The Story Of Ruapani


Built in Wellington in 1929 by B.J.L. Jukes in Balaena Bay. Jukes had built in 1926 two sister ships – Vagabond and Nereides. Ruapani was commissioned by the NZ Govt Tourist Dept for use on Lake Waikaremoana, to carry passengers from Hopuruahine to the Lake House Hotel. 

When the hotel closed in 1965 she was sold to Peter Ash’s company – Waikaremoana Launch Services. Ash replaced the original 40hp Thornycroft petrol engine with a Perkins 84hp diesel and operated her on the lake for another 11 years.

In 1976 Ash sold Ruapani to her first private owner, Noel Tong, who sold her in 1984 to her present owner – Ken Menzies, that woodys is 38 years ago, very impressive.

Menzies initially kept her on the lake, but in 1990 trucked her to Evans Bay, Wellington (his new home). The move was a very lucky break for Ruapani as Menzies engaged well known Wellington boat designer – Bruce Askew to undertake a major rebuild / restoration of Ruapani. The work involved redesigning the above deck area to a style similar to Nereides, below deck the engine was shifted aft to accommodate two large cabins forward. The change to salt water necessitated upgrading a lot of her ‘hardware’ and the addition of freshwater tanks – life on the lake equaled a permanent supply of fresh water.

These days Ruapani is berthed in Picton Marina and is a wonderful boat for cruising the Marlborough Sounds. Ken Menzies commented that Ruapani was maintained very well by the original launch master Frank Smith and she remains in sound condition after 92 years.

The gallery of photos above date from when Ruapani was on Lake Waikaremoana in the early 1930s, thru to approx 2004. The top photo is a recent shot and perfectly shows what a magnificent woody Ruapani is. And a lucky woody to have had 38 years of continuous ownership at the hands of a devoted owner.

The photos were shared with us by Ken, and the details I have extracted for numerous WW comments and newspaper clipping.

A Helping Hand Needed

Alice Morrison is the owner of the classic woody launch – Taurima (WW link below) which is currently in Tauranga. Alice has been trying for months to move her to Whangaroa, or at least Whangarei but due to weather and availability she has not yet been able to. So woodys – anyone out there that could help Alice relocate Taurima? Alice is prepared to pay, but is short on intel on who could / would do this. You can comment in the WW comments section or contact Alice direct at

Boat Less These Holidays

Boat Less These Holidays
Consider a cruise on board a very classic looking wee ship on Lake Taupo. The Ernest Kemp isn’t a true woody (steel hull, wooden super structure, she was designed by Bruce Askew and built in Whangarei in 1980. Named after Alfred Ernest Kemp, the last member of the Kemp family to live at Kemp House Kerikeri. She briefly earned a living transporting passengers down the Kerikeri inlet. She was then sold in 1981 to business interests in Taupo, where she remains to this day.

You can read more on her history here.

Ernest Kemp is 47’ in length and has a 3’ draft, perfect for the sometimes swallow lake waters she operates in. Powered by twin 4 cyl. Ford 73hp diesel engines that give her a cruising speed of 9 knots. 
Ernest Kemp offers scenic cruises on Lake Taupo  during the day and an early evening cocktail cruise. Details here
photo below ex Angus Rogers

SS Duke of Marlborough

Duke of Marlborough copy


I recently stumbled across the above photo of the steam ship – Duke of Marlborough and knowing nothing about her put a call into Russell Ward aka Mr Steam. The man is never embarrassed to speak so – take it away Russell, WW is all yours…..

“Once, 30+ years ago, I built up a steamboat called “Gypsy”. So pull up a chair, warm yourselves by the fire and I’ll tell you a story which isn’t about “Gypsy” at all, it’s about the “James Torrey” which became the “Duke of Marlborough”.

But, through “Gypsy”, I met one Lloyd Lewis of Lake Tarawera. He was an ardent enthusiast for steamy things (who wouldn’t be – living on Lake Tarawera.) Lloyd had made a steamer up out of a hull I had sold him a year or so previously and really had the steamboat bug badly. As the late Pete Culler (he wrote a lot about boats and he was a wise man) said “It’s awful, don’t go near it or you are hooked.” And you can’t argue with facts like that, folks. Suffice to say Lloyd got steam enginitis in a big way.

He had Wellington naval architect Bruce Askew design a hull for a 36’ steam vessel following the style of the early 1900 steam boats The steel hull was built in 1987 by Gordon Clark and Brian Starrock in New Plymouth and shipped to Rotorua for Lloyd to complete. He did a fine aesthetic job. She was launched as “James Torrey” and he used her to take fishing tours on the lake. The lads appreciated the warmth from the boiler at times.

Lloyd built the engine – an English design by A.A. Leake and a dashed good looker it is -a traditional open compound, driving a 28” by 42” propeller giving a service speed of 6 knots. A piston valve is fitted to the high pressure cylinder and a balanced slide valve on the low pressure one. It has cross-head driven twin feed pumps and air pump. Exhaust is through a feed-water heater to a keel condenser. There you feel a lot better for knowing that.

But to sum up, working on salt water, you have to condense the exhaust steam or you run out of feedwater real quick. Besides, condensing gives you a useful addition to the power through the vacuum created which, in essence, sucks the piston while the steam pushes.

The steam is provided by a Kingdon type boiler (1900’s Simpson Strickland design) built by Langley Engineering in the U.K and, since you didn’t really want to know, It is a vertical fire-tube type, 34 inches high by 30 inches diameter over lagging, has 3.4 square feet of grate area and has 84 square feet of heating surface. She burns coal and there is nothing better.

Lloyd had quite job actually getting Ed Langley to dispatch the finished boiler although it had been long since paid for. Ed had had his delivery problems over the years…. Legend has it that, in frustration (remember communication was all letters and phone calls that had to be booked well ahead in those prehistoric times); Lloyd flew over to the UK and turned up at the works just ahead of the receiver. Seeing the likelihood of his investment coming to nothing, he took matters into his own hands and loaded the boiler up himself. Lloyd just wasn’t the sort of man to argue with and got his boiler. It is a very handsome job.

Anyway after a number of years, Lloyd tired of his steamboat and Roger Frazer took her to Picton. He renamed her “Duke of Marlborough” and did a lot of restoration which is a credit to him. He has been taking passengers out of Picton for some time. I’m sure the passengers appreciate the boiler’s warmth even more that the Lake Tarawera types.”

I understand she may be for sale………

WoodenBoat Magazine Interview #3 

This week WB editor Matt Murphy interviews Harold Burnham in a live discussion of how, for nearly three decades, he has been instrumental in revitalizing the shipbuilding and maritime culture of his region by designing, building, and rehabilitating traditional vessels for cultural tourism. Harold is an 11th-generation shipwright, and has, at various times, also been a sawyer, mariner, model maker, and sail maker.




The above photos are ex Barbara Cooke’s & my camera. The launch Awatea is shown above at the Waikawa Bay Marina, Queen Charlotte Sound.

She appears to be a very well cared for classic. Any of the southern Woodys able to shed some light on her?

19-03-2018 Input from Steve Waring

Awatea is 11.5 meter and designed by Bruce Askew for me in 1993 .
She was built by Chris Morrison in Christchurch and launched in Lyttelton in 1995.
The hull is strip planed with Totara cabin sides , silver pine lined coach roof , kauri trim.
Power is from a Yanmar 4JH2UTBE 100 hp diesel.
She cruised comfortably at 8 knots
I cruised her round Banks Peninsula for a season then steamed her up to Havelock where we used her as a sounds commuter. She was sold in 2000 and relocated to Mana marina.