Aotea

C.1981 Far North
c.1981 Far North

AOTEA – Sailing Sunday 
The owner of the H28 Aotea, Peter Sporle, contacted WW recently seeking help uncovering information on her early history.What we know is that Aotea was built in 1954 in Mangonui Harbour, Northland, from kauri carvel planks. She has an iron keel and was originally ketch rigged.


In 1958 Aotea won the Balokovic Cup for her owner Brian O’Donaghue. Below is an article that BO’D wrote on H28’s and Aotea for the August 1962 issue of Sea Spray magazine.She was owned by Sir Keith Park. And a gentleman named Ian Miller owned for 7 years from approx. 1973>1980. Peter S bought her in Sept 1980 and still owns her – since 1990, she has been based at Tryphena, Great Barrier Island. Aotea was relaunched in October 2018 after a refit on the island.
Above also is a short video of Aotea afloat, post re-launching, looking very smart.

02-09-2020 Input From Robin Elliott –

Aotea has had the following Registered owners – as far as i know:
As D-11, ketch rigged.
B.C. Watson (Mangonui) 1953+?; B. O’Donohue (Whangarei) 1954?/61; Sir Keith Park 1961+?; T. O’Brien 1967+?
The date for B.C. Watson is the date he registered her, not necessarily the date she was launched.

In 1967 she appears to have been converted to single mast as she is re-registered in the E-Class as E-263.
T. O’Brien 1967/69+?; P.J. Cole (Matakana) 1970+? A. Wood 1971+? (Still Registered as Owner NZYF 1978); I.H. Miller 1976+?
You will note the overlap there. The registration lists are notorious for duff information and should always be viewed with caution; e.g. A. Wood appearing in 1971 and still shows as the registered owner in 1977/78 at the same time that Aotea is registered to I H. Miller with RAYC 1976/77 season where we know she did a lot of J.O.G. racing

In 1969 she took NZYF number 663

Trophies are:
RAYC: Balokovic Cup 1958
Onerahi YC: 100 miler 1960
Whangarei CC: Harbour Regatta Assn Auxilliary Cup 1960

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9 thoughts on “Aotea

  1. Thank you Robin for your research and post. While hopeful I didn’t anticipate Aotea’s early ownership and other details would emerge as comprehensively as this. Well done.

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  2. Aotea has had the following Registered owners – as far as i know:
    As D-11, ketch rigged.
    B.C. Watson (Mangonui) 1953+?; B. O’Donohue (Whangarei) 1954?/61; Sir Keith Park 1961+?; T. O’Brien 1967+?
    The date for B.C. Watson is the date he registered her, not necessarily the date she was launched.

    In 1967 she appears to have been converted to single mast as she is re-registered in the E-Class as E-263.
    T. O’Brien 1967/69+?; P.J. Cole (Matakana) 1970+? A. Wood 1971+? (Still Registered as Owner NZYF 1978); I.H. Miller 1976+?
    You will note the overlap there. The registration lists are notorious for duff information and should always be viewed with caution; e.g. A. Wood appearing in 1971 and still shows as the registered owner in 1977/78 at the same time that Aotea is registered to I H. Miller with RAYC 1976/77 season where we know she did a lot of J.O.G. racing

    In 1969 she took NZYF number 663

    Trophies are:
    RAYC: Balokovic Cup 1958
    Onerahi YC: 100 miler 1960
    Whangarei CC: Harbour Regatta Assn Auxilliary Cup 1960

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  3. Regarding the Sir Keith Park connection to Aotea.
    When I purchased Aotea I was informed that Sir Keith had owned her previously. Confirmation of that was shown in the Register of Yachts 1962 – 1963 of which I have a copy. Under. CLASS D YACHTS — Keel, Two-masted, it lists (page 73)
    D 11 — Aotea, Sir Keith Park, 120 Lucerne Road Remuera.
    D11 is displayed on the main sail of Aotea in the Brian O’Donaghue article.
    Maroro mentioned and shown in Brian’s article is listed in the same class.
    D64 — Maroro, J.S. Mitchell, 15 Rust Avenue, Whangarei.

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  4. Thank you WW for updating on the story of the yacht. Like many boaties I have seen her on the beach at Taylors Bay Tryphena, but knew nothing about her. Congrats Peter you have done an excellent refit of a special yacht.

