Waratah Needs A New Home


Back in Oct 2014 the launch – Waratah popped up on WW, at the time she was 4sale on trademe and the WW story generate a lot of chat in the comments section – link below https://waitematawoodys.com/2014/10/06/waratah/

We learnt that she was 28’9” in length, built in c.1924 by Alf Bell and was named All Bell when launched. Amusing story around the name in the 2014 story.

Back in 2014 Waratah was needing some serious interior fit out and TLC but afloat, photos below.

Fast forward to 2023 and she has become a restoration that started but came to an abrupt halt. Waratah is currently stored near Kerikeri, Northland and her owner Kevin O’Donnell would like to move her on, at no cost, to someone that will take on the project. The time frame is ‘quick smart’ as Waratah is resting in the exact spot as to where a house is going.

Interested parties can contact Kevin at kevinodonnell496@gmail.com


Boat name and approx crew numbers – waitematawoodys@gmail.com



Waratah is a 28’9” kauri launch built in 1924 by Alf Bell & when launched was called ‘All Bell’. The name has an amusing twist to it in that All Bell refers to the fact that the boat had no ‘Collings’ in her i.e. Alf Bell had no time for his former business partner Chas. Collings (Collings & Bell).

Waratah is powered by a 60hp Izuzu diesel & cruises at approx. 8 knots. Currently in the middle of a ‘rolling restoration’ she is in good running order & for sale on trademe.

Harold Kidd Update

Alf Bell was a boatbuilder and a crack engineer as well. He did all of the engine installations when he was a partner in Collings & Bell. He left the firm to go to Walsh Bros’ flying boat school at Kohimarama during WW1, doing the aero engine work there.
I had the privilege of clearing out the basement of his house in St Mary’s Bay many years ago as he was a distant relative. Several of the high quality engines and transmissions I found there are now motoring eg a very early single cylinder Cadillac engine which drove a bandsaw, the wheels of which were de Dion Bouton wooden-spoked veteran road wheels. There was a 1912 Wolseley complete from radiator to diff. Beautiful stuff. Any many other treasures.
ALL BELL was a fast boat as Alf fitted her with a 6 cylinder Sunbeam engine early in her career.

09-12-2015 – An amusing update
Karen Goa’s husband Ken (who’s a boat builder) has always admired the launch Waratah. Some years ago we were lucky enough to have access to her, so we spent some happy hours pootling around the harbour.
For his 60th birthday recently (the week the Waratah sold on TradeMe), we had a big house party – with a ‘Waratah’ cake, photo attached. It was delicious.


01-01-2016 Input from previous owner Alastair MacKenzie

“I lived in Schoolhouse Bay for a few years from about 1964 . I worked for Herman Holdings (an offshoot of Herman Timber Co. of Whangarei). Charlie Herman owned most of the land from Schoolhouse Bay across to the Coppermine and down to Sth. Harbour and my job involved logging pine to be barged to the mill at Whangarei as logs, wharf piles and farm posts etc. We (that is Barney Mahanga and I) also largely built the wharf and laid the foundation for the motels on the bay beachfront.

I looked around for a vessel for my family and I to explore further and go fishing and found the launch Waratah in the next bay around toward Mansion House. She had been used for long line fishing and had copper tanks under the bunks, was rather untidy and as I recall things didn’t work for the then owner who left her with the folk in the next bay from us to sell.
She was powered by a Chrysler Crown marine petrol engine (very thirsty !) and had keel cooling tubes. I tidied her up – she had a mast in those days tho’ no bow rail and she was pretty smart and reliable. As I recall she had a beam of about 6′ 6″ and tho’ very seaworthy would roll like the dickens in a side swell.
There was no schooling available in those days so when my family and I left the island I took the Waratah across and left her with the boat builder (forgotten his name) at Sandspit, who sold her for me.

ps Barney and wife Lucy lived in the old Schoolhouse and my family and I in the house a hundred m. or so up the hill from the wharf. An elderly couple (the Sowerbys) lived in an old homestead just to the left off the wharf.”

1925 Anniversary Regatta “bona fide cruisers over 9 knots” Race.

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1925 Anniversary Regatta “bona fide cruisers over 9 knots” Race.

The 4 boats nearest the camera, from left ROMANCE II (W C Mills….winner by miles), ROSEMARY (Leon Warne), ALL BELL leading (Alf Bell….NO Collings in this one…it’s All BELL….lots of angst between Mr. Collings and Mr. Bell post WW1), and CARMINE (ex-MAUDIE..Bailey & Lowe). At the rear are, on left, CAVALIER (Bell brothers, Alf and his brother whose name I’ve temporarily forgotten but great uncles of Dick Coughlan) at left and KATHRYN R (built by Leon Warne for W J Reid, Des Townson’s grandfather) on the right. Big St Mary’s Bay representation, 2 Warne boats and two Bell boats (and 2 Bailey & Lowe boats)

2nd photo of Romance II ‘at full chat’ crossing a finish line in 1925 (possibly the same race as above)

3rd photo shows Romance II not moving fast at all – high & dry near Coromandel one Easter, she re-floated on the next tide with no damage other than the crews egos, the owner Frank Aspden was in Sydney at the time. The next crew meeting would have been a dozy 🙂

Anniversary details ex Harold Kidd, photos ex ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections (Auckland Libraries)

Harold Kidd Update:

ROMANCE II cheekily entered the next race too, the “Open Speed Race” against the flyers of the day, Chas. Collings’ FLEETWING JR (120hp Hall-Scott), MISS VIRGINIA (220hp Hispano-Suiza), MISS AUCKLAND (ohc Masport), MISS EILEEN (6 cylinder Buick), MISS DEVONPORT (90hp Curtiss), MISS MILFORD (ex-FLEETWING I), and FIREFLY Colin Wild-built, 6 cylinder Studebaker). Some of these hydroplanes were running war surplus aero engines of course. ROMANCE II was given 20mins and won on handicap.

She will see some action this season after Pauline and I have had a sad time in the past 18 months with family matters and my bloody arthritis. She’s out at Gulf Harbour right now for antifouling and a tidy up. She was built for 17 knots and still does that (and quite a bit more if you have the courage to push the Morse to the bulkhead). Basically she’s a standard Bailey & Lowe 35 footer hull, but fined down forward and with a flatter run aft. It may not be your classic planing, but it sure feels like it!