Flashback Friday – Menai and Valsan

Menai c.1947/8
Menai c.1947/8
Valsan c.1947/8

FLASHBACK FRIDAY – MENAI AND VALSAN 

Recently I was contacted by Pat Menzies the youngest son of Clive Menzies who bought the launch Menai from Arnold Baldwin. In a previous WW story Harold Kidd refers to Clive as ‘C.B. Menzies’, link to that story below. After reading the numerous WW stories on Menai, Pat decided to share a little more information that he hopes may be of interest to us. It is a good yarn so I’ll hand over to Pat and let him tell the story.  https://waitematawoodys.com/2013/09/02/menai-valsan-her-owners/

“First, a little background about Arnold Baldwin “Baldie” to his friends (unsurprisingly). He is referred to as “involerd in the paper and printing industry”. But he was a bit more significant than that. Born in Canada, he emigrated to New Zealand some time pre-war and founded Universal Business Directories Ltd. By the 1950s and continuing through most of the next half-century UBD’s metropolitan provincial editions were the first place to look for detailed information about businesses of all and any sorts and the advertising revenue they engendered had made Baldie quite a rich man. Very rich by the standards of the day. I presume he must have been in the RNZ Volunteer Reseve pre-war and was appointed skipper of the Menai during the war years when it was commandeered the Navy and put to Coastal Patrol duties.  (I believe that virtually every harbour which had a fleet of launches had some commandeered by the Navy for this purpose, but the Menai is the only one I know about. After the war I understand Mr Reynolds, the original owner did not want it back and Arnold was able to buy it. By the late 40s he was looking for a bigger boat and bought the Valsan, selling the Menai to my father.

Dad and Arnold were at the time (and for a number of years thereafter) flag officers of the Auckland Motor Yacht Club and were able to organise the various transfers to suit their calendars and cash flow. Dad sold the “Taufale” a 28 footer launch which he had bought in 1944 (I think. May have been 1945.) I was only about 5 at the time so my memory of such details is non-existent.

Dad owned the Menai through to some time in the early 1960s when he sold it to a then well-known local architect – surname Dalton. I did know his first name but have long since forgotten it. He, after quite a short period on-sold it to Alan (I think) Martin who was at the time CEO of TVNZ Auckland and did a lot of work on the boat. It then went through a number of owners before Peter Smith bought it and turned it into the film star beauty she is now.

The reference to Horry Whimp as an owner is quite mysterious.  He was, as stated, the manager of the UBD printing works, had worked for Arnold for many years and had the perk of being boat husband, first for the Menai and later for the Valsan.  It could very well be that Horry had the use of the Menai over the 48-49 season while Dad and Arnold were trading their paths to each owning only one boat – and that Ken Ricketts (who is/was a couple of years older than me) simply assumed he owned it.

Menai was powered by a flathead Ford V8 with a marine conversion by OSCA, rated at 100hp. Whether that was as a car motor or marine I don’t know. It had a 2 to 1 reduction box and we cruised at 1750rpm on the rev counter.  Dad went through about three propellers and numerous re-pitchings and re-cuppings and finally achieved claimed figures of cruising speed of about 6.5 knots and petrol consumption of 1 3/4 gallons per hour. Pushing it up to 7 or 7.5 knots resulted in it squatting at the stern (“digging a big hole in the water” Dad used to say) and consumption soaring to about 4 gallons/hour.

Dad also fitted a Ford 8 auxiliary motor following a rather nasty experience when the motor stalled (a scale of rust in the fuel line, I believe) and left us powerless on a lee shore, either down the Bottom End or over on the Coromandel. I was about 11 or 12 and getting ready to drop the 45lb big pick when the motor fired up again. He also fitted another smaller motor to charge the batteries so we didn’t have to go cruising to have  electricity. He also fitted a gas powered freezer box under the starboard seat in the bridgedeck. Larger boats such as the Valsan generally had such facilities but the Menai was well up-to-date for its age and size. One of the perks of being one of Arnold’s friends was that ownership of the Valsan came with one of the boatsheds on Ngapipi Rd – the third from Tamaki Drive. Arnold ran a tight timetable. He had the shed from about Easter to near to Queen’s Birthday and then Dad and several other of his friends each had about 2 weeks or so, during which we worked hard to complete the season’s maintenance. Dad would go to the shed each evening direct from work and I would pitch on at the weekends working from dawn to as late as we needed. I remember varnishing the coamings in half-light of a winter evening was a truly awful task. But better than doing it in the open at Vos Bros or any other shipyard. At least we didn’t have dust to contend with”.

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