“Manapouri, is a 43ft Motor Launch built for Hector Alexander Parks.
She is a scaled down version of a 53ft “Thorneycroft Gentleman’s Cruiser.” A launch that featured in the Sea Spray magazine. The upper structure was changed by Frank Ewen to cover their backsides, and it did make a better-looking craft.
Noel’s Uncle, Frank Ewen designed and built Manapouri, drew the plans and built a scale model before construction started in Hectors converted brooding shed on his Poultry farm at 66 Anzac Rd, Whangarei. (This now called Hilltop Road. The original house is still there, it has since been sheathed with narrow corrugated iron). Frank Ewen was one of the Ewen brothers. Frank, (he married Hazel who was Noel Fyfe’s mother’s sister) Ernie and John Ewen, also built the 24ft Gaff Cutter ‘Dolphin’, now owned by The Tino Rawa Trust and the 6 mtr C-class ‘Scout’whose story is recounted in the book by Sandra Gorters, “100 Years Astern”.
The Kauri for Manapouri was selected from two trees and milled by Lanes Saw Mills in Totara North. The Kauri was seasoned for twelve months before construction commenced. The Pohutakawa for the bow, stern and other smaller knees were sawn from over hanging trees at Manganese Point, Parua Bay in daring dawn raids. These raids were carried out in a dinghy built by Frank and powered by a 6hp Johnson, she never let a drop of water penetrate through her planks. A great stable dinghy. This dinghy slipped away from Manapouri in a storm and 3 weeks later Frank got a call from the Coromandel Police to say she had been found upside down. Her anchor had caught in the kelp, which had saved her from the rocks. All the boats Frank built had his name and address carved under a seat. The Pohutakawa and Puriri knees were stored for two years under sacks that were kept damp to stop them from splitting. Frank adzed and laid the keel, finishing it with a draw knife until it had the perfect finish. Hector’s stepson (Noel, who is now a sprightly 88, and without whom I could not have put together this early history), recalls that Frank was a perfectionist. All the planks were fitted with feeler gauges and no putty used other than to cover the silicon bronze nails used to fix the planks at the bow and stern or screws as were required. The planks were cut out of wider boards, with the curve required so that after steaming they were only bent on their flat edge.
Noel was at the time working as a builder during the week, building his first home at the weekend and helping Hector with the rooving of the planks in his spare time. Frank would mark out where he wanted the copper nails driven into the planks, in a fashion that did not split or damage any of the grain. This was a slow and tedious process that was left to Hector and Noel. Frank would later inspect this process to ensure the nails were rooved perfectly smooth inside the hull. The construction took approximately 3 years, with input from Alex Baxter.
Alex made the hatches and sliding doors and the skylights. These were fitted by John Roberts, who worked for Ken Lowe and Alen Orams. John Roberts worked for Ken Lowe for three years, then for Alen Orams for fifteen years, boat building.
Hector deconstructed the chicken brooding shed and Manapouri was taken to Ken Lowes Boat Building shed in Ewings Rd. This slipway was originally Frank Ewen & Brothers Business in the earlier years. Here the motors, gearboxes and shafts were fitted. The original motors were Listers and were purchased from Schofields in Auckland. One of the Listers was reconditioned and gave some trouble over the years. The Engine Room was under The Wheelhouse floor. This floor was loose screwed so you could get to the motors. The Cabin top was made to a very high standard by John Roberts and was made so it could be removed with ease should the motors need to come out. Peter Macdonald replaced the motors and changed the cabin style to suit his needs.
The engineering work was undertaken by Ron Lowe who was a brother of Ken Lowe. Ron would have been one of the best engineers in the North. He was a hard man to peg down, he loved his beer and you could find him most days heading down to his main watering hole The Settlers Hotel. This old wooden pub was pulled down a few years ago and is now the site of the Whangarei Police Headquarters. It is thought that Donovans completed the Electrical works.
Once this work was finalized Manapouri was taken to Kioreroa Ramp by trailer. This was supplied by McBreen Jenkins and was a low loader used for D10 Bulldozers and was fitted out to suit Manapouri. With the help of Steve Bignall’s crane called Tiny, Manapouri was launched, and the man in charge of this operation was Peter Macdonald. (The same Peter Macdonald who later purchased Manapouri.)
Hector worked for many years operating the dredging bucket crane in Whangarei
Harbour. The skipper was Peter Diamond, and the Dredge was the William Fraser, and working for the Whangarei Harbour Board gave Hector a leg up regarding securing a berth for Manapouri. He also ran a Charter Business taking fishing parties out of the harbour on Manapouri. He was tied up to the main wharf and lived aboard her for many years until he had “words” with the new Board regarding his operating his fishing business without a licence.
Throughout these years, Hector who was a poor sailor, would get violently seasick in a long oily swell and was unable to swim, hence Manapouri was built with high continuous handrails to her decks.
Hec, on moving from Whangarei Town Basin purchased a Bach at One Tree Point,
Black Smiths Creek. (This is now the New Marina’s Main Channel, and Hecs old property has a very expensive home where his Bach once stood.) Manapouri was moored on the inside channel opposite the Bach. She broke her moorings twice over the years, and the last time Hector boged his tractor and struggled to refloat her it was the last straw. He sold her to Peter Macdonald a short time later.
Hector and his wife (Noel Parks Mother) were moved to Rambourne House. There they lived until they died, Hector at 96 and his wife at 95.”