I have been sent the above brilliant collection of photos by Paul and Valerie Somerville of their 1910 launch Pontiac, built by McPhersons, Frederick St, Dunedin, for a publican in Pt Chalmers. She was originally named Reremoana. Family history says in the 1920’s it passed on to a farmer at Moeraki who used it as a fishing vessel.
In the 1930’s the Gillies family of Oamaru took ownership and it remained with them for 3 generations, and was very well maintained, until the mid 1990’s when the Somerville’s purchased her and put it on it’s present mooring in Church Bay, Lyttelton Harbour.
At some early stage the Gilles changed the name to Pontiac. Maybe they had the Pontiac dealership and had installed a Pontiac engine. Still on the boat are other Pontiac marine fittings such as navigation lights cast in the shape of an Indian Chiefs head.
The boat is of single skin kauri, 10 metres long and with a 2.5m beam. The cabin structure and auxillary gaff rig seem to be original and there are many original fittings. The current engine is a BMC Commander 4 cylinder diesel.
Paul has no information whatever about McPherson the builder or of any other McPherson boats still existing. He has seen similar looking hulls around the Otago Peninsular and further south, but that’s about it.
Paul commented that Pontiac is a wonderful sea going vessel and has given him family a lot of pleasure over the last 25 years, as he’s sure it did for the Gillies over their 60 years of ownership.
From top to bottom (L>R) the photo captions are:
1. Up the Lords River Stewart Island c.1950’s/1960’s?
2. Helping out at “Scotts Own” sea scout regatta Oamaru. c.1960’s/1970’s?
3. In the Lyttelton haulout area 2017.
4.Pontiacs control panel.
5. The engineroom.
6. Heading down the harbour with the grandkids.
Paul & Valerie would love to hear any more historical information or anecdotes about Pontiac. Any Woodys able to contribute ?
Input from Harold Kidd – E.A.Gillies was indeed the Pontiac agent in Oamaru at the time when GM built them as one step up from the Chevrolet (even though they had a side-valve 6 or 8). McPherson was the foremost yacht and launch builder in Dunedin (not Port Chalmers) for many years. Pontiac did several offshore trips, for example to Akaroa in January 1939 and, in January 1940, to Stewart Island, which was probably when the top pic was taken..
10-07-2018 More input: Reremoana was at Moeraki in 1936; broke down, got blown out to sea but rescued. Gillies bought her shortly after. He had just got the Pontiac agency so was shouting it to the rooftops. (see dealer ad from paper past below)
The Gall Of Some People
On Saturday I took Raindance for a jaunt to the upper reaches of the Waitemata Harbour – the John Wellsford Small Craft group were having a rally to the Riverhead Hotel & wanted to get some photos of the event for WW.
One of the meeting points was the new public wharf alongside the Salthouse Yard, & while waiting for the JW boats to turn up > launch, I sat off the wharf in Lucas Creek. A gent with a camera walked down the wharf & took a few photos of Raindance.
Last night via a facebook post on the JW fb page I realised the person taking the photos was Paul Gilbert.
I sent him a private message & asked if it was him & if so I could have a photo of Raindance. I said I took 1000’s of photos of classic Woodys but had very few of my own boat.
His answer is below – I have never meet him but all his reply did was confirm everything I have heard about the man………………….
For the record I have never refused or charged any boat owner for a photo I have taken of their boat. But then, I’m a nice guy 😉
And if you read this Paul Gilbert, fyi – another 15,000+ people will have read it today as well 🙂