Lake Taupo Wooden Boats
Right now Colin Pawson should have been in the USA & taking photos for me at a wooden boat festival, but a speed bump slowed him down a bit & instead he was mooching round the lake front moorings at Lake Taupo.
Most of the above have appeared on WW before but its always nice to get an update & who has been applying the TLC & who hasn’t 🙂
Input ex Paul Drake – below is a 1932 pic of the same two boats. It is regatta day at Taupo. ROMANCE has only recently arrived at the lake ex Napier and is still a flush decker. EAST WIND has already been on the lake for some years. Both boats came into Drake family ownership 46 years ago in 1972.
Now would be a good moment to seek opinions regarding EAST WIND’s origins. She was clearly built as an open boat with motor. She still has the original foredeck and coaming under the newer raised deck. Two clues – she has an external stern gland and has an X etched into her starboard forard sheer strake (see pic). No sign of lifting hooks though.
We would be really interested to discover when she was built and by whom. Her history prior to the mid 1920’s is a mystery. What do the Brains Trust think?
Also below is Paul’s favorite pic of EAST WIND, at Rotoiti, taken by me (Alan H).
Rainbow was built in 1930 by Chas Robinson at Ohiniamutu for the Smiths who owned Rainbow Point on Lake Taupo – hence the name Rainbow.
She is 22.96’ in length & powered by a 15hp diesel.
She looks a very smart classic kauri launch & with a trademe asking price of $20k ono, could be a great buy. While still a lake boat, it would not cost a lot to truck her to the Waitemata 😉
Do any of the lake woodys know more about the boat ?
(thanks to Ian McDonald for the listing heads up)
Input From Paul Drake
RAINBOW was a Taupo boat for more than 70 years, before moving to a nearby hydro lake where I suspect she still is. Someone has done a superb job on her cabin since she left. When built, she had an extensive canvas canopy instead of a cabin, supported by heavy tubular nickeled rods. She was fitted with copper buoyancy tanks, making her unsinkable. She also fitted with a magnificent 6 cylinder twin ignition Gray. Two spark plugs to each cylinder. To change from battery to magneto requires the flick of a switch. Fresh water is very kind to engines and this engine, in very good condition, now resides in brother Michael’s shed, complete with owner’s manual and original instruments. RAINBOW lived in a substantial boatshed at Rainbow Point, and was launched via a similarly substantial slip. She is a most unusual boat, in a good way, being very shapely and very shallow draft (half a metre) with exaggerated flare forard and very flat underwater sections aft. A fabulous looker and the perfect lake boat. In the photos below – the last photo shows how she looked when she left Taupo. The first three are from the 1930’s.
THREE TAUPO BOATS
Post a visit by Paul Drake & his brothers to the 2017 Classic Yacht & Launch Exhibition & a side trip to the Auckland Maritime Museum, Paul sent me the above photos & the story below – which I have re-produced unedited as its perfect as is. Read & enjoy J
In the mid 1920’s, two gents and their families fell in love with Taupo. Both of them commissioned boats from Auckland builders. Hawke Bay’s Guy Rochfort had TUI (16 feet and clinker) built by Percy Vos. TUI was on display at the recent Classic Clinker Exhibition at the Viaduct in Auckland. Auckland’s Robert Laidlaw had the 17 foot speedboat SEAHORSE built by an unspecified builder. After a weather related fright on the lake in 1929, Robert approached Collings and Bell, and the 28 foot PIRI PONO (faithful friend) was the result. Honduras mahogany and bright finished, no expense was spared. PIRI PONO is on display at the Maritime Museum in Auckland. With her 150 HP straight eight Niagara, she weighed just over a ton and could do about 30 knots. Housed in her boatshed at Two Mile Bay, alongside Laidlaw’s house ‘Monte Vista’, access to the water was via a slipway. A private jetty and offshore mooring completed the picture.
PIRI PONO was the fastest boat on the lake. But by 1935, she had a rival in the form of local man Stan Gillies’s LUYVON, locally designed and built by Jack Taylor and measuring 22 feet. She was light (about half the weight of PIRI PONO) and powered with a Dodge, driving through an outboard drive. Informal drag races indicated that the boats were very similar in speed. A more formal test was required. Regatta Day 1936 (probably) was the day. PIRI PONO had her bottom waxed, new spark plugs fitted, all surplus gear removed, and half her fuel pumped out. The day dawned fine and calm, to PIRI PONO’s disadvantage. LUYVON and PIRI PONO lined up for the 20 lap race. LUYVON had the edge because she cornered faster – PIRI PONO would catch her on the straights. Robert Laidlaw ordered his crew (son Lincoln) to the aft cockpit to get the bow up a bit. Stan Gillies was still ahead. Back came Lincoln, returning aft with the anchor. This was enough. PIRI PONO won and Robert retained his title as fastest man on the lake.
PIRI PONO was commandeered by the Air Force during WW2 and was the Commodore’s launch at Hobsonville. They replaced the Niagara with a Chrysler (Crown?) and built a cabin over the forward cockpits. Having won the war, the Air Force returned PIRI PONO to Taupo. She was re-engined with twin Gray’s which are in her to this day. There are conflicting stories as to how this came about. One source has it that she was returned by the Air Force without an engine. Another has it that Laidlaw was disappointed with the speed produced by the Chrysler. Yet another has it that the Air Force wrote off the Chrysler while trying to reverse PIRI PONO off her transporter and into the lake (overheating due to lack of cooling water).
