Todays’ story on Manunui comes to us from the ‘desk’ of Paul Drake – as always, well written so I’ll pass over to Paul.
“Arriving at Taupo for our annual holiday one January in the late 1950’s, my brothers and I were intrigued to see a very unusual looking new commercial boat on the scene. Before we knew her name, we kids called her ‘The Ugly Boat’. She turned out to have a proper name – MANUNUI – after the saw milling town just out of Taumarunui. It was there that she was built by the manager of said sawmill, Basil Maude.
Basil’s hobby was building boats, but he rarely got more than about three-quarters of the way through before losing interest. MANUNUI was the exception. He wished to see how big a boat he could build out of plywood. He had the plywood made at his mill from selected timber. Her bottom had two sheets of ply each twenty feet long , six feet wide, and one and a quarter inches thick. She measured 36 feet by 12 feet.
She had to be chunky and strong because Basil had two Allison Kittyhawk 12-cylinder aeroplane engines which he wanted to fit. He designed and built the double gearbox himself. It measured eight feet by three feet by two feet deep. At the last minute the plan changed and the two gallons per minute Allisons were wisely ditched in favour of Ford V8s. But the gear box remained – larger than the two engines. This most fascinating gearbox was mounted forward of the engines with the propeller shafts running back under the engines. Chains were involved, and each propeller was operated independently of the other in the normal way. MANUNUI was the first diesel powered launch on the lake (so it is said) and also the first commercial plywood boat to operate on the lake.
In the good old days when fishermen would club together and charter a launch for five day expeditions to Taupo’s Western Bay, MANUNUI was a very successful and busy charter launch under her very capable skipper Ron Houghton.
The original canvas arrangement over the aft end was eventually replaced with the rather functional effort shown in the second photo. In about 1970 a whole new cabin appeared. Shortly afterwards MANUNUI was sold to New Plymouth. I wonder if she survives? Somehow I doubt it.
Much of this information is contained in ’Boats of Taupo’ by Charles Cox.