I have been contacted by Murray Wilson the owner of the 40′ ex workboat – Sterling, he bought her a couple of years ago and is in the middle of a ‘rolling’ restoration. Murray has been told that she was built by Ernie Lane in Picton in 1926 to tow logs out of the Sounds.
It’s rumoured that Sterling was involved in an incident in Tasman Bay in the 1960s or 1970s that involved the boat being found with a scallop dredge in the water, engine running and no one on board. When the dredge was lifted the skipper came up with it.
Murray is keen to confirm and learn more of Sterling’s history.
Input from Harold Kidd – This STERLING was built by Ernie Lane in Picton in 1925 for L.J. Steele as a passenger vessel to carry 60 pax and had a 1924-built 3 cylinder 27hp (rated) Sterling marine engine bore 4.5″ x stroke 5.5″, dimensions 34′ x 9′ x 3’9″. The engine was changed to 27hp Ruston-Lister diesel by 1940 when she was owned by N.A. Steele and converted to a fishing boat under No. PN29. There was a Marine Dept enquiry in 1946 when she ran on rocks in the Tory Channel with the loss of two lives.
That 34ft loa was the MOT Thames measurement length. She was a 40 footer really.
Historical notes below from recollections of Lex Wells, recorded by Mike Davidson
Lex Wells has lived all his life in the Marlborough Sounds and has worked on and owned
many working boats in the fishing, scalloping and mussel industries. Lex is now over 80 and
has extensive memories and knowledge of many of the working boats and launches in the
Sounds. Arguably there is nobody better informed about Sounds vessels than he is.
History of the Motor Launch “STERLING”
1. The “Sterling” was built by Ernie Lane in the late 1920s for Matt Steel and joined his small fleet of passenger launches.
2. Matt Steel sold his fleet to Queen Charlotte Launches in the late1940s. Lex is not sure if
“Sterling” went to Queen Charlotte Launches as part of that deal; she might have been sold earlier.
3. In the 1960s or 1970s, “Sterling” was sold again and used for fishing and scalloping out of Nelson. One day, in the 1970s, the “Sterling” was found drifting, unmanned, on the scallop beds. The skipper had been working by himself. His body was found in the dredge when it was lifted.
4. After this accident, “Sterling” was sold to a new owner and went fishing out of Taieri
Mouth and was based there for many years.
5. “Sterling” was then bought by Ronnie Wells (a cousin of Lex’s) in the late 1970s or early 1980s and he brought her back to the Sounds. He used her for quite a few years in the scalloping and fishing industry, operating out of Havelock.
6. “Sterling” had a Gardner engine in it when Ronnie Wells bought it. At some stage
afterwards that engine was destroyed when an oil filter failed. It was replaced with a Russel Newbury (RN) engine. That engine was too old and had been poorly maintained and it eventually died one day when “Sterling” was working at sea. Lex towed her with his vessel into Havelock where a four cylinder Ford engine was put in “Sterling”.
7. Ronnie Wells then sold “Sterling” to Sunny Sunbeam and his business partner (might have been his brother). She was taken to Picton where a lot of work was done on her, including new top planks on the hull and a new and much larger cabin on the deck. She was taken back to Havelock soon after.
8. Sunny Sunbeam later sold her and she was taken away from the Sounds by her new owner.