Whangarei Town Basin 1943

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Whangarei Town Basin 1943

Todays photo, ex the Navy Museum, is captioned  ‘ Outer Patrol Launches Whangarei c.1943’. We have an interesting mix of vessels tied up.
The two on the right should be easy to ID – being Q Class patrol vessels i.e. motor launches built in the 1930s and used by the NZ Navy during WW2. John Clarke has supplied ex this site, a listing – Amakura Q04, Lady Gay Q00, Lady Margaret Q08, Lady Shirley Q11 later Q12, Maristella Q02, Movarie Q05 , Rawea Q06, Shenandoah Q03, Te Rauparaha Q07, Wirihana Q01. All navy inner and outer patrol vessels. John commented that if the WW list is correct, the vessels moored at the head of the line in the photo would be Maristella (Q02) and Lady Shirley (Q12). Maristella was a 40 footer, built by Sam Ford in December 1936 for Mr R.W. Wills of Epsom and fitted with a 50hp Ailsa Craig diesel. During WW2 RNZN patrol service she was fitted with a Gray for spares rationalization purposes. Lady Shirley was a 36 footer, built for Mr C Sinel of Auckland by C Bailey & Son in 1938. Both are still afloat and well-loved launches, search their names in the WW search panel for more photos / info.
Are we able to ID the launches astern of the Q Class boats?
I was contacted last week by Whangarei boatbuilder, Mike Hughes with a heads up that the little Harrison Butler ‘Omicron’ (below) was back in Mike’s workshop for a little regular maintenance.

She is a rather pretty looking yacht – but she should be given she was built by Percy Voss in 1945.
Omicron is kept at Parua Bay, Whangarei.
annual maintenance

13 thoughts on “Whangarei Town Basin 1943

  1. Hmmmm, I maybe confused {old age?} perhaps it wasn’t the Woods, although they did have
    some other HB designs built by Percy Vos.
    Definitely not a Z4 Tonner.
    Still a nice boat though.
    Sailed to Vanuatu at some stage too.


  2. I just spoke to Bevan Woolley, R.E. Woolley’s nephew.
    He sailed on the Sam ford built boat before the War, He recalls the boat’s name as being Valwyn.

    According to the Auckland Yacht & Motor Boat Assn records dated 1946, Valwyn, sail number E-41 was a Harrison Butler design built by Sam Ford (no date given) and owned by Green & Co, who entered her in the 1947 Regatta.

    So all that neatly ties in with the arrival of R.E. Woolley’s new Percy Vos built Omicron, probably ordered in 1940 but never completed until c1944 or 1945 when the Vos yard’s wartime contracts were tailing off.


  3. I suspect Woolley might have done some work on her at Vos’ yard. He probably had his little son Owen helping!


  4. Maybe ………Woolley commissioned the build in 1940, but it was never completed until 1944-ish due to War, A. Hitler, E. Hirohito, B. Mussolini and company,


  5. Vic Buchanan’s unpublished book has OMICRON built by Percy Vos in 1944 (?) to a Harrison Butler design for R.E. Woolley but sold to C.R. Bell in 1947. Sail number E64. No mention of the Wood family and she’s not in the list of Wood owned boats.


  6. Ah thanks for that.
    I just had a closer look Baden Pascoe’s book on Percy Vos (the book has no index!! grrrrr) and it says that Omicron was a Harrison Butler design built in 1940, but no owner’s name is given.

    The Woods brothers, Lincoln and L.M. (Lionel??) favoured these designs and had several of them built, Memory (1930 built by Fred Mann), Quest (1936 P. Vos) so it is entirely possible that Omicron (P. Vos 1940) was also built for one of the brothers.

    She was possibly not launched or finished off until after the war because she doesn’t appear in any yacht register (or Anniversary Regatta) until July 1946 when she is registered to Mr R.E. Woolley previous owner of the Sam Ford built Harrison Butler job from 1937.

    I wonder what happened to his 1937 boat? There was a string of savage gales in 1937 and also in 1941 and 1942. Maybe she was lost during one of those and Woolley’s eventual replacement for her was the near identical Omicron.

    More digging needed I think.

    Thanks Craig


  7. Craig, did you see any builders plate on Omicron when you owned her?
    There is no mention of Omicron in Baden Pascoe’s book on Percy Vos but that firm built so many boats it’s not impossible for several to have slipped under the radar.

    If The Percy Vos link is proven then that means Mr R.E. Woolley of Mission Bay, had Sam Ford build him his (unnamed) boat in 1936 as per that NZ Herald photograph, and subsequently had another one built post-war by Percy Vos, and named Omicron, with 3 rather than 2 cabin windows. Again, not an impossible scenario.

    His original boat may have been wrecked. She was moored ‘off Tamaki Yacht Club’ in Mission Bay which is not a very hospitable place in any sort of nor’easterly gale. There were a number of gales that hit Auckland’s pleasure fleet from 1936 onwards and their damage was well reported in both papers, but nothing recording a boat of this size being wrecked in the Mission Bay area. Wartime storm damage was less well reported due to paper shortages so … anything is possible.


  8. yes, Omicron was built by Percy Vos in 1945 but had a different cabin than in the photo.
    I owned it for a while late 70’s.
    Feltham single cylinder side valve petrol engine.
    Nice boat.


  9. Whanga. Town Basin 1943. The ketch rigged launch in the center, with the two tyre fenders and dinghy alongside is either “Opaia” when owned by the Mason family or it’s “Oleo” owned by Eric Wright. They were both very similar looking back then.


  10. Does Omicron have a builders plate on her confirming Percy Vos as the builder?

    I have never been able to confirm her builder or her date.

    My most likely candidate for builder has been Sam Ford, who during 1935 and 1936 was building a ’19-foot short end keeler of English design for Mr Woolley of Mission Bay’.


    R.E. Woolley was a member of Tamaki Yacht Club and moored her off Tamaki YC (a bit of a precarious spot but yachts did moor in Mission Bay).

    I note that Woolley’s yacht in the NZ Herald has 2 cabin windows, and the Parua Bay Omicron has 3. Could have been a cabin rebuild at some time?.

    ANYWAY ………
    In 1946 a yacht named Omicron appears as Sail number E-46 and owned by Mr R.E. Woolley, becoming F-48 in 1948 owned by S.R. Bell of Bucklands Beach.

    Omicron drops off the Register around 1959 has never been registered with Yachting NZ.


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