Sea Wolf III and the 1951 Transtasman race
In the September issue of Vintage View I left Iris, Harry Pope and Bill Brierley’s about-to-be-acquired yacht, fallen on her side on the slip at Port Road, Whangarei.
Her owner, Bill Deeming, had put her on the slip for the inspection and tommed her up. Harry was not yet the highly-skilled boat builder and marine surveyor he later became and, in his enthusiasm for this grand keel yacht, had missed some latent defects hidden under the yacht’s new paint.
Harry and Bill went to the Settlers’ Hotel for a celebratory libation, paid Deeming a £10 deposit, but returned to find her fallen hard on her side with strained seams showing and the tide coming in.
As the tide rose, the water went through the boat, engine as well, over the cabin top. When it fell again they got her upright, smeared with sump oil, bailed her out, soaped her gaping seams, launched her and worked with buckets for two days to keep her afloat until they could find a place to haul her out.
Georg Dibbern was in port with Te Rapunga and came over with a big pot of soup for them. They could have walked away from the purchase but manfully decided to proceed. She became the new Sea Wolf, their passport to the wider oceans in the wake of Johnny Wray’s South Sea Vagabonds, the book that was speaking loud to young New Zealanders.
Bill and Harry started living aboard the yacht hauled out at Ken Low’s yard. She was quite comfortable with new squabs.
But they soon detected rot in the top of the diagonals and the stem which had been cobbled together into a schooner bow after her original shapely spoon bow had been chewed off when she came ashore in 1932.
But once the stem was removed it seemed a good idea to reconstruct the diagonal bow section into a spoon bow again and raise the sheer and deck nine inches, something the pundits said was impossible with the tools and skills they had.
Harry sailed up to the Whangarei Heads to source pohutukawa for a new stem in Trevor Linnell’s ex-auckland crack 16-footer Namu. Once the bow was opened up, the yacht became uninhabitable as the winter wind blew straight through, so they moved into a tarred sacking tent next to the boat.
While they were rebuilding the boat they took jobs with Whangarei Transport, driving trucks, delivering coal, firewood and pianos, navvying in the quarry, working on phosphate ships and sometimes getting work at Ken Low’s yard. At the same time Harry studied navigation in preparation for going offshore.
One day Harry took a day off work to burn off the inside of the hull with a blowtorch. The flames went through the diagonals and caught fire to their tent alongside. Harry was oblivious to this until he heard Low’s wife Miri screaming.
As he scrambled out, a gallon tin of white spirits perched on
...Harry reckoned no spinnaker was ever handled so much as their’s was in those days.
ABOVE The crews of Naiad and Sea Wolf III unloading phosphate at Whangarei. From left at front Trevor Hill, Harry Pope, Jack Moulden, Bill Brierley and Bryce Troupe.
LEFT Sea Wolf III on Ken Low’s slip, nearly ready to launch.