Laidlaw was an enthusiast. He was the founder of Farmers Trading Company. He was a very active Christian, and his name lives on in Laidlaw College, formerly the Bible College of New Zealand, which trains people for Christian ministry. He also has a rock named after him, informally at least. During an early evening spin in PIRI PONO, with 23 POB (so it is said), PIRI PONO struck, at speed, the large flat rock in Mine Bay between the islets and the shore at the eastern end of the bay. The damage must have been enormous and she quickly sank in a few metres of water. Passengers, some of them not-so-young ladies in fur coats, were rescued by nearby launches. Jack Taylor’s PONUI and VICTORY salvaged PIRI PONO the next day and she was repaired in time for the following summer.
Meanwhile, TUI led an uneventful life, and lived afloat in a Taupo Boat Harbour boatshed. LUYVON lived in a boatshed nearby, but was kept dry (and light) by being lifted clear of the water on a cradle once in the shed. LUYVON also survives, still owned by the Gillies family, and has been awaiting restoration for some 30 years now.
The book by Ian Hunter, ‘Robert Laidlaw – Man for our Time’ makes a very interesting read.
UPDATE 01-11-2017 Photo below showing TAMATI in the Lake Taupo Boat Harbour, with the fishing lodge (ex TONGARIRO) in the background, and the Collings and Bell PIRI PONO in the fore ground.
The above before & after photos of the Kinloch, Lake Taupo, launch Old Timer were sent to me by Larry Grigg. I’m not sure if its Larry’s boat, maybe if he reads this story he can let us know & a few more details on the restoration.
I understand was built at Taupo by local boat builder and charter boat skipper Jack Taylor.
I’m sure the Drake brothers will be able to help us out 🙂
03-07-2017 Input from Paul Drake
OLD TIMER is one of four sisters built at Taupo by Godfrey Taylor, son of Jack Taylor, in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. They measure 18 feet, are round bilged and built of totara. OLD TIMER (not her name in those days) was bought by the boatyard when Don Norton owned it, and re configured as the yard work boat. They re-named her DULCIE TAYLOR. Her engine at that time was a Universal Utility Four (now in our SIR FRANCIS, where it has been for many years). One of the sisters, TAURUS, lives in Wellington (photos below). Another was named LADY GRACE (photo below). One was twin screw and quite fast. As kids, we knew these four sisters as “The Godfrey Taylor Boats”.
Pre – repaint below
ELSIE MAY II
Back in early January Paul Drake sent in the above photos of Elsie May II. She had ‘appeared’ at a berth near Paul’s ROMANCE a few months before, having been on a mooring on the Lake Taupo for several years.
She is very original, and Paul commented that whoever owns her did a great paint job on her in December.
Paul believes she came from Napier, but knows nothing else. Possibly a 1950’s Chris Craft design NZ built ? & 28>30′ in length
Can any woody supply any details on Elsie May II?
Harold Kidd Input – ELSE MAY (I) was owned by L.G. & W.E. Mair of Connells Bay in 1973 (my pennyworth).
1945 – 32′ Classic Kauri Launch
Now this launch is for sale & if you had a peek inside you would be very impressed & at the asking price of $78k you might think its a great buy. Well it is a great buy, but I do not think there will be a queue of classic woody buyers lining up – why? because someone has stolen its mojo – the thing that makes a boat special. Her name is Ranui & in another life was called El Alamein, you can read about her here https://waitematawoodys.com/2015/08/03/el-alamein-ranui/
The Readers Digest version of her history is that she was launched in January 1945, specifically for use on Lake Rotoiti to help convalescing returned servicemen from World War II, many in wheelchairs, ease back into civilian life.
Now I have another life outside of being a wooden boat blogger & that is in the world of consumer & B2B marketing – mostly via the digital channels these days – so I can hear you asking yourself whats the relevance of this to today’s story? Well Ranui is in charter & these days calls Lake Taupo home – So wearing my marketing hat, if I owned a boat with the provenance that Ranui / El Alamein has I would be doing two things:-
1. leveraging every inch / ounce of her life story to make a trip on her something special, hell I’d even by donating $xx dollars from every ticket to the local RSA etc etc.
2. The other thing I would be doing was making her look as classic as possible – that’s her X-factor – the tourist’s would be telling people “I went for a very laid back lake cruise on this amazing 1945 wooden boat that used to help with the rehabilitation a returning WWII solders etc etc.
So what has someone done? bought a few sheets of plywood & put a top hamper on her. Well it is their boat & they can do what they like (see Cameron P – I’m softening) – I’m sure the attraction of getting a few more paying passengers aboard won them over. But in my eyes they have knocked $25+k off her sale price & halved the visual / emotive appeal of the charter business.
If I was a few years older I’d buy her & borrow Mr Prew’s tungsten tipped chainsaw 😉 & go make a few bob on the Lake. Thanks to Ian McDonald for the heads up on the boat.
Have a look below at the photo of her back in the 1940’s, what she looked like in 2015 & as she appears today on treadme. As they say “different strokes for different blokes” – Its still a good buy for a 32′ motor launch – But not me.