Woodys On The Northern Wairoa and Kaipara Harbour


Woodys On The Northern Wairoa and Kaipara Harbour

Todays collection of craft comes to us from the Kauri Museum at Matakohe via Diane Wilkinson’s fb.

From top to bottom:

1. Unknown launch – can we ID her

2. Swanee – featured on WW in 2015 – link https://waitematawoodys.com/2015/08/29/swanee/

3. Unknown launch – can we ID her

4. Rona W – possibly this boat – 2021 WW story https://waitematawoodys.com/2021/04/15/could-this-be-rona/


photos & details ex Ralph Weber

While the exact details of who designed & built today’s launch Swanee are unclear, she is rather unique in that she has remained in that same family for over 50 years. Built from kauri she is 33′ long with 8’9″ beam & 2’8″ draft, currently powered by a 60hp Ford diesel.
You can see from the photos that she is very well appointed with everything one needs for comfortable cruising – electric flush toilet, freezer/frig, electric capstan & all the safety gear.
Over their period of ownership the Weber have ensured Swanee remained in great condition with a major 2 year out-of-water refit in 1970 that saw her re-ribbed with pohutukawa (you could back then 🙂 ) & new topsides. In 2004/5 her topsides were glassed & 2 pot painted & she was rewired.

Owner Ralph understands, from his mother, that she was built c.1920 in Auckland for Sanfords. Then later sold to the McLeod family of Helensville. Then she went to Dargaville and then owned by Matich Bros and later by Dr Maurice Matich. The Weber family, Ken & June, bought Swanee in 1961 and now ownership is with their son Ralph Weber of Matakohe. Currently moored at Pahi.
Ralph commented that Harold Kidd had previously mentioned that she may possibly have been the – ‘Sister Lola’ & built by Bailey & Lowe, if so she ‘raced’ with the Ponsonby Cruising Club.

Ralph sent ww photos of Swanee over a year ago & contacted me recently to say that unfortunately life has moved on & the family have had to make the difficult decision to sell Swanee after 50+ years of ownership, so today’s post has a degree of sadness but could offer a lot of happiness to someone looking to buy a classic launch. For a 33′ launch, Swanee is a lot of boat, you can see in the photos that there is no shortage of living area & she comfortably sleeps 5. After 50 years you end up nothing what works best & where on a boat 😉
Boat aesthetics is a very personal thing & with some people practicality is #1, but if I was buying her I would be off to see a good sympathetic wooden boat builder like Geoff Bagnall & returning her cabin windows to a style a little more in keeping with a 1920’s classic. People forget that these old girls are wood & the cost of a wee bit of restoration like this would not be great. After all there is little else that needs doing to her.
She sports rather a racy (flat aft) bottom so with a bigger motor I would imagine she would perform very well.

So woodys – can we find a buyer for Swanee or know something that is looking for a classic wooden launch? Being based currently at Pahi she does present some interesting scenarios e.g. you could keep her there for a few seasons & have a floating family bach. A group of guys could get together & buy a good fishing / man bach on the Kaipara. Or simple put her on a truck & return her to the Waitemata.

Now I do not normally like to talk money in ww posts but the overall 2nd hand boating market is just so soft that when I think something is great value, I will – well woodys someone could own Swanee for less than $30K. , that is real value, you could not build a garage for that.
If you or anyone you know could be interested – contact Ralph, initially via email on weber.bros@xtra.co.nz

Also interested in any info /photos on her past.

Harold Kidd Input

SWANEE was certainly built as SISTER LOLA pre-October 1920, possibly by Harvey or DIck Lang. I don’t know where the Bailey & Lowe reference came in, although Bailey & Tyer did build a 33 footer (unusual dimension) just pre WW1. Lang too had built a 33 footer in 1916 and just could have used those moulds.
I can’t find a direct report of her owner as SISTER LOLA but am pretty sure she’s the boat reported in the Auckland Star of 28th August 1920. If so, her hull was built professionally and she was finished off by her first owners Pavitt brothers and Verran at Bayswater. There again the Verrans were Northcote people and Bailey & Tyer were at Hall’s Beach, Northcote Point.
She was sold to Arthur Sandford of Vine St., Ponsonby in late 1922, early 1923. He changed her name to SWANEE probably after the Al Jolson song “Swanee”. Sandford was, for a time, a professional Vaudeville artist and no doubt sang that song on stage. She had a 6 cylinder Studebaker car engine in 1925.
Sandford sold her to Alfred McLeod some time between 1934 and 1939. McLeod joined the Squadron with her in 1939. She then had a 30hp Hercules engine which he replaced with a 100hp Meadows ohv 6 in 1947/8 (probably a war-surplus engine). The rest of her history on the Kaipara is well-known.
There’s a big dose of conjecture in the above. I’ll check with the Verran family.

Update 30-08-2015

B/W photo added above ex Ian Miller whose wife Rosalind’s late father, Doug Hazard, crewed on Swanee in the 1930’s

Update 06-03-2023 – photo below ex Kauri museum, Matakohe via Diane Wilkinson fb