Marguerite + Patio Bay Party

MARGUERITE Earlier this year woody Nathan Herbert was mooching around Whitianga and spotted the 1920 Collings & Bell built launch – Marguerite, hauled out getting some serious TLC. As you can see from the b/w photo, also ex Nathan, she … Continue reading

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details & photo ex Christoph Hoessly

I was recently connected by Christoph to draw my attention to the existence of two launches named Marguerite’s & to clear up any confusion around the launch owned by his granddad Ken McLeod.

Marguerite was built by Des Donovan for Ken McLeod in Auckland in 1948. Ken owned McLeod’s bookshop in Rotorua which he started in the 1930’s and which still exists to this day, currently owned by the son of the guy Ken sold it to (so in all these years it has had only three owners). Ken was also the President of Hamilton’s St Andrews golf club. In his 20’s (1920’s) he was a book salesman for Gordon & Gotch in Northland, visiting Northland customers for days at a time on horse-back as the roads in Northland were frequently impassable by car in those days. Marguerite was named after his wife … Marguerite McLeod (known as Rita). She was 42 feet long and all planks were full length Kauri, no joins. She was originally equipped with twin Mercury gasoline car engines but Ken later fitted twin Fordsons. Her interior was Island mahogany and she slept six. He kept her at Tauranga and his favourite cruising ground was Great Barrier Island but he took her up to the Waitemata and into the Hauraki Gulf on occasions. Ken sold the boat to someone near Wellington in the early to mid 60’s who later on-sold it to a chap who stripped all the brass, engines and anything of value from her and sank her north of Rangitoto (I believe). The insurers found the wreck missing it’s internals and the culprit prosecuted. To say Ken was heart-broken when he heard the news is an understatement. So that is the story of that Marguerite. The above photo of her is from around 1955, at extreme right is Christoph’s grandmother, Marguerite McLeod (behind the chap in black). Christoph has promised to send in the NZ Herald article on the story of the sinking and the fraud discovery. Its at their bach in the Bay of Islands so next trip he will dig it out & send it. Should be an interesting read 🙂

I spoke with Harold Kidd yesterday & HDK was unaware of the existence of the two Marguerite’s & was delighted that via ww we had uncovered another classic. Harold mentioned that Ken McLeod’s launch was a patrol craft for the arrival of the Gothic in Auckland for the Royal Tour on 23/12/1953 and McLeod was also a member of the Squadron.

Input from Ken Ricketts on Margueritte’s launch day

Margueritte was built in Westhaven in one of the cream painted green roofed sheds, that used to be where the motorway approaches are now.

She was a very beamy boat for her time, around 14 ft 6 to 15 feet at least, with a huge volume, bridgedeck & being built in to the tuck (like REHIA as an example), with no cockpit, she was “all boat” inside, with her 2 x Ford V8s under the floor, at the tuck, with Vee drives.

Her first attempt at being launched was horrific.

One Saturday in early 1948, when Ken was 12 & on his parents launch Juliana, waiting for the tide after cleaning the bottom, up against one of the pile cleaning sets that used to be there.

When suddenly Ken & his parents heard a huge crashing noise, from the other side of the bay. They rushed on deck to have a look & then rowed over, to see what had happened & saw this huge launch, which was being lowered on a trolley, from one of the cream painted sheds on railway type rails, to the water, which was 6 feet below it, at its position on the rails at that time, with the tide well out, & it had fallen sideways off the trolley & down about 4 to 6 ft sideways, on its side to the water below, & she was lying on her side just touching the water with the side of her hull. 

She was retrieved & repaired & Ken saw her in Mansion House Bay, the following Christmas. 

Charles (Chas) Collings – Designer / Boat Builder


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Charles (Chas) Collings – Designer / Boat Builder

The story below on Charles Collings’ approach to design in the immediate post-WW1 period has been penned by Harold Kidd.

Charles Collings emerged from World War I with a massive reputation for fast craft. In late 1914, when the war was just a distant rumble in France, he had built the 21ft restricted racer FLEETWING with which he raced and beat the Christchurch boat DISTURBER on the Waitemata in April 1915 at exactly the time of the landings at Gallipoli. He developed his “concave-convex” hull design where the chine hull had a convex (hollow) entry and progressively transitioned though straight to convex at the stern. He was by no means the originator of the idea, but certainly grabbed it as his own through decades of successful planing hulls he built for racing, fast cruising and whale chasing.
There is no doubt that he was well ahead of his time in a local context, although Major Lane was close behind.
By war’s end in 1918 Charles Collings had been a notable war effort contributor as a pal of local motorboat guru Charles Palmer (see ADELAIDE on this site), had lost his partner Alf Bell who had gone to the Walsh Brothers helping them build flying boats at Kohimarama for their flying school (and did not welcome him back afterwards), and was preparing for the post-war boom in large launch building that was inevitably coming, during which he built MARGUERITE, PAIKEA and RUAMANO amongst many others.
I have had a chip at his aesthetics from time to time but, to be fair to the man, he did not have the hindsight we have on the way launch design went and could not know what looks good to us today.
Faced with the design of a fast cruiser, only 32ft loa by 8ft 6in beam, and the desire for headroom in the main cabin, he came up with his second motorboat called FLEETWING (by now a brand for him). She was an extension of the ideas in the 1915 ADELAIDE.
I think, with this second FLEETWING, Collings’ first training as a civil engineer shows through more than his secondary training with Robert Logan Sr. as a shipwright. To obtain headroom he carried the tramtop/clerestory concept to the point IMHO of ugliness, using the parameters of the railway carriage, the electric tram and the motor bus of the time, abandoning completely the parameters of the yacht, even a token attention to which had kept launches aesthetically pleasing until now.
Anyway, see what you think of this image of the second FLEETWING which I have taken from one of Collings’ own glass plates, very decayed, but an amazing insight into the goings on in St Mary’s Bay in late 1920. Collings & Bell’s yard is out of picture to the left, so we see the yards of Dick Lang and Leon Warne close up.
This launch was on TradeMe at Picton recently, erroneously called MISS FLEETWING.

Update: Charles Collings was a very good amateur photographer with excellent gear. After his death in 1946 his glass plates got scattered around in the workshop, many were used for skipping across the Bay, most were smashed one way or another. A very few survived, most cracked or with their emulsion badly decayed. I have a handful more of which a couple are excellent and the definitive shots of his 26ft mullet boat CORONA after her launching in 1936.

PS Leon Warne took over the shed on the right in 1916 from Henry Barton who left for the US with his family because of his anti-war convictions (and had a shocking time on the way). Warne had served his time with Collings & Bell. He painted up the shed very nicely as you can see but was building in St.Mary’s Bay only until c1924 when he and his brother set up in Russell, building and chartering game fishing launches.