MARU AND AUCKLAND’S 24FT MULLET BOATS / Match-racing the Mulletties

John Dallimore of Whitianga has recently gifted the 24ft mullet boat Maru to Jason Prew, classicyachtsman- about-town, on the condition that Jason restores her.

Jason is prominent as a member of the Classic Yacht Association and as Slipmaster of ‘The Slipway Milford’, the yacht and launch repairers in Milford Creek in the premises once run by the late John Gladden and recently by Geoff Bagnall. Jason has owned the keel yacht Loloma (1908) and more recently totally restored the Logan-designed Wairiki (1904) and the W.H. Hand-designed planing launch My Girl (1925).

Maru is a wonderful survivor of the once-strong 24ft mullet boat class which carried the class-letter I for many years on the Waitematā.

Bill Tupp’s Why Not (I9) mixing it with the 26-footers Omatere (H9) - from a
watercolour by Bill Tupp.

Perhaps the most famous of these 24-footers were the Charles Collings-designed Glady (1904) and Why Not and Maru (1905). Collings was then in partnership with the Clare brothers, trading as Clare & Collings who were in the forefront of centreboard design and construction.

Charles Collings (1870-1946) served part of his boatbuilding apprenticeship with Robert Logan at Devonport around the time he was building Tawera, Matangi and Akarana. He first came to prominence in Auckland yachting with the patiki Waitekauri he built for the 1898 Intercolonial Yacht Championships on the Waitematā. At the time he was a bridge and house builder at Waitekauri on the Thames goldfields. He then joined the Clare brothers at their yard in St Mary’s Bay to fill the large vacuum left by James Clare who died in October 1902.

With Collings’ advanced designs, Clare & Collings soon became the go-to builders for the craze for racing mullet boats on the Waitematā with a string of landmark yachts starting with the 26-footers Okere and Emerald (1903) and Tere (1904), the 24-footers Tiro (1903) and Glady (1904) and the 22-footer Mowai (1904). In late 1905 Collings launched two crack 24-footers, Why Not for Bill Tupp and Maru for a syndicate headed by carpenters Charlie Arblaster and his cousin T. Mincher of Northcote.

Awatere (H17) and Spray (H10) in the 1920s – from a watercolour by Bill Tupp.

Well sailed by J.H. Mackay of London Street, St Mary’s Bay and later by Arthur Clare, the open cockpit Glady had immediately become the crack Auckland 24-footer, winning the 24-footer championship every year. Why Not was intended to be a clone of Glady, built the previous season for Mackay with a beam of 8ft 9ins, the maximum permissible under the Ponsonby Regatta Regulations. Bill Tupp contracted with Clare & Collings to build Why Not “as near as possible same as Glady”.

Maru, however, was built in a totally different fashion, although the same moulds could have been used. The Regulations called for carvel planking, ribbed on frames with minimum plank thicknesses but Maru was built in the Logan fashion with two skins, the inner diagonal, the outer fore and aft, the only timbers inside being two longitudinal stringers a side, and knees at the centreboard case. Like all Logan diagonal yachts from Jessie Logan of 1880 onwards, when built in heart kauri, the hull would have been lighter, stronger and more durable than the conventional single-skin frame-built equivalent.

Maru, (centre) racing 22-footers Doreen (left) and Mowai (right).

Arblaster and Mincher and other members of the syndicate raced Maru consistently with all the Waitematā yacht clubs then catering for mullet boats as the key members of their fleets, Ponsonby, Richmond, North Shore and Devonport. Typically, in these races, Glady would be scratch boat with Maru on one minute and Why Not on five minutes. At this time, however, the 26-footers were becoming the glamour class and the 24ft class were being lumped in with them during many events. With a reasonable handicap, Maru continued to do well in this company.

In late 1909 19-year-old Harry Gallaugher of Sarsfield Street bought Maru and raced her mainly with his home club Richmond. The 24ft fleet had grown with Charlie Garlick’s Zoe (Bailey & Lowe), Arthur Willetts’ own Waitere, George Lepper’s Ranee (Joe Slattery) and Graydon’s own Lina, for example, while the old-timer Maile , formerly Isca (Robert Logan, 1885) had a new lease of life. However, the tide was still turning away from the 24-footers and would also soon make the 22- and 26-footers pre-eminent. No new 24-footers were built after Fred Mann’s Mistletoe II in 1914. Arblaster and Mincher had the 26-footer Starloch built by Bailey & Tyer at Hall’s Beach in 1913.

