The end of Mojando
The wreck of an unusual trimaran rekindles memories of an unusual man. Words Matt Vance, images Matt Vance and supplied.
In 1975 Doug Barry-Martin – popularly referred to as ‘DE’ – set out on voyage to the South Pacific Islands in a highly improbable boat. She was a spidery looking trimaran that he designed and built especially for the job and she was well ahead of her time.
Majando 1, as she was named, was the product of a sailor who thought a lot about boats and was not afraid to try something different. Barry-Martin had built and sailed many boats before Majando 1. From the earliest experiments with a soapbox boat, to the 10ft punt he designed and built for an expedition down the flooded Whanganui River, innovation was always his design trademark.
Barry-Martin was a man of many talents having been a Navy pilot in the fleet air arm during WWII, a trained architect, exponent of modernism, town planner and author. In the early 60s Matariki – a 7.5m Piver Nugget trimaran – was built for him and it was with her that he was exposed to the world of multihulls.
The Piver gave many years of fun sailing and upon selling her Barry-Martin designed and built an experimental tri-dinghy with sliding floats and unique rig which he describes as “opening like a lady’s fan.”
After three years of research, model testing and picking the brains of every multihull designer who would talk to him, Barry-Martin began building Majando 1 in a shed on his property overlooking Wellington Harbour.
It must have been quite a shed as in her final configuration Majando 1 was 12.2m long by 9.5m wide. The hulls were built upside down – Douglas fir ply over kahikatea frames, sheathed in Dynel cloth and epoxy with the hinged, galvanised steel cross arms connected to steel frames in the hulls.
Both her beams and mast were of an intriguing steel lattice design. The mast is a tripod configuration for the first four metres and a bipod ladder configuration thereafter. This made it not only easy to climb but immensely strong.
Over three and a half years Barry-Martin and over 25 helpers brought Majando 1 to life. She was launched and tested extensively in the formidable conditions of Cook Strait and the Tasman Sea to iron out any quirks before her voyage to the Tahiti.
A writer throughout his career, Barry-Martin became the author of five books. They range in topic from details of modernist design to the broad concepts of town planning. It was the voyage of Majando 1 to Tahiti, the Society Islands and Rarotonga that prompted him to write his first sailing book, Trimaran to Tahiti.
The book illustrated Barry-Martin’s renaissance-like talents for designing, building, drawing and writing. His dry, clipped prose is brought to life with his warm sketches and hand-drawn plans of the islands he visited on the 4,500 nautical mile return voyage to French Polynesia and the Cook Islands.
The voyage as described by the book has the right mix of adversity, likeable characters and tropical beauty to make it a page-turner. Forever the designer, Barry-Martin goes into detail on some of the fascinating innovations aboard Majando 1 and his plan drawings have a shimmering life well beyond any navy chart.
Buoyed by the success of the voyage to the islands, Barry-Martin sold Majando 1 and began building Majando II a reverse sheer centre-boarded monohull, full of his usual quirky innovations.
Majando II was designed for a circumnavigation which she duly completed, but Barry-Martin suffered heart problems along the way that meant he could not complete the entire voyage. He produced his second sailing book based on the voyage and called it Heartfelt Journey.
After heart surgery, he set out on another voyage in Majando II to South America. He intended writing another book on this journey but he passed away in 1985 before he could begin.
The original Majando I was sold and she briefly resided in Nelson, moored in front of Haulashore Island with a radio station advertising banner strung along her boom. She then reappeared in Lyttelton’s Cass Bay before dropping her mooring in a southwest gale and being claimed by salvage exponent Dal Hurley.
Hurley restored her, put her up for sale and placed her on a mooring in Purau Bay. On a late January morning in a big north-easter, she again dropped her mooring and dragged backwards through the fleet of moored yachts before hitting the rocks.
Majando I was towed off the rocks with her main and starboard hulls staved in. She began to sink and was hurriedly towed to Wreck Bay and anchored off, leaking diesel from her tanks and becoming a local curiosity for local water skiers for the next two weeks.
During her time as a wreck she remained mercifully un-pillaged, her hatches and squabs floated off, washed up on the beach and were arranged nicely in a pile by beach walkers as if Barry-Martin himself were going to pass by to pick them up.
In one of those quirks of life Barry-Martin’s book has outlasted both the sailor and the boat. Trimaran to Tahiti is still available in the local library and in many second-hand bookstores.
Among his descriptions and images of tropical sailing, the storms and the details of construction lies a tale of a true designer. He shaped his boat, his life and his experiences with his own hands and paid no heed to fashion or opinion. He left us with the sense that while both flesh and plywood will eventually succumb to time, it is the story that will endure.