Tern II

TERN II

Several weeks ago we run a story on WW about the fate of the Stow & Son – UK yacht – Imatra, that is dining a slow death up the Tamaki River in Auckland. At the time xxx pointed out that there was another Stow & Son yacht (built in 1899) – the 52’,  gaff, yawl – Tern II in New Zealand. She is for sale on the UK yacht brokers website – Sandeman Yacht Company – I have taken the  of reproducing the background story on how she ended up in NZ.This link will take you to their site to see over 40 photos and read more about her   http://www.sandemanyachtcompany.co.uk/yacht/467/stow-and-sons-39-ft-gaff-yawl-1899-project-completion Thanks to Mark Erskine for the heads up on this hidden gem.

Tern II was launched as White Kitten in 1899, from the yard of Stow and Son, in Shoreham, UK. In early 1910 she was purchased by Claude Worth, who owned her for a couple of years and made several changes to her; documented in his book “Yacht Cruising.” Meanwhile all the ironwork he had made at this time is still with the vessel. 

After numerous owners over the next few decades, she came into the hands of Ben Pester, a New Zealand naval officer who had finished a period of service in the U.K. and was keen to return to NZ under sail. This passage, in 1951-52, was written about in his book “Just Sea and Sky”, published in 2010.  

Tern II changed hands again a few times, until she was found abandoned and a somewhat worse for wear in a mud berth near Thames North Island NZ, by Bill Cunningham. Going aboard with a mate unsure if she was worth saving; after downing the bottle of whisky found below it was decided she was indeed worthy – and thus began a 9 year period that she spent hauled out in his back yard in Cambridge not far away, replacing the deck with the addition of a cabin and all her spars, and a new interior. Her counter had been removed sometime before this and the rig changed to a cutter. She was re launched in April 1981.

Bill parted with her in 1991 and she was owned for a time by Mick Reynolds, and then Lyn Avatar, who had planned to sail her to Hawaii but cut the journey short after a 24 day passage to Tonga from the Bay of Islands. She then lay on a mooring there until the current owners came across her on their way to New Zealand. For a sum including coverage of outstanding mooring fees, a bottle of rum, and a kiss, they secured ownership and arranged shipping back to New Zealand. She is currently being stored undercover in a yard in Whangarei, Northland and undergoing restoration.

Midnight – Sailing Sunday

MIDNIGHT – Sailing Sunday

Today’s story comes to us from Ross Dawson and dovetails with the story earlier in the week on the launch – Midnight II. Both sparked by Ross’s visit to see Peter Chamberlin in this retirement village. I will let Ross tell the story ‘

“The Yacht “Midnight” 34 tons according to press reports of the period, was brought out from the UK and generally under the command of Charles Chamberlin snr., with newspaper advertisements and comments indicated Charles had a paid crew. On the other hand according to Brian & Jan Chamberlin’s family history,…”the cutter ‘Midnight’ appeared on the scene (1853), having been built to Charles’s order by Henry Nicol, a noted North Shore builder.”

There are many newspaper references during the unsettled times around 1865-70, that Charles made the vessel available as an armed cutter, manned by naval volunteers to patrol the Hauraki Gulf and beyond. On one occasion she ‘rescued’ Governor Sir George Grey from potential capture from his Kawau Island home. Another records Midnight arriving in Auckland 4.3.1865 from Tauranga bringing first news of the murder of Volkner near Opotiki.

Other shipping news was more prosaic…”Midnight arriving Auckland from Ponui with 9 bales of wool.

In 1870, the NZ Herald reported Midnight had a 16 day “stormy passage’ to Tonga, and later the death by drowning of her Captain Courthoys at Levuka. I understand Midnight was lost on this voyage, refer below.

Briefly (& anyone interested can find the full account in the Daily Southern Cross newspaper of 12.6.1871)…”the Midnight sailed from Levuka on Saturday last, on a pleasure trip to Mologai (sic) (Malogai Island)…the vessel was hove to outside the reef for the night, but due light winds and strong currents, drifted onto a shoal about 2.30am. Every attempt was made to get her clear. All anchors being lost. In the morning  a schooner was sighted and a boat was sent over the reef. Mr North, mate of the Midnight asked for a loan of a kedge, or to take a line to a shoal a short distance to windward. The boat returned to the schooner (America) and to the astonishment of those on Midnight, the America made sail and left all hands to their fate. The crew built a raft and with some assistance from a vessel from the island Midnight was abandoned and they made for Passage Island, eight miles away. They were rescued on Tuesday by the schooner Mary sent from Levuka in search of Midnight. It was assumed Midnight slipped off into deep water sometime on the Sunday night that the crew left the stranded vessel. (Story from Fiji Times May 20 1871)

As far as sorting who built Midnight…either in England or by Henry Nicol in Auckland, I have not come across any definitive information. But trawling through the Daily Southern Cross, one is amazed at the large number of ships of all sizes that traded out of Auckland, many locally built.

