Imatra And Her Builders Story

Tamaki River, Auckland

IMATRA And Her Builders Story

A little while ago Mark Erskine wrote in regarding the 123 year old Stow & Sons gaff yawl racing yacht – ‘Imatra’ which was sailed to New Zealand in the late 1930’s or 40’s and purchased by the then Mayor of Auckland. Mark used to give her a passing glance on his travels, she is berthed in the Tamaki River,  but over the last few years he hasn’t checked but I can confirm that she is still barely afloat. The last time Mark saw her she was in poor condition, at the time owned by John Hayman, we are unsure who currently owns her. Can any of the river rats enlighten us on the status of Imatra?

Mark also supplied a link to a Youtube video on Stow & Son, master boat builders.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBBVcrmj9qE It gives wonderful insight into just how remarkable their productions were / are. Very humble boat sheds, humble tools, all yachts made by hand, but by craftsmen from the best quality seasoned timbers (oak frames seasoned for up to 16 years, mahogany, rosewood, walnut, pitch-pine, teak, etc) and the sheer quantity of huge, high quality racing yachts and boats made by this firm boggles the mind. The production numbers don’t seem possible for the size of the business, and clearly shows this company were at the very top of their game.

A few Stow & Sons yachts survive fully restored and are worth millions. 

If you Google:

  • “1904 Rosalind yacht”
  • “1913 Harbinger yacht”  Sadly, “Harbinger” was lost at sea a few years ago. 

Input From A WW Reader

The Imatra article today jogged my memory. Imatra was designed and built with a gaff yawl rig and was sailed to NZ in that configuration (see photo) below. Much later, she was modified to her current rig here in NZ. Current owner, John Hayman claims the modifications were carried out by a young Peter Blake, after Hayman damaged her magnificent timber main mast. The current alloy mast looks very much out of place and just adds to the current distressed condition of the yacht. Hayman was also responsible for the awful cabin addition. He claimed the construction was carried out at Baileys. The original rear (aft?) mast postion behind the rudder post was also removed and brought forward of the rudder post. Hayman claimed this was also by “Blakey”.

The yawl ‘Imatra’ under sail, 1913. (Photo by Kirk and Sons of Cowes/Getty Images)

Input From Harold Kidd – IMATRA left England for NZ in December 1948. Ernie Davis bought her in 1949. L.J.Fisher owned her later then A.M. Jenkinson (1964) then Jack Hayman. SOMEONE’S GOT TO DO SOMETHING!


Input From Russell Ward – I crewed on her Christmas 1964 when she was owned by seafarer and car dealer Arthur Jenkinson – He was a mate of Athol Rusden and is mentioned a lot in the latter’s autobiography “Rascal of the Pacific” It is a cracking good read and puts him in perspective. Athol had the 60’ woody Paulmarkson built by Percy Vos in 1970. She was renamed Dionysus RIP.
Jenkinson had pulled the masts out and was rebuilding them when I crewed. He said he was re-gluing parts so I guess there was rot.  She was substantially original below – lovely paneling etc etc. I think she had a piano aft end of the saloon. Wasn’t much for me to do since we motored everywhere.Arthur reckoned she had too much lead aft and that the engine (a Lees 100 hp Ford) ballasted her too much aft. I last saw her on one of the slips at St Marys Bay a year or so after and Arthur was gas axing and hacking a large piece of lead off the aft end of the keel by the rudder post –would have been a ton or more. I lost touch with her after that and she seemed to spend most of her time up the Tamaki. The boxy cabin aft was quite a fine piece of woodwork but the original doghouse was lovely.The picture below is of her at Cooks Lower Landing alongside Skip Lawler’s ex RNZN Fairmile – Ngaroma

18 thoughts on “Imatra And Her Builders Story

  1. Imatra belonged to my great aunt, Cecilia (Cis) Mackenzie, and I believe she was a present from her husband, Donald Mackenzie. I have potos of her in her prime in the 1920’s when my father was a cadet at Dartmouth, and Cis would allow him to bring his friends for days out sailing. I also have a model of her made by my grandfather (Cis’ brother) CW Wilkinson, and he was something of a craftsman. If you would like copies of the photos i’m happy to send some to this site.
    Andrew Wilkinson.
    Wasn’t she built in Finland, hence the name?