OOPS; Maru (left) and Waterwitch entangled after their collision on 27th April 1912.

In early March 1912 Gallaugher challenged F.A. Hunt of Ponsonby, the owner of the 26ft patiki Waterwitch, to a race around the Victoria Cruising Club’s harbour course for £5 a side. Match races of this sort were common and pleased the waterfront punters. Alf Trevarthen had built Waterwitch at Ponsonby in 1906. She was used for racing, cruising and occasionally commercial fishing. Harry sailed Maru but the crack centreboard skipper Jick Rogers, the uncle of Billy Rogers, sailed Waterwitch. It was a fair match but Waterwitch won, not surprisingly.

In 1918 Gallaugher sold Maru to P. Matheson of Ponsonby. She rapidly went through a number of hands. McIvor of Dominion Road had her in 1919 and sold her to McCloskey, Hall and Leahy of Onehunga in March 1920. They painted her blue, fitted her with a cabin top and bunks, fitted a new set of sails and raced her on the Manukau for a season. In November 1921 they sold her to Speight and Gill back on the Waitematā. Frank Lowe of William Street Devonport had her in 1923. For a couple of seasons now she had been racing with the 26-footers with sail number H18 and acquitting herself well in that company. She had also gained a three horsepower, locally made Zealandia auxiliary engine. Lowe appears to have done no racing after the 1923 Anniversary Regatta but preferred to use her for cruising. She no longer bravely wore the racing number H18 but reverted to I2.

Waterwitch under tow to be beached.

John Grieve of Faulder Ave, Westmere bought Maru in the mid-1930s and kept her moored off Cox’s Creek. He used her mainly for cruising, with an annual cruise north. He raced her occasionally with Ponsonby and Richmond in the mixed H and I class. She was always kept in spanking new order.

John, in Maru, picked me up with the rest of a capsized Sea Scout cutter’s crew, off Birkenhead Wharf around 1950. I was the last aboard, in a pretty bad way with cramp and no lifejacket. My father had insisted I take a Navy ‘Mae West’ jacket but I gave it to a little chap who was crying. As Maru swooped back and forth in the vicious westerly, the crew scooped the boys out of the water one by one in a splendid display of seamanship. I had no doubt John saved my life. My father bought me a bright-yellow japara Hutchwilco lifejacket on the Monday.

Maru in 1911 showing the canvas cover over the front of the open cockpit.

John Grieve eventually sold Maru. She was reported in Ngunguru around 1975 owned by George Amos, then Bo Boyd of Whitianga but she gained a long-term devoted custodian in John Dallimore of Cooks Beach in the late 1980s. It was John who has just sold Maru to Jason Prew. We expect her to prosper. BNZ



Mullet boats (‘mulletties’) are a purely local type of centreboard smack developed from the late 1870s for netting mullet close to Auckland. They were produced commercially by a handful of builders, tending to a type that was a gaff cutter of about 24ft loa, straight-stemmed with a broad counter stern for laying and retrieving the nets. With a two-man crew, they had to be fast and good to windward in the prevailing westerlies to get the catch of about a ton back to market fresh.

As early as 1885 the type was being built for racing only. In Auckland’s egalitarian society the mullet boat became the yacht for the working man. We had a society then where a working man could indulge in serious yachting, not only racing around the buoys but cruising in the splendid harbour and the Hauraki Gulf in its backyard. The mullet boat ticked all these boxes.

By 1903, when mullet were disappearing anyway under the pressure of fishing and propeller noise, there arose several types of mullet boats racing in classes based on Restrictions put out by the Ponsonby Regatta Committee. These dealt with matters like dimensions, construction, scantlings and ballast. Eventually there were four jealously guarded restricted classes, all of which purposely retained their origins in the working mullet boats. The Committee was highly successful in crystallising these types as wholesome yachting classes for Auckland yachtsmen.

