Todays classic woody is the launch Varua, and was one of the craft that Dean Wright recently photographed at Waikawa Bay Marina. Certainly has that ‘Sounds’ boat look to her i.e. built to take a few green ones over the bow.

And that woodys is all we know – so who can help us added more details to her history and how she came to be berthed at Waikawa marina.

INPUT ex John Gander: ‘Varua’ 1959 built by Bob Swanson when his boatyard was in Blackwood bay Queen Charlotte Sound, now owned by Gavin Cooper used often and very well maintained.
Bob Swanson built a lot of launches along similar lines. Very likely that Bill Orchard was in on her building he did his time with Bob Swanson, Bill used to walk over the hill from the from his parents home in the Kenepuru Sound.

14-12-2022 INPUT EX GREG BILLINGTON – I believe Varua was built in 1954 by Swanson in Blackwood Bay near Waikawa. A 12 tonne, 40-footer, she was owned for a long time by a chap who I think was known as ‘Brownie.’ He sold it to my brother John, about twenty years ago. At that point, she was pretty decrepit but with a sound hull. John commissioned local boat builder John Cooper to refurbish her, which included replacing the old Nissan with a 130hp Perkins, glassing the topsides, full paint job, replacing the electrics and plumbing and installing the davit for lifting the dinghy. I took her for her ‘maiden’ voyage after Cooper’s refit, resulting in a fine groper off Witt’s Rock in the Strait. My brother kept Varua in Waikawa for a while and then motored her up the East Coast to the Waitemata. However, not long after, he sold her (to switch to sailing), and she was bought by a couple of guys in Paremata, so headed south again. I’m unsure how long they retained ownership, in any event, John Cooper’s son, Gavin, bought her and she came back home to Waikawa. Gavin told me she had not been so well looked after, and he gave her a refresh and upgraded the cabin. 

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.