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  5. Excellent to have some history revision and I’m sorry Peter, for diverting the topic away from your stunning refurbishment. Yes she is a fine looking craft now.

    If anyone can assist me then ,to find out why the stern nameplate of a boat named Aotea was screwed to the wall of a cabin built over 40 years ago in the bush of Great Barrier , I’d be pleased to know.

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  6. I purchased Aotea from Ian Miller who was then a stevedore on the Auckland wharves. She is, as shown above, carvel planked. The above cup shown is the actual Balokovic cup she won in 1958 andI was with her when I purchased Aotea. It links her directly to Brian O’Donaghue and the Sea Spray article shown above.
    The man who was electrocuted while working on his boat in the 70’s at Tryphena was Cliff Bird and the vessel he was working on was the Freebooter. See the Facebook Great Barrier Island Motu Aotea website page dated 16/6/20. The page also shows pictures of that vessel under construction in Shoal Bay Tryphena with one picture showing Bob Harrison’s house visible in the background.
    As you point out Vaughn there are or have been a number of vessels named Aotea including 1 or possibly 2 container ships.

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  7. Definitely not this Aotea. Cliff Bird was electrocuted while working on a new build yacht at Tryphena in the mid seventies. He was using an electric(230 volt) drill while standing in the tide after the unfinished boat was launched. His widow, Fran, went on to finish the build and later sold the boat. She returned to Gt Barrier to live for several years after. I didn’t recall the name of the boat but Vaugn’s story re the nameboard confirms that name and someone may know where she now is. Also I note she was triple skin and this Aotea is obviously carvel planked. She is certainly looking very trim again and I congratulate Peter on the standard of this extensive refit.

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  8. I purchased Aotea from Ian Miller who was then a stevedore on the Auckland wharves. She is, as shown above, carvel planked. The above cup shown is the actual Balokovic cup she won in 1958. It was with her when I purchased Aotea and links her directly to Brian O’Donaghue and the Sea Spray article shown above.
    The man who was electrocuted while working on his boat in the 70’s at Tryphena was Cliff Bird and the vessel he was working on was the Freebooter. See the Facebook Great Barrier Island Motu Aotea website page dated 16/6/20. The page also shows pictures of the vessel under construction in Shoal Bay Tryphena with one showing Bob Harrison’s house visible in the background.
    As you point out Vaughn there are or have been a number of vessels named Aotea including 1 or possibly 2 container ships.

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  9. OK , now I have a question for Peter. Did you purchase your Aotea from a widow?
    Although there are many boats that have been named Aotea it just seemed too coincidental that what I an about to convey is not about the same boat.
    My name is Vaughan Kearns and I came to Great Barrier firstly in the 1970s .
    I lived on a property in Allom Bay , Okupu, with a “shareholder “ Peter Milner . Peter was originally from the US, a well educated architect and artist. At the time I was there Peter was building a house in the bush with material he was reclaiming from a dismantling of a villa in Auckland.
    He was certainly energetic and hauled his house materials way into the Bush with the aid of a horse. His flair for design was evident in his construction that still stands, although Peter left the Island after only a few years.
    On the wall above the entrance door inside, was the transom nameplate for a boat named Aotea.
    It was made in triple skin Kauri as was the hull that it belonged to, he had told me.
    It transpired that he was given the nameplate by the widow of the man who had owned Aotea in the 70’s but was tragically electrocuted while working on her in Tryphena. Apparently Peter Milner had offered considerable assistance to the owner during that time when Aotea was worked on and the widow gave Peter the nameplate as appreciation.
    Well, the nameplate stayed screwed to the wall for some decades until I chanced to meet a man who was then a partner in a group who had purchased the Great Barrier Lodge, that great watering hole in Whangaparapara harbour. He claimed he too, had been an owner of the Aotea , triple skinned Kauri yacht and he wanted to take the nameplate to hang on the wall at the Lodge.
    I acquiesced on the condition that it never left the Island.
    Unfortunately, I don’t believe this ever happened and the partner ownership was short lived.
    I never considered it was my nameplate to give away so I was extremely disappointed at this outcome. Because of the rather stirring circumstances which caused it to be screwed to the wall of Peter Milner’s house, I would like it returned, or far better, to have it presented to the current owner.
    Can anyone shed light on this.?

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