Norita started life in 199 as a replica steam launch but was later converted to diesel – a 29hp Yanmar 3YM30 diesel pushes her along. She measure 30′ with a 7’6″ beam.Their boiler is not functional but the rest of the steam engine is still fitted. She is 4sale on trademe, buy her & install a little dry ice > smoke generator in her funnel & use her to take unsuspecting tourists for waterfront cruises.
So the question of the day is direct at Russell Ward who will be able to tell us more about S.L. Norita
Input from Daniel Hicks
The story of Norita and her ‘sister ship’ Eliza Hobson is definitely an interesting one, and is a perfect demonstration of the romance of traditional boats overtaking reality. The story began in 1996, when Alan Brimblecombe was looking for somewhere to work on Swan. A local Warkworth boat building start up, Willis Glenn Marine offered him space in their Hudson Road shed. While working on Swan one afternoon, he invited the company owners for a ride on Zeltic, then his active steam launch. They were enthralled by it. Alan commented that a slightly bigger vessel, of about 30 feet could possibly be a saleable item. Amazingly, a few days later they came to him and suggested that they could start building steamboats, but they needed guidance. At this point Alan suggested that a slightly stretched version of Puke be built, 30 feet instead of 26 with a suitably sized compound engine running at low revs, and a cabin to allow for inclement weather. Alan drew up a profile view of the vessel, gave them Puke’s lines and got on with his work.
A few days later they popped the computer drawn design in front of him, but boy oh boy, it wasn’t what he’d suggested. Suddenly the boat had gained full headroom and had grown in beam by about a foot, but the real issue was below the waterline, Puke’s beautiful hull had been lost to something that more closely resembled a wineglass, ie the buoyancy was very high up, with a fine deep hull underneath. Despite protestations that it wasn’t a steamboat hull, they said they were going to build it! The hull design really bears very little resemblance to Puke, or any other steamboat for that matter. The plug was started, and Zeltic was brought into the workshop for a cosmetic refurbishment before being taken to the boat show. A lovely full colour brochure was produced, and Zeltic was set up at the boat show, providing steam to the steambox while the boat builders re-ribbed Alans longboat. Zeltic was awarded best in show display. At the show, three orders were placed (although I suspect there were only two actual orders, the third being a friend of Willis). Alfie Des Tombes ordered boat number one (Norita), and Alan Lambourne ordered boat number two (Eliza Hobson) for commercial use.
Work started on the boats with a planned delivery of boat number 1 on the 21st of December in Wellington (to be launched by the floating steam crane Hikitia) with Eliza Hobson to be commissioned on Boxing Day at the Maritime Museum in Auckland. Unfortunately reality was very different, and as December approached it was obvious that two boats weren’t going to be ready, one being a possibility. It was decided that the best publicity would be achieved by launching Eliza Hobson first, so Norita was sidelined and a huge push was made to get Eliza in action. With the boiler in place, and most of the engine mounted, the boat was lowered into the water at West Harbour Marina, where she promptly lay over on her beam ends! The computer calculations had said that she needed ballast, but the builders believed that she didn’t need it as the machinery would weigh her down (had they built a stretched Puke this would be the case). The engineers were dispatched to get plenty of pig iron and put it in the bilges. Two days later, and on an even keel, she was towed by John Hager in Matui into the museum for “commissioning”, the engineers having been unable to finish her in time. She was towed to Warkworth, finished off and put through Marine Department survey. With the correct amount of lead in the bilge, she passed her stability test. The only real issue was that the propeller designed for her by Henleys was totally wrong, and she could only do 4.5 knots. Later on a correct sized prop was made and fitted and she worked reasonably well, although the machinery space was made unnecessarily tight due to the proximity of the head compartment (which was right beside the boiler).
With Eliza Hobson delivered, Norita stood a chance of being finished, but then Willis Glenn Marine went into liquidation, building steamboats didn’t actually pay! About this time Eliza Hobson was put into a violent roll by a ferry off Browns Island, sufficient to rolls the drawers out and spill coal from her bunker. Despite the stability calculation, those who had no experience with tender vessels declared she was dangerous, and she was taken out of action and taken to the engineers to be rebuilt. A new hull was grafted onto the outside of the old hull, the head removed, the machinery moved forward and work headed towards a much fatter Eliza Hobson. The hull was subsequently moved to Kevin Johnstones yard in Devonport, and was replaced by Norita. Eliza Hobson re-entered survey with a much larger machinery space, but no forward cabin seating.
The engineers convinced Alfie to build a new set of machinery for Norita, a water tube boiler and smaller twin simple engine, the aim being to give her a lower centre of gravity and less machinery weight than Eliza Hobson, as Alan had convinced Alfie not to have the hull widened. Like Eliza, Norita lost her forward cabin accommodation, the space being taken up her large water tube boiler, with the engine now beside the still extent head compartment. The coal bunker was now located under the foredeck hatch. Norita was launched at Gulf Harbour in early 1999, and both she and Eliza Hobson were both together at Clevedon for that years Auckland Steam Engine Society Clevedon Steam Meet, along with Zeltic, the inspiration for them. Norita was subsequently shipped to Wellington, and used by Alfie for dignified day cruises in the inner harbour.
To finish the story off, Eliza underwent another rebuild of her machinery in Warkworth in about 2002, and we steamed her north to the Bay of Islands in an epic 26 hours of steaming over two days. Alan Lambourne eventually tired of her, and sold her on. She is I believe currently dead on the Waikato River, her new owner having run the boiler out of water. Norita eventually suffered from a few leaking boiler tubes due to corrosion (probably due to rain down her funnel), and the boiler was removed, the engine moved forward and the diesel fitted in its place. The boiler is at Steam and Machinery in Wanganui, and may be rebuild-able, Colonial Ironworks have a partly completed identical boiler. Of the original machinery partly built for Norita, the boiler is now in use in Puke, and the reversing gear from the engine is on the engine in Greenbank.
Norita could be put back into steam, and be a good steam launch, and Eliza with a new or rebuilt boiler would also be good. Both boats worked in their finished forms. I’m certain that Norita would have worked well with the original machinery, I very much doubt it was much heavier than what went into her (and I know the weights of Eliza’s machinery), and she would have been both fast and economical. Eliza definitely needed the bigger machinery in her final form, being a much heavier and less slippery hull.
Hopefully someone gets hold of Norita and does her justice, a few tweaks could make her a lot prettier, and if they don’t want the machinery, new homes could be found for it.