KAHU - 5 c2000s

KAHU - 1


Over the last 10 years every time I have motored past Kahu, when she was moored in the upper reaches of the Waitemata Harbour, just past the Greenhite upper harbour crossing, probably 50>60 times & each time was pleasantly surprised she was still a float. The old girl has had a very checkered past & unfortunately during numerous periods of ownership, all with big plans for her – nothing really came to fruition & she appeared destined for the knackers yard.

I can report that she is now in Whangarei undergoing a major refit. Fingers crossed that this time she returns to her former glory. Ken Ricketts sent me the above old trademe photos that record some of her WWII period, post WWII Navy service (c.1950s), her almost conversion to a passenger ferry (c.early 2000’s), a neglected moored hull.

If there are any woodys that can tell us more about her past & if there was a Northland woody out there that can give a use an update on the project, please do 🙂

01-06-2017 Update ex Geoff Brebner

Photo below of Kahu on her way to Whangarei c.2012


Interested in reading more on all things Motor Launch, be they serving in the Navy or in civvy hands. (over 250 photo’s and 50+ stories and tech data / links to other ML pages) Check out the link below


16 thoughts on “Kahu

  1. Geoff, that’s the photo of KAHU I had seen once, a year or 2 back somewhere, & searched for weeks & weeks to find, without success, when I researched & wrote the story on her for woodys. — I would love a copy, if you could be kind enough send it to me to me, so I could complete my file as it were. — My email address is kenpat@ihug.co.nz. — Thanks so much — KEN R


  2. W J Holt was overseeing a lot of the smaller coastal boats -the 72′ HDML was his favourite. Harold will be happy to know that Sir Noel Macklin was the leading light of the Fairmile company. The Fairmile A was hard chine and not that fit for purpose. The B was designed with a lot of tank testing by the Navy and very successful. Yes the original design was for three engines but they were not available in sufficient numbers so they regrettably cut down to two. There was just not the capability in the UK to make the engines however hard Thornycrofts and Napiers tried. The MTBs had Packard produced RR Merlins. Italy had produced Issotta Fraschini that were used for MTBs but that dried up when the Nazis look them over. Hall Scott were just another one of those American firms that had been producing all sorts of engines for all sorts of purposes from planes to trucks since pioneering aviation times. The Defender was a wholly marine V12 600 hp engine Hall Scott had been producing since the rum runners of the prohibition areas. I’ll look my references to them out of the mancave when I can. It was was available when they needed them and the entire production of the Defender was for the Admiralty during the war. They were a damn fine engine if you like that sort of thing. They’ve got several and got one running in the Sydney Maritime Museum and apparently couldn’t afford to pour the gas into it fast enough to keep it running long.


  3. Sorry Geoff.B. the Hall-Scott Defender was a marine engine from the get-go–no aero conversion.I drove a launch named “Aloha” (supposedly ex airforce) for Smeeds Quarries at Tuakau which had a sweet little 6 cylinder H-S engine.

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  4. Kimbal Johnson had her in the Mid eighties and glassed the big cabin top to slow the ingress of fresh water. it may have been him who positioned her up by the Greenhithe bridge.


  5. ML 411 was the last Fairmile built of them all. They were essentially a kitset frame sent from UK but Tim Windsor (Shipbuilders naval architect and designer of the Lady Eileen, Mahara, Rosemary ll, Aorangi and sorter outer of Rakanoa) made comment in his dairy that I browsed through thanks to his daughter; that the frame packs actually came from India -we never knew that and look forward to HDK writing his story.
    The planking etc was NZ Kauri. Engines were ex USA and were maintained by Ford Motor Co on a rotational basis. Apart from an engine fire in the Solomons, her war damage was minimal compared with some of her sisters. She did 28,262 miles in y/e March 1945 -a lot of avgas. Post war she was sold to Dept of Island Territories 3/48 Plans for her came to nothing and she was back with RNZN 9/49. Dunno when she got that shed in the second pic because I remember her with the usual Fairmile bridge/wheelhouse and funnel with a reasonably shapely cabin aft running as a Tamaki Tram to Motuihi when she became Kahu after a chief who had connections with the island. In ’56 she was named Philomel still as a liberty boat and in ’65 she was sold to Dromgoole of the NS Ferry Co who kept her in Baileys shed unused until ’82 when she began the downhill spiral. He was said to be an astute businessman with deep pockets but it seemed to be a waste of space to keep a big boat in it all that time.
    BTW they cost over 100,000 quid each and were sold typically post war for around 1,255 pounds. Have a look at Cassells book Fairmile Flotillas and Bob McDougall’s NZ Naval Vessels.
    Hope Kahu survives she and YTL tug James O’Brien and Manawanui’s engine are all that survives of our amazing wartime shipbuilding effort.


  6. When I first came to Auckland (mumble) years ago Kahu was already moored above the Greenhithe bridge. At that time there were blue tarps on one side; apparently to shelter work in progress. For a few years the tarps moved bit by bit round the boat. Then they stopped moving and gradually disintegrated and general dereliction set in. I too was amazed she stayed afloat.
    There was an interesting article about the Fairmiles in the UK “Classic Boat” a few years ago, which included the hull lines. Seems the Fairmiles were scaled-down destroyers – directly scaling down usually produces a tender, “rolly” boat! They were originally designed to have 3 engines, but wartime shortages meant that installing just two meant there were two left for the third boat, and so on. I don’t think any of the NZ boats had 3 engines.


  7. Mahoe was/is in a paddock out in pukekohe. Wheelhouse removed and was occupied by a homeless guy.
    (Probly a engineer/ boat owner)


  8. In the late 80’s Burns Hubber was rebuilding Kahu on Baileys old slip and wanted me to take her to Sydney but nothing came of it.
    As for Baroona I towed her from Birkenhead Wharf to Hobsonville with the Mahi in the late 90’s.
    She was then trucked to south Auckland where her top sides were used as a pirate ship restaurant.
    By the way does any one know what happened to the Mahoe
    Last time I saw her she was on the hard by the ice tower at the viaduct


  9. Keen on updates on this – have paddled past her on numerous occasions and wished she had a motivated owner….Heather – photos would be cool


  10. ML 411 (Kahu) was built by P Vos at Auckland one of 12 built at Auckland 1942-44 for the RNZN, Vos also building Fairmile ML410.The 1st photo shows her leaving Auckland c.1943 for the Solomon Islands and the next one is her as a “Tamaki Tram” at Motuihe Is in the 1950’s. The Fairmiles were 112′ x 18′ and originally powered by twin V12 Hall-Scott aero engines.There are only two of the class left in NZ, Kahu at Whangarei and the ex Waiheke ferry Motunui as a novel motel unit at Waitomo.


  11. She is in Whangarei.. however… not a lot of foreward progress to date…… will find some photos to post.


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