Eventually these classes consisted of 20-, 22-, 24- and 26-footers and they flourished. In 1922, when the Auckland Yacht & Motor Boat Association introduced alpha-numeric numbers for its classes, these classes were allotted the letters N, L, I and H respectively.

Blinded by Tech

Sailing used to be a sport for daring adventurers who set out to explore the Seven Seas braced with a pile of paper charts, a sextant and a huge supply of confidence and optimism.

But imagine sailing through unknown waters only relying on dead reckoning after days of overcast skies, or approaching an island, trying to tell just by landmarks in the silhouette where the safe harbour or pass through the reef might be. GPS, detailed charts in combination with electronic chart plotters and sophisticated autopilots have changed cruising completely since then and nowadays navigation seems perfectly simple and safe for everybody. But why do yachts still get wrecked on rocks and reefs around the world every year?

Cruising all year round in French Polynesia, we become eyewitnesses to boats running aground, hear reports of incidents on the daily SSB net, and listen in on the VHF when JRCC Tahiti organises rescue operations. You’d think that these would be rare events, but hardly a month passes without a serious accident and countless minor faux pas.

Most incidents happen inside lagoons and range from gentle keel-scrapings to boats high and dry on coral heads. Crews navigate through bombora-strewn waters in bad visibility, often relying exclusively on the accuracy of their charts. What they do not realise is that many lagoons are basically uncharted, apart from passes and marked channels. Although charts mark depths and some of the reefs, we find while navigating cautiously with a look-out on the bow, that most show only some of the obstacles and these are often incorrectly positioned. The charts’ feigned level of detail is deceiving for inexperienced crews.

Of course, sometimes crews just rush along, neither paying attention to charts nor to what they see ahead. Last spring, we were anchored in a maze of reefs on the western side of the lagoon of Raiatea (Society Islands, French Polynesia) when a charter catamaran approached and ran at full speed up the reef that comes up steeply and was clearly visible in light brown, in stark contrast to the dark blue lagoon.

We went over, asked what happened and were astounded to find the crew of five completely unconcerned, awaiting their tow service. They freely admitted none of them had bothered to pay attention to their course.

Not every crew is so openhearted after such a lapse, often blaming the autopilot instead. A cruising family ran their catamaran onto the rocks while motoring along the shoreline of Tahuata (Marquesas), a volcanic island with deep water right to the foot of its steep cliffs. They claimed they were all downstairs when the autopilot changed course and ran the boat aground. What they didn’t explain is how they could be so close to shore without keeping a watch!

While navigation in lagoons with incomplete charts is admittedly tricky, open-water passages between the islands of French Polynesia are as straightforward as it gets, with deep water devoid of uncharted rocks and detailed charts of the outer contours of islands, barrier reefs and passes.

Three years ago, a family lost their catamaran on the southern corner of Huahine’s barrier reef (Society Islands) when they ran aground during the night. After the accident, a lengthy discussion followed in sailing forums and magazines as to whether the provider of the allegedly faulty electronic chart was to blame the boat’s loss or not.

The reefs and islands of the Pacific are littered with wrecked yachts.

But it appeared none of the ‘experts’ arguing different viewpoints bothered to check the accuracy of the chart. We did, finding a reef clearly shown at the GPS point where the grounding occurred. In addition, the reef is marked at night with a white, blinking pole light. On their blog the family assured readers their echo-sounder was showing around 50m only minutes before the accident. But in eastern Polynesia if your depth-sounder shows any soundings at all you are already precariously close to the breakers. Barrier reefs in the region rise up to the surface almost vertically from waters several miles deep.

Further west in the Pacific, charts become less reliable. Five years ago, we sailed from French Polynesia towards Tonga and researched all possible routes and islands along the way. We wanted to be flexible and prepared to make landfall along the route in case of changes in the weather or other unforeseen events.

We noticed a little remark next to the charted position of Beveridge Reef, an atoll without motus [small islands] located about 130nm southeast of Niue. ‘Reported to lie 3 Miles NE’ sounded intriguing and we quickly found further info on the internet concerning the exact location and even waypoints to the reef’s pass.

