Skipjack (Sea Devil)

SKIPJACK (Sea Devil)

Following up on Mondays story based on Dean Wrights photo gallery for Waikawa Bay marina, I was contacted by Greg Billington in regard to a  photograph featured of his boat – the 33’ Baily built ‘Skipjack’. I’ll let Greg tell the story – 

“You will see in the photo (number two above) that the mast is down, it is hinged because I formerly kept her in the Okahu Lagoon, which meant going under the Tamaki bridge. It is a new alloy mast, by the way, and considerably shorter than the former very heavy timber mast. On the occasion, some years ago that I laid it on its side in a beam sea crossing Bream Bay, I decided the timber mast was too much deadweight to bring back up! However, that the mast is hinged is convenient for a rather unexpected reason. I discovered that in winds around 20 knots, the new mast would vibrate. My first thought was to adjust the stays, but it made no difference. Then I learned about ‘vortex shedding.’ You may know that this can occur around any cylinder and in fact has caused the failure of even very large structures. At certain wind speeds, vortices form on the downwind side and create vibration. As it happens, it is easily remedied by doing a couple of turns of a rope or stay around the mast. In the marina I just lower the mast to the bow rail.

I’ve had Skipjack in Waikawa for 3 years now. Assuming that many Auckland boaties may not know too much about the Sounds, I thought some comparisons might be of interest. The Sounds comprise nearly 20 per cent of our total coastline – so lots of scope for exploring. However, it contrasts with the Gulf in several ways. First, it is adjacent to Cook Strait. Need I say more? On one occasion I spent three days in a bay because I couldn’t leave. It was not possible to see the other side of the Sound through the williwas. Another time I was alarmed by a crash and found my inflatable had been picked up by the wind and hurled into the stern. The slack painter was promptly severed by the prop and I watched with incredulity as the dinghy took off and literally flew for about 50 metres.

Then there’s the tides. It is a strange spectacle seeing enormous surface turbulence above depths of 50 plus metres, and for a Gulf boatie, being above 140m depth less than half a click offshore seems most peculiar. Then there’s the challenge of anchoring. Most boaties here rely on the network of club moorings because the magnificent hills of the Sounds, tend to go straight down. The Gulf is blessed with great bottom for anchoring. The Sounds are not! And finally, the water temperature…where I habitually dropped the pick in one of many bays in the Gulf islands and dived over for a decent swim, here, on a blistering hot day in mid-summer, one plunges in – and out! But the low temperature probably explains why good antifouling can go a couple of years and need nothing more than a soft waterblast. There are no goddamn barnacles!

But lest you think this is not a great place to boat, I include a pic of Skipjack anchored in Mistletoe Bay“.


2014 WW Story (then named Sea Devil)

2016 WW Story

2019 WW Story

Classic Wooden Boats At Waikawa Marina

Classic Wooden Boats At Waikawa Marina

Following on from last Mondays story where we shared Dean Wright’s recent Southern trip and a gallery of photos from the Havelock marina todays photo gallery comes to us from the Waikawa marina. Some stunning woodys and remember – click on photos to enlarge 😉

A lot of woodys that are new to WW and they will morph into WW stories in their own right.

Enjoy 🙂


The big bridgedecker with 4 ports is RAHEMO (launched as Strathmore), built by Dick Lang.

Others I can positively identify are (from the top):

VECA (Arthur Sang)

VAGABOND (Joe Jukes)





HUNTRESS (possibly McManaway designed/built?)

VARUA (Bob Swanson)

OSPREY (Harold Saunders)

PALOMINO (Bob Swanson)

TOANUI (Roger Carey)

Yacht ANNA JANE (?)

NUKUMEA (American “Bartender” design by George Calkins)

YVONNE (Bob Swanson)


Unknown fishing boat

KATOOMBA (Dorman Engineering, Nelson – not wood, built in Corten Steel!!)

Unknown (possibly Bruce Askew?)

CORYLUS (Bruce Askew)

TAREPO (launched TAREPA)


? (looks like a McManaway or Morgan fishing boat design?)

? (under the covers)

CRISTINA (Athol Burns)


Most of these have featured previously on WW, so a quick look in the search bar will glean more details if interested.

Skipjack (Sea Devil)

Motuhuie May 19(2)

Re-glassed and waiting for mast

Re-glassed and back into the water


Woody Greg Bilington contacted me recently re his launch – Skipjack, formerly named Sea Devil, when owned by Brent Gribble.

