Matai And A Matter Of Urgency 

Matai And A Matter Of Urgency 

Today’s tale comes to us from Bay of Islands woody – John Gander via Dean Wright and covers a wee oops that the 1967 Jorgensen built woody workboat had in Port Hardy, in the Marlborough Sounds in the mid to late 1970’s. As always,I’ll let John tell the story. 


“Our phone rang in the early morning and there was a certain amount of urgency in the callers voice ‘Rutherford’, the ‘Matai’ is aground in Port Hardy, get your gear together, I have a chopper standing by at Omaka get here as quick as you can. 

The caller was Bill Rutherford, marine assessor, I had done a lot of salvage work and repairs with Bill, and I knew the Matai and Gerry Fissenden her then owner-skipper. 

Maitai is a carvel built launch designed and built by Peter ‘Pop’ Jorgensen at his Waikawa Bay boatyard for Ray Roach. Ray was a well known and very experienced commercial launch man in the Marlborough Sounds, and with a majority of properties in the Sounds having no road access at this time, tow boats with a punt astern or alongside were a common sight, often loaded with building materials and machinery, or farm stock. 

Pop Jorgensen’s brief was to design and build a manoeuvrable, strong tow boat with a good towing post, to handle a sixty foot punt, she was powered by a 4-71. N series G.M. with a 3:1 reduction with a four blade Nalder propeller, and launched in 1967. 

I arrived at Omaka airdrome as the helicopter was being made ready, a quick loading of my tools including dive gear, tanks and air lift bags. We didn’t know at this stage if Matai would be above or below water, there was one possible complication. It is very rare to see fog in Blenheim, but this day was one of those rare days, thick fog not ideal for flying in such restricted visibility. With a heavily loaded helicopter with three of us aboard the pilot’s option was to fly just above the main highway and follow it to Havelock, I was relieved to see the fog was clearing as we flew out over the water at Havelock, it was here that the pilot thrust a lands and survey map into my hand, saying you know the way guide me in the right direction. 

I was a bit concerned at this low altitude flying it takes a bit of getting used to, but one thing we wouldn’t have far to go before a splash, and it was a bit of a relief for me, as we just cleared the hills at Port Ligar to fly across Admiralty Bay to Port Hardy, d’Urville island. As we flew over we could now see the predicament that Matai was in. 

There was a gale of N.W. in Tasman Bay and the Cook Strait, and Gerry had left the punt anchored with a load of sheep aboard in Wells Arm, and was then making his way in East Arm towards Allman Bay when right on H.W. Matai went up on an off lying rocky point, it was about a 3.2 m.tide that was falling and we could see the urgency of the situation. 

A great thing about a chopper is that a quick fly around gave us a good look and we could see that some props were needed and fast before she healed over much more, there were some sizeable Manuka trees further up the hill but nowhere to land nearby on the flat at hight tide. As the pilot brought one skid to rest on a rocky outcrop on the side of the hill, I was given instructions to keep my head down when I got out with sharp saw in hand, he didn’t have to emphasise these instructions. In quick time I was up the hill to cut three good size Manuka and then slide these down to the waiting dinghy, it was a wet job but we had these in place with not too much time to spare and Matai was made secure as she continued to dry out. 

Bill put a call out and the Trawler ‘Marina May’ left Motueka to make her way to d’Urville Island in heavy seas, she had a rough passage but arrived before high water in the late afternoon and a tow line was made ready. Her skipper Robie Bloomfield positioned her just right and with a gentle hand on the power, eased ‘Marina May’ ahead quietly and with her own engine assisting Matai cleared the rocks and was afloat and away from the point. 

It was three days before the sea subsided enough for us to leave and see Matai on her way, but she had comfortable accomodation and Bill and I were still on the payroll until we left Port Hardy. I think the Insurance company was well pleased with only a slipping and a small section of keel batten to be replaced”.

606 Rosebank Road, Avondale

Lipton Cup – 100th Anniversary – Photo Gallery

Lipton Cup – 100th Anniversary – Photo Gallery

Following on from yesterdays teaser and results oops – I’m a launch person wont know an L Mullet boat from an H Mullet boat – no one died, its a new day, we move on.The winner of the actual Lipton Cup, hosted by the Ponsonby Cruising Club  – L division (22’) was Orion, 2nd went to Limited Edition, with Tamerau 3rd.The H division winner was Corona. As of Sunday night there were no results posted on the PCC website – so at some stage soon 🙂 go there for details.

There are lots of tales around how the PCC obtained the magnificent trophy, which was crafted by the same jewellers as the Americas Cup – you can read more about the history of the cup here https://www.pcc.org.nz/history


I was land based, using a long lens so some are a little fuzzy, but you get the vibe of the day. Sorry if your boats missing – drop me an email and I’ll check the photos, took lots, but some had other boats in the background etc. As always click on photos to enlarge.

Good to see Geoff Bagnall floating around on his launch, must have escaped Gisborne for the weekend 😉 
Photos below ex Don MacLeod

The Start
Rounding The Second Mark
Fleet Leaders Second Mark – Tamatea > Orion > Tamerau > Limited Edition

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.

Name The Launch

Name The Launch

Todays woody shouldn’t be too hard to name, from Lew Redwood’s fb we know that it was owned by Edward Bullmore and in the photo which is dated 1993, she is afloat on Lake Tarawera. And then there’s those rather distinctive ‘decorations’.

So woodys – boat name, builder, year ? The Drake brothers will be able to enlighten us I’m sure.

Ngahere L34

Have been contacted by Jonathan Edmeades whose grandfather – Graham Cole, owned Ngahere back in 1947/48. On a WW story, there is mention that she is now owned by Chris Harris, Jonathan would love to contact Chris and if possible, view the yacht. Could anyone that knows Chris email me his contact details  – Jason Prew? (thanks JP – passed on) waitematawoodys@gmail.com

And remember woodys – on Saturday May 1st we have the 100th birthday of the Lipton Cup. Details below