Too much reliance on electronic navigation tools and unreliable charts can lead to disaster.

We found the reef, the waypoints into the lagoon were correct and we spent a few days there. A year later we heard reports that a boat had run aground during the night on the eastern side of Beveridge Reef – apparently the alarming note on the chart did nothing to encourage the crew to give a potentially dangerous six-mile-wide obstacle a wide berth during a night of strong winds and rough seas. Fortunately, there was another vessel inside the reef and they managed to rescue the crew of the wrecked boat.

The sophisticated electronic gadgets we modern sailors all carry seem to have lulled some crews into a false sense of security. Sailing into unknown waters is no longer perceived as a risky adventure but as routine and predictable. Why spend time on careful research when you can just get waypoints from a cruising guide, enter them into the autopilot, turn on the AIS and maybe the radar alarm and let the boat sail to some exotic paradise island with an unpronounceable name?

The number of accidents prove that things are not quite that simple. Plotting a course on an electronic chart and programming waypoints into the autopilot may give the impression navigating is like a computer game but hitting rocks and damaging or even wrecking the boat is a far too realistic outcome to fall for that illusion.

A typical reef passage: usually narrow with strong currents and potential navigation hazards.

In the end, electronic aides cannot and should not replace proper seamanship. Researching destinations and any obstacles along the way and getting proper chart material is part of the preparation for a passage. AIS and radar alarms support but cannot replace human watches on passages or a look-out on the bow when sailing in close quarters. Ultimately each skipper must assess the conditions and risks and react accordingly because accidents can happen to anyone.

No one is immune to misfortunes that result from an accumulation or cascade of factors, or simple bad luck, but good preparation and responsible seamanship greatly reduce the risk. BNZ

Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer and ship’s cat Leeloo have been cruising on Pitufa since 2011. Visit their blog

Mastering the Mind

Sara Winther, who represented New Zealand in the Laser Radial class in London in 2012, has recently returned from the 2020 Olympics where she coached Hungarian Radial sailor Mária Érdi. She tells her story of a very different Olympic Games to Sarah Ell.

My journey to Tokyo 2020 – or 2021, as it turned out – began in a way five years ago, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. I had narrowly missed out on selection for the New Zealand team for the Games myself, but Irish sailor Annaliese Murphy asked me to come over to Brazil to be her training partner for 10 days, leading up to the event.

I’d met Annaliese at the London Olympics, where she finished just out of the medals, and we got on really well. But she had got into a really weird headspace – she had convinced herself she couldn’t sail in the light. We went sailing together the first day I arrived in Brazil, and from that moment we started making progress. She had her coach Rory Fitzpatrick there, but I could coach her from the perspective of really knowing the boat and how it feels, and being right there sailing with her – stuff you just can’t get from being on the coach boat, you have to be doing it yourself. I ended up staying sailing with her right up to the Games, in which she sailed a really consistent series and won the silver medal, just six points off gold.

Mária training in Lanzarote.

Working with Annaliese had really made me think about the psychological side of sailing – how what’s going on in your head can make or break your performance on the water. I’d seen her go from having almost completely given up believing in herself and her ability, to winning an Olympic medal, over a really short space of time.

I’d always really enjoyed coaching, especially the mental side of it – you can coach someone on the physical and tactical side of racing but unless they’re mentally in the right place, it kind of doesn’t matter what you tell them. Earlier, in between campaigning and coaching stints, I’d completed a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Sport Management, and I decided to start studying sports psychology. Back in New Zealand I enrolled to do first a graduate diploma, then a post-grad diploma, and then a master’s degree.

Then in mid-2019, I got a call out of the blue. Hungarian Radial sailor Mária Érdi got in touch to ask me if I would coach her for the upcoming Radial world championships in Sakaiminato, Japan. I was interested immediately: Mári was someone I had kept an eye on since Rio. Even though she was young – she was only 18 when she sailed in the 2016 Games, and finished 14th – she was obviously talented, and would definitely be someone I would be keen to work with. Plus, I was a penniless student and this would pay a few bills. . .

