any truth in the Maritime Museum story or as Mark says – is it just an urban legend.

3 thoughts on “What Happened To The Viking?

  1. PS I must say that I can’t see the design of VIKING in Blill Couldrey’s plan list, possibly because it would have been an early design for him. Thanks to Robb Longhurst, though, I’ve identified another Couldrey design, the 22ft launch SNOWGOOSE built by Robb’s father Bill Longhurst with neighbour Bill Couldrey’s help in 1964. Does anyone know where SNOWGOOSE is these days?


  2. Here’s some more on VIKING.
    She was built at Bowentown for W. Caldwell by 2 Shetland Islanders to a design by Arnold (Bill) Couldrey. No doubt Caldwell kept her at Bowentown which is a pretty safe little anchorage rather than Waihi Beach. She was sailed up to Auckland and sold by Andy Donovan as broker to McKain of New Plymouth.
    Her delivery voyage to New Plymouth in March 1936 via North Cape was very rough and she took a light car on deck.
    She helped in the rescue of a youth washed off the breakwater at New Plymouth in March 1937 but disappeared in May 1937 when fishing out of Waitara for McKain. She was then called MISS VIKING. She was found by GALILEO and towed into Kawhia a couple of days later after an engine breakdown.
    She had another breakdown in July 1942 off the Wairakaiho River on her way to fish at Mokau. McKain was swept overboard but dragged back aboard in huge seas. Again she was towed back to New Plymouth by the Harbour Board launch.
    I can find no trace of her being impressed into service in any way during WW2.
    The boat in the above image is surely not VIKING?


  3. A launch called VIKING was owned by W Caldwell of Waihi. She was a 40 footer. If the pic is really of VIKING, she was diagonal-built. If it wasn’t that I knew VIKING was built in the 1930s I would have sworn the boat in the image was of postwar moulded-veneer construction. Boatbuilders on WW will no doubt make insightful comments about this issue.
    Having lived at Waihi Beach for a time as a child and done a lot of fishing out of there, I can’t imagine how she was kept there unless she was winched out.
    Anyway, Caldwell sold VIKING to H.J. McKain of New Plymouth in late 1936.
    Just maybe the pic isn’t VIKING but a later, smaller replacement?
    I haven’t looked for VIKING after she went to Taranaki.


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