In Greg’s words, Shipjack is a 100-year-old, unpretentious 33′ Bailey. Greg has sent in an update on the recent maintenance / restoration that he has undertaken on the woody. I’ll let Greg tell the story (with a wee bit of editing)

“I knew that Skipjack took on some water, but since the hull was sound, I wasn’t overly concerned and focused initially on mechanicals, which included replacing the prop, shaft, cutlass bearing, universal etc. In time, I decided we needed to stifle the ingress of water – and as anyone who has ever had a leaky anything will know, this can be a challenging task. Skin fittings, which were the first suspects had all been replaced and properly backed, but whilst necessary, did not made a beakerful of a difference. The stuffing box seemed a likely candidate, and though it was due for re-packing, this too, could not account for the increasing amount of work being done by the bilge pump. 

So, we hauled out at the Landing to pressure test the shaft log, and again drew a blank. It was at that point that Grant Hendry – then working at Orakei Marina, seized hold of the keel behind the rudder and discovered to my great alarm that he could move it centimetres either way! This gave rise to a nightmare or two about soft timber the length of the boat – but in any event, was almost certainly the source of the problem. 

Nevertheless, if the timber was sound and further inspection indicated that it was, then that left the keel bolts. For me this was an unexpected discovery, but I daresay it shouldn’t have been. Manganese bronze bolts subject to galvanic action for a century, and with ball-peened fastenings on the bottom of the keel, might be expected to be well past their use-by date. The problem about this of course, was that there was a Ford Dover sitting over several of them.

With an elderly woody, as we know, once started, one must persevere. So, in due course, Moon Engines removed the motor – at which time I should add, James and his team did a sterling job replacing all seals (which had begun to leak) and generally gave it a proper birthday. 

Meanwhile, boat builder Glenn Burnnand knocked out the old bolts, and confirmed that they were very much the sorrier for wear. Thinned and with numerous hair-line fractures, they were hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Don Burnnand made new bolts, each with a damned big washer and nut, and when Glenn cranked these up, the mission was accomplished. The keel locked up as tight as the day she was built – and possibly tighter. I’ve included a pic to show the difference between the two…

Burnnand Marine also removed the old glass from the deck-planking, over-laid these with marine ply, re-glassed and painted. A superb job. In my view it’s worthwhile giving a plug to those tradesmen you can rely on completely – and he is one of them. Providing you can drop your mast – since you must pass under the Tamaki Bridge (entry to the Outdoor Boating Club) – access to Shed 10 on Ngapipi Road is very easy.

Long story short, the bilge pump is having a well-earned rest, bolts are good for another century, and I sleep even more soundly on the water.”

You can read / see more on Skipjack at the WW links below





Now if the above launch looks a little familiar thats because she has appeared here before under the name some ‘Sea Devil’.

Owner Greg Billington purchased Sea Devil from Brent Gribble, who, with his father Peter, owned her this past 8 or so years. Sadly Peter has passed away and Brent was ready to return to his passion, which is sailing. Now the name Sea Devil we are told is the English for ‘Dea De’il,’ which is Gaelic for Sea Devil – as she was named by the original owner in 1918. Vern Tonks of Whangarei named her for the English name when he began her refurbishment around 2000. Refer link below to view her during the 2000 restoration & read more expanded details about her.

Over the past month (August 2016) Skipjack has been given a further refit which has involved a new muffler, dry riser and fuel tank sight glasses by Moon Engines; new propeller by Bri-ski and shaft extension by Kevin Bradley to ensure a good match with the engine and transmission; removal of the radar mast, and electrics overhauled by Roger Crabtree; hull and hull fittings, engine box insulation, new stove etc restored or replaced and bilge keels fared by Glenn Burnnand, Eberspacher heater fitted by Blair Hannay, and new steering fitted by Grant Henry.

I have to say the loss of the radar mast has been a big improvement to her looks. Now if the photo of the bilge keel is post faring, they must have been very agricultural before this 🙂 I would question the size & positioning of her bilge keels, I have studied & spoken to numerous boat builders about them & these ones appear to be very short & mounted high to the water line. I am seriously considering removing the ones fitted to my launch, Raindance – its a double edged sword, they will have a negative effect on boat speed but is that offset by their ability to reduce roll – I suppose there is only one way to find out…………

In the above photos we see her in the Burnnand boat shed at Ngapipi Rd, on Orakei Marina and in Circular Bay.