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  2. John Hayman met Max Carter and also Peter Blake when he worked for Yacht Spars. Peter and Max designed the rig to be more powerful and have less weight aloft . Imatra is an amazingly fast ship

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  3. I sailed on the Imatra in September 1970 to the Fiji Islands.
    She had to get an new main mast to be allow to leave the harbor.It took us 15 days.
    It was intended to run the Imatra for Tourist tours,but so far I know the Ship was to big to get an license.
    I stayed til the beginning of November on the Imatra and continued then on my trip around the world.

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  4. Stow and sons, now most well known as the builders of the Albert Strange designed Betty…. now better known as Tally Ho

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  5. Imatra used to go out reasonably often in the early late 60s, early 70s, I lived at Bucklands’ Beach at the time, and saw her with and without the new wheelhouse. I think the wheelhouse was added around 1970? and it actually looked quite smart when new and beautifully varnished. I can’t remember her going out under sail, as I think there was a lack of room on the Tamaki Estuary to manoeuver (seem to remember her drawing around 11-12ft. She was used less after the late 70s, and I have an idea that that because of her draught. I heard she had trouble getting past the Tamaki mouth, (except at very high tides) due to it silting up, – even Subritzkys’ old Port Kennedy had trouble at low tides at times, even with jet drives) and all of the current barges still stir the sand up.
    Over the years, numerous yachts were stuck there waiting for the tide, Once tried to get a 30 footer loose with my 9ft 6″ dinghy and a Seagull 40 plus, but only managed to spin it round, (quite funny as they didn’t think I’d even move it) Shame to See Imatra in her current state, as she always looked slightly majestic, coming down the river.
    The only other NZ yacht I can think of close to her size and similar age, was was the Seaspray (Fitheach Ban-or white raven) which ended up with the Pettitts in FIJI, and has been butchered a bit over the years,(masts shortened etc), but at least she’s been looked after reasonably well, with a lot of work being done to her in Walu Bay in the 90s, (and probably in more recent times. Still had twin Lees Fords in the 90s and a plastic Tiki on the cabin roof beam. Was renamed Vuso Ni Ua (Fijian translation for Sea spray) but appears to have been changed back.,

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  6. She has to work the tides to get out of the Tamaki River because she has a huge draft & it is too shallow at the Bucklands Beach end.
    I believe the sump is Aluminum & has corroded out with lots of salt water left in the bilge for a very long time, & the oil is, or was, still all in the bilge. —
    John must have inherited her from his father, Jack, by what Harold says.
    I absolutely agree with Harold, – THAT SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE!!!

    — KEN R

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  7. Would be so lovely to see her back sailing again. I think after all the time she has been in NZ, we can call her one of our own.

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  8. IMATRA left England for NZ in December 1948. Ernie Davis bought her in 1949. L.J.Fisher owned her later then A.M. Jenkinson (1964) then Jack Hayman. SOMEONE’S GOT TO DO SOMETHING!@!

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  9. Imatra had a 6lx gardner lurking in her bilge.

    It was/is actually sitting in the bilge, that was full of water – I understand the sump had rusted out. Alan H

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  10. She still belonged to John Hayman, the last time i spoke to him, a year or so ago, & she has a 6 cyl Gardner Diesel, which is not running & she needs much maintenance inside & out. —
    I believe she last left her moorings about 2005, briefly for a week or 2.
    John Hayman & his late parents before him, — (who bought the MAVIS B & changed her name to ALMANA, & her coamings), — have lived on the corner of Riverview Rd Panmure for 2 generations at least.
    I believe has owned her for about 40 years< & she was owned in the later 1940s & early 50s by Sir Earnest Davis, who used have her taken up to Schoolhouse Bay at Christmas, by a crew & butler, & then he would join her via the Sandspit, & sit spend the days on the aft deck all day, smoking cigars, & drinking an unknown tincture.
    I think from recall, she may have been owned by Sir Dove Myer Robinson just before or after him– KEN R

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