“We had the pleasure of care taking the old Primadonna for a number of years over 40 yrs ago, we did a lot of cruising and have many wonderful memories of her.
She was powered by a 3 cyl water cooled Lister about 30 hp, being long and skinny with a beautiful counter stern , she ran like a skinny hogget, was good for 9 kts and was miserable on fuel. (less than a Gallon per hr.)
I’d like to comment on the issue of “hearsay history”, I remember researching the whakapapa of the Primadonna by talking to the descendants of original owner, Alf Baldick who farmed in Onapua Bay in Tory Channel.
His nephew Ian Baldick told me that his uncle had her built in 1913 by Ernie Lane.
During the Great War they whaled out of Te awai iti, I have an old photo of her along side a beached whale in Tar White.
From memory there were 4 Baldick brothers, Alf, Herman and Darcy (twins) both stood 6 ft 4″ in their stocking feet ! and Billy Baldick who farmed on Blumine Island,( another sister Ida lived with him, ) Billy was reputed to have built 200 clinker dinghys on the island, selling them to Sounds farmers.
One of their sisters married a Guard, a descendant of Jackie Guard, ( the famous whaler) and another married a Jackson, of the Jackson Bay whaling dynasty, so whaling was very much in their blood.
I was talking to Hermans daughter Grace one day about the Baldick boats, she said –
“The old people are dead and gone but their boats live on”
She also said that their lives revolved around their boats, they were their daily transport, their farm boats, their fishing boats, they built many of them themselves and repaired and modified them.
She said that once a year they would all gather at Maraetai Bay, line their boats up and have a regatta! Alf had the Primmadonna, Herman and Darcey had the Greyhound and the Daphnee, Billy had the Waiata .
I dont know what become of the Daphnee, the Greyhound with her beautiful clipper bow and counter stern eventually rotted away, the Dreadnaught was built by Herman and Darcey for their sister Emma Guard, very similar to the Greyhound but Emma wanted more beam and draft for stability so they could carry farm produce over Cook Strait to the Wellington markets.
Last time I saw her she was in Wellington, not sure where she is now. Gracey told me that when they were planking her, towards the end they ran out of copper rooves so used Halfpennies.
I have Billies old Waiata at home here in the shed, she would be one of the oldest boats in the Sounds, built by Ernest Berg around 1900′ ish.. she is a pretty, double diagonal, straight stemmed, with a lovely counter stern, she originally had a Glouster stern, or cut off counter, Billy took her to Ernie Lane and said “put a descent counter on her.” (she is a real classic and for sale to the right buyer, who wants a restoration project.
Local people in my fathers generation used to tell stories, like folk legends about The Guards and the Baldicks, they were probably illiterate, they spoke with a real south of England Cornish drawl that was so distinctive, they lived a very isolated but fascinating lifestyle.
So these are local oral histories, they are not researched to see if we have got our facts straight, the old lady was right, the old people are dead and gone and now their boats are well over 100 yrs old and wooden boats no matter what their condition are all restorable.
Unfortunately the old people never wrote down their stories and when boats outlive living memories they become fairy tales.
30 yrs ago I went around alot of the old timers and wrote down alot of their memories about the old Sounds launches and collected a lot of old photos, I’m pleased that I did that because all those old boys are dead and gone now.
Waitamata Woodys is doing just that in digital formate which is wonderful and should be encouraged because it ensures that the stories and the spirits of our old people in these wonderful craft live on”