I met her properly for the first time at the airport and we got on really well. Our first event together was the Worlds, where she finished 23rd, but then she did the Ready Steady Tokyo regatta (aka the Olympic test event) and finished third – the best result of her career to date. She asked me if I was keen to continue working with her, and I could really see her potential, so I agreed to cut back my studies to part time and take on the challenge of seeing if she could go all the way to a medal position at Tokyo 2020.

I went to Europe with her for the rest of the northern hemisphere season, then came home for the New Zealand summer. Early in 2020, I was just about to leave for Spain to rejoin her when Covid really started to kick off in Europe. Regattas were being cancelled, then Spain shut its borders. Things were not looking good. I suggested Mári try to get down to New Zealand so we could sail here, but of course it was all going pearshaped here too and we went into our own lockdown.

Close racing in conditions that were mostly lighter than predicted.

As well as being stuck in the house, it was an anxious few months as we waited to see if the Tokyo Games would be postponed. Once that decision had been made it was just a matter of watching and waiting for the world to open up a little bit, and for sailing to get going again in Europe. I flew back to Hungary in August 2020 and had a productive few months training and competing in whatever events were being held. It was still very much up in the air what would happen with the Olympics, but we thought we may as well go ahead and do whatever training we could.

I managed to get home to New Zealand for Christmas, then in the new year headed back to Europe. Like quite a few other yachties, we based ourselves at Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where there wasn’t much Covid but lots of holiday places up for rent, due to the fact that British tourists couldn’t go there for their summer holidays. It was lovely and warm, with great sailing conditions and plenty of breeze and waves, which simulated the conditions we were expecting in Japan. It was a really great place to be, as although the country was in a lockdown, we were allowed to go sailing and cycling, and the coffee wasn’t too bad.

Sara and Mári at the Olympic Village, Tokyo.

Events were still being cancelled and moved around, but Mári had a couple of good results, winning a silver medal at the World Cup event in Medemblik, Holland in June. But it was hard being away from New Zealand, which at that time had no Covid restrictions in place. Fortunately I was able to get my Covid vaccination along with the Hungarian Olympic team, but moving around even within Europe was difficult. However, by the time we left Hungary they were just lifting the last of their restrictions on mask-wearing and gathering, as they had reached such a high level of vaccination.

It was a huge relief when it got to the point when it seemed like the Games were definitely going to go ahead. We had originally planned to be in Japan from May but in the end we got there 10 days before the Games were due to start, which was the first time anyone was allowed to access the venue or get out on the water.

Down at the sailing venue it was almost like ‘normal’, and you wouldn’t have known the pandemic was going on, except people were making an effort to keep further apart. All the boats were decaled up and everything was set up like what you would expect at the Games, but there was just nothing fun or extra to do once you left the venue.

Success for Mári and her coach in the Hempel World Cup Series in Holland, June 2020, where Mári won silver.

The one time we went up to the main venue in Tokyo and had lunch at the main athletes’ dining hall, there was definitely no social distancing going on! There were two huge floors the size of two basketball courts each, full of athletes eating and talking and hanging out. But it was pretty safe because everyone was vaccinated, and we had to check in with an app, get tested every day and were temperature-checked every time we entered and exited the venue.

There was a lot of confusion about accommodation and where we were allowed to stay; some of the big teams had their own accommodation organised but to do that you had to book out a whole hotel. In the end Mári stayed in the sailing village with the other Hungarian sailors, and I stayed in an unofficial hotel nearby with some media and members of the public – so much for having an Olympics ‘bubble’! We got a Japanese breakfast but otherwise we had to cater for ourselves, so it was Uber Eats every night, comparing meals with the other refugees. But at least it was only about 20 minutes from the venue, when some teams were 40 minutes or even an hour away, which made for a lot of travelling.

It made things a bit hard from a coaching perspective; I’d try to do a quick debrief with Mári when we came off the water each day, but mostly I’d go back to the hotel and go through the racing again on the tracker, then do a more detailed debrief over the phone. The coaches had to sit in a little box below the start line – you couldn’t follow the boats around the course like you can at other events – so I actually learned a lot more from watching the tracker to figure out what had happened.

As is always the way with big regattas, the conditions weren’t anything like what we had been told to expect. The sailing venue at Enoshima is on a big, south-facing bay about 50km south of Tokyo, and the predominant conditions are a fresh onshore breeze and big waves. For the 10 days of training it had been the same every day: 9 knots onshore. But over the course of the Olympics, the average wind speed was just 8.6 knots, and mostly fickle offshore. Also, we weren’t allowed to launch early and get out on the water and suss out what was going on: we only had 10 minutes on the course before the start each race day, which was really tough.

Unlike pre-Olympic training, due to COVID-19 restrictions, coaches weren’t allowed on the water in Tokyo.

Mári was going really well in the first race but then she made an expensive error on the second lap and ended up 19th. That ended up pretty much being the story of the regatta: she would be doing well but kept making small but costly errors, and struggled a bit mentally to put bad races behind her. I had to work doubly hard to try to keep her head in the game and her hopes alive, but she couldn’t turn it around, and that was hard to witness. In the end, even though she scored a second placing in one race, she just missed out on the medal race and finished 13th overall.

I think it’s really pertinent that the average age of the top 10 sailors was 29 – Dutch sailor Marit Bouwmesster, who won the bronze medal in Tokyo, silver at London 2012 and gold at Rio, is 33 – and Mári is only 23. Based on her first mark roundings in each race, she was good enough to get silver – she just kept making errors in the second lap. She was still in attack mode up the second beat, when she really needed to be defensive. She was also struggling to manage a lot of big emotions. To succeed at this level, you have to be almost robotic, and be able to make decisions without emotion coming into it. She has already done a lot of work on this – by the end of the regatta she’d come a long way – but it was a hard way to learn a big lesson.

Once the games were over, we pretty much had to get out of Japan right away. Luckily I had secured my spot in New Zealand MIQ a few months earlier, so we said our goodbyes and I flew home for my two weeks at the Holiday Inn. I was just 30 hours away from freedom and a decent coffee for the first time in months when the government announced we were going into a Level Four lockdown. As I write this, I am still stuck at home, working away at my study, waiting to be allowed out of the house.

I feel really grateful that the Olympics was able to go ahead, even under difficult conditions, and that all the athletes who had worked so hard over the past five years got their chance to compete.

For now, I am going to focus on my studies and possibly do some local part-time coaching. Mári now has the opportunity to find a full-time coach to take her to the next level, and I am going to hit the books for the next two years and concentrate on taking my place in the realm of sports psychology.

My Olympic and international competition experience, both as a sailor and a coach, has given me massive insights into what sailors and other sportspeople need to reach their potential from a psychological perspective, and I look forward to continuing to make a positive difference in athletes’ lives.

Oh, and having a decent coffee made by a professional – hopefully soon! BNZ


When Norman Holtzhausen found himself stuck at home again during Auckland’s short, sharp lockdowns last summer, he decided he needed a project.

I have a particular boat project I have been planning for some time, and a key part of that project will involve removing the interior of my boat’s large saloon and cabin and re-configuring the layout. The original boat was built as a commercial fishing charter vessel, and it was woefully short of the standard I desired as a family vessel. I also wanted to play around with an idea I had for moving the fuel tanks and helm position, which required some trial and error to see what would be practical.

Drawing pictures and sketches was not an option for me, given my lack of artistic ability. Also, there is nothing like actually seeing what things will look like when planning new layouts for seating, galley and toilet. On a practical note, I want to be sure of my layout before I start ripping out the interior on the boat.

Plus, we were now in lockdown!

Dive Cat in happier days

So, I hatched a plan to first build a scale model of the boat. Luckily my vessel is an aluminium plate design with no complex curves, which is easy to reproduce in thin plywood. Although I do not have the original plans for the boat, I had taken an extensive set of detailed interior and exterior photos when I purchased her. And when I had her exterior vinyl wrapped, I had measured up the critical dimensions of all the main panels. With these, and the photos, I could estimate any other dimensions I needed.

To make my plan even more feasible, during the first lockdown last year I had splurged on a workshop laser cutter. I have used this a fair bit to cut out plywood, MDF and plastic pieces, and it is perfect for repetitively and precisely cutting detailed shapes. I also had a fair bit of 1.6mm plywood left in the shed from the last project, as well as some 3mm-thick MDF.

Norman transferring the paper template to the plywood.

Looking online, I saw my local hobby shop had some 0.8mm plywood sheets that were perfect for ‘plating’ the sides. Better still, they could deliver these during lockdown. A mixed pack of balsa wood for various parts was added to the order. The only other major item I needed was a large supply of quick-set epoxy, which I ordered on a click-andcollect basis from the local hardware store.

First item on the agenda was to decide on an appropriate scale. A 1:10 scale makes the calculations super-simple from the measurements I had, so that seemed obvious. The resulting model would be large enough to be a ‘proper’ model and would be ideal for playing around with the alternative layout. I did not fully appreciate how big the finished boat would be, however – more on that later!

Aluminium stucco plate from the hardware store

I used my computer to draw the bulkhead shapes, based on the inside-hull photos and measurements I had taken previously. My boat is a catamaran, so has two hulls that are mirror images of one another. Also, the hull sides are dead straight for 80% of their length, and only taper in the front two metres or so. Hence, I was able to design and cut out a whole bunch of identical bulkheads for the length of the hull, and then just taper down the last two. Using the laser meant I could pre-cut the notches for the stringers, and also get every detail down to the chines and planing strakes cut out as close as possible to match the real thing.

A day of laser cutting ensued. I started using MDF for the bulkheads, but this generates lots of smoke and carbon which slows down the cutting. Switching to the plywood enabled me to cut the required shape much more quickly. The downside of the plywood was the thinner material has less edge surface to take glue, and also could be more easily deformed when assembling the frame.

The size and complexity of the build soon became apparent.

Once I had all the bulkheads cut, I used balsa strips as stringers to build the basic hull structure, using the dining room table to get it flat and square. It was only when I had scarfed two balsa strips together to achieve the required length for the keel strip that I realised quite how big my model would be. An 11m catamaran at 1:10 scale makes a model that is over a metre long and close to half a metre wide! Too late now – I was committed.

After assembling the bulkheads and stringers for each hull separately, I then ‘plated’ the hull with the 0.8mm plywood. Fastset epoxy is perfect for attaching the ‘plates’, reducing the clamping time and speeding up the build. Luckily, I also had a VERY large number of mini clamps in my workshop. The hull plate sections had to be cut by hand since their length exceeded my laser cutter’s capability, but the thin ply is easy to cut with a box cutter or a pair of scissors. A few mistakes were made, but a spot of filler would sort those out later on.

Decks in place

Within a couple of days, I had both hulls framed and covered, apart from the deck and wing deck. Hand shaping the hull sides required several attempts to get the bow profiles to match exactly – a bit of extra cutting, followed by extra filling, ensued. While the hulls were separate, I could sand, fill and partially paint the final shapes before joining the deck beams together. The wing deck was a tricky shape, but a bit of trial-and-error with some thin cardboard allowed me to get the correct shape before cutting out in ply.

At this point the first lockdown lifted, and it looked like the project would go on hold for a bit. But never fear – a week later Auckland was back in Level 3, so back to the project.

Lots of mini clamps...

With the hull exterior mostly finished I could start on the details and superstructure. The transom and outboard pods took a bit of fiddling, as I did not have any dimensions of these on my pictures. I used the laser cutter to cut some thicker ply for this, to give added strength. In the meantime, I had discovered, a company in the USA that makes 1:9 scale model outboard motors. This is close to my model’s scale, and I ordered a pair of Evinrude 300hp engines. Although my boat has Yamahas, the Evinrudes are also V8 models, so I can simply change the decals on the engine cowlings.

Bulkheads assembled into the hull frames.

Next was the deck and saloon floor. Because I am planning to change the layout, I did not fix it in place just yet. The outer cockpit is the only part of the boat with bare aluminium showing and I discovered the hardware store sold small sheets of 1mm-thick textured aluminium plate. Between this and the ply I soon had a fully decked hull.

Joining the hulls

The final major step was the cabin. Ideally, I wanted the cabin sides fixed with just the roof removeable, but since I was not going to fix the deck down just yet, I decided to make the whole cabin as a single unit that lifted off. The cabin sides are large and complex shapes which I had to approximate by eyeball from