Henry Nicol who apparently came to Auckland from Scotland aged 23 was an amazingly prolific shipbuilder, initially from a yard on what is now the corner of Vulcan Lane & Queen Street and soon after from his yard in Mechanics Bay, hard up against the slope of the rising land toward Parnell (well before the extensive reclamation extending out toward the current waters edge).

The Daily Southern Cross of 1853 when the 97ton ‘clipper schooner’ “Waitemata” was launched, reported Nicol had built since 1849…647 tons of shipping,…Moa 281 tons;Hawkhead, 22 tons; Eliza, 55 tons;Julia Ann, 28 tons; Rose Ann, 39 tons; Favourite, 28tons; Te Tere, 27 tons; & Waitemata, 97 tons. Not to mention 5 half-decked boats from 10-18 tons!

Possibly Nicol produced the Midnight shortly after the above as the family booklet “Ponui & Beyond” by Brian & Jan Chamberlin states…”In 1853 the cutter Midnight appeared on the scene, having been built to Charle’s (Chamberlin) order by Henry Nicol.

This whole story has a slight personal note as my Gt Gt Grandfather Joshua Robinson, with a team of his carpenters worked for Henry Nicol, although my family record indicates that Joshua was employed by the well known trader William Smellie Graham on his various construction projects, including Nicol’s building of trading vessels for Graham. My Robinson history states…that ” Nicol built 43 vessels in the first 10 years, all work done by hand until 1856 when machinery was installed for sawing timber.”

Just to give a glimpse of Nicol’s work ethic….The DSC of 24.2.1854 tells us…”launch schooner 40tons, Tamatenaua. Cutter 30tons nearing completion. About to lay keel for schooner 112-120 tons”….all with saw and adze…the chips must have been flying!”


Harold Kidd Input – MIDNIGHT was built by Henry Niccol in 1863 according to the Register of British Ships No 57810. She replaced Charles Chamberlin’s VICTORIA.

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

Lock-down Treat ~ Free Access To The Worldwide Classic Boat Show

A LOCK-DOWN TREAT – FREE ACCESS TO THE WORLDWIDE CLASSIC BOAT SHOW


Our friends over at Off Center Harbor have been orchestrating a new gig on the classic boat scene – a virtual worldwide classic boat show. Its been live now for 10 days and only available via purchasing a ticket (US$5) – now woodys to help us kiwis (and the WW overseas followers) during CV-19 lock-down – the show is now free.

See below instructions on how to visit the show. 

You can use the globe / map to see an amazing collection of vessel around the world + locations of museums & trade folks – but the real gem for me is the daily video presentations from some of the worlds leading lights on the classic boating scene – sailors, teachers, photographers, event promoters and boat builders. You will be addicted so I apologise in advance for ruining your day/s – but, you’re supposed to be in lock-down 🙂

If you only watch one presentation – make it the legendary Tom Cunliffe presentation – you’ll find it on Sat Feb20th under the heading ’Seas of Northern Europe’ – do not be put off by the boring title – its a cracker, the mans one of the best storytellers around, you’ll be glued to the screen for 2 hours. ENJOY THE SHOW 🙂

How To Get Your Free Ticket:

1. CLICK HERE to get your free ticket (here is the full link if you need it: https://classicboatshow.com/product/one-free-ticket-for-full-access-to-the-worldwide-classic-boat-show/ )

2. Checkout for free, and your username and password become your ticket

3. To login, go to ClassicBoatShow.com, click login in the top right corner to get full access, and enjoy the show!

If you have trouble getting your free ticket, you can always email the show’s crew for help at crew@classicboatshow.com.

If the show turns out to be an enjoyable and valuable experience for you, they have a voluntary “tips/donations” button on the top of the screen where you can contribute.