Boating NZ - - Feature -

To delve into Kate’s past, Rhodes vis­ited the Dar­gav­ille Mar­itime Mu­seum – armed only with the orig­i­nal builder’s cast-bronze name­plate – E. Thomp­son & Son, builders, Kaipara, NZ. All other records were lost dur­ing her last sink­ing (it seems there have been a few!).

Thomp­son em­i­grated from Swe­den and set up busi­ness at Arat­apu, near Dar­gav­ille, in 1873. The mu­seum has photos of him and his shed dated 1898. His tool chest and tools are on dis­play, as well as a half-model of Kate. She was orig­i­nally built for a Cap­tain Sey­mour, and cost £84 com­plete with sails. She was re­put­edly a fast boat, a fre­quent win­ner of her class in the Dar­gav­ille Re­gatta races.

Rhodes is for­tu­nate to know David Waters, who used to own Kate’s near sis­ter-ship, Rewa, be­fore do­nat­ing her to the Auck­land Mar­itime Mu­seum. In 1983, Waters in­ter­viewed the Kate’s then owner, Leo Richard­son, who’d spent sev­eral years re-build­ing her from a nearderelict state in a barn near Whit­ford.

More sleuth-work re­vealed that Kate’s first en­gine (brand un­known) was fit­ted in 1911. She was used for tow­ing kauri logs out to wait­ing ships, and later for tow­ing a shin­gle barge. The mu­seum also in­tro­duced Rhodes to Terry Curel, an 86-year-old master mariner whose fa­ther, Bill, was a Kaipara Har­bour pi­lot. Bill bought Kate in 1919.

In 1925 Bill, with his wife of three months on board, were washed ashore dur­ing a mid­night gale, at Tinopai. The cou­ple aban­doned Kate and started a long walk to shel­ter. But they re­alised they’d left the wed­ding ring on board, hang­ing on a com­pan­ion­way hook. Bill trudged back and, be­cause of the ris­ing tide, had to swim out to the boat to re­trieve the ring.

Once sal­vaged the orig­i­nal en­gine was re­placed with a two-cylin­der 18hp Twigg. Bill used to chant to the rhythm of the slow-revving en­gine as it ticked over: “One penny, two pen­nies, three pen­nies, four; You ben­zine-drink­ing mon­ster, al­ways ask­ing for more!”

But in 1946 she was burnt to the wa­ter­line in a gas ex­plo­sion and fire. Pur­chased for £50 by Ray Craw­ford, she was re-built with kauri plank­ing and puriri frames.

Some time around 1960 she was trucked over to the Waitem­ata, and used as a cray-fish­ing boat. In 1973 she was bought by Gra­hame Whar­ton, who moored her off Kawakawa Beach and used her as a plea­sure boat. He re­calls en­coun­ter­ing 20-foot seas off Cape Brett on a trip to the Bay of Is­lands, and re­mem­bers her as an ex­cel­lent sea boat.

The next owner, a builder, re­put­edly lived aboard her with his fam­ily in the Ta­maki River. There are re­ports that at one stage she sank in St Mary’s Bay.

Kate ar­rived on Wai­heke in the mid-1980s, bought by Thomas and Sharon­agh Teng­blad. They lived aboard with their young fam­ily for a while, and be­gan an­other ma­jor re-build. The decks were stripped off and re­placed, a new cabin built and the keel deep­ened by 200mm us­ing kwila hard­wood and bronze bolts.

But the work proved chal­leng­ing and ex­pen­sive. They’d fit­ted a beau­ti­ful set of bronze port­holes off a wrecked steamer, but these were stolen, and that was the last straw. Kate was put on the mar­ket.

She sat on the beach for sev­eral years be­fore David Brady bought her. An ar­chi­tect and land­scape de­signer, David had re­cently lost his part­ner to can­cer, and was ‘in need of a project’. He loved the old ship as all her own­ers have. He lived aboard and did much work on her, but the prob­lems were chal­leng­ing, and progress slowed.

There were com­plaints, and the Coun­cil threat­ened to take her away on a low-loader. For­tu­nately, David’s sis­ter Sue No­ble came to the res­cue with fi­nance.

But David wasn’t able to cope with liv­ing aboard, and even­tu­ally Kate’s supporting legs gave way. She fell on her side and sprang a leak. En­gine oil floated through the in­te­rior, coat­ing it in a black, slip­pery film. She be­came a derelict wreck on an iso­lated beach.

And serendip­i­tously, that is where Rhodes found her.

Do­nated trees (for spars) have been stripped of bark and sap­wood, and the mast, boom and bowsprit are al­most com­plete.

New belt­ing and bul­warks are on, and a large cen­tral hatch/ sky­light fit­ted – to give plenty of light be­low and the po­ten­tial to carry cargo. The new aft cabin will pro­vide a ‘cave bunk’ for the mate. Inside, the new mast step is in place, so floor­boards can be fit­ted. Up­com­ing projects – as funds per­mit – in­clude mast part­ners, bulk­heads, tanks, en­gine and ac­com­mo­da­tion.

The team has ob­tained two lead keels off a twin-keeler – coin­ci­dently al­most the right size and shape for fit­ting each side of the ex­ist­ing keel. Cal­cu­la­tions by a naval ar­chi­tect show that, with the ad­di­tion of an ex­ter­nal bal­last keel as planned, sta­bil­ity will be ad­e­quate for coastal voy­ag­ing.

The next ma­jor step is a haul-out to fit the keels, rud­der, stern tube and, hope­fully, a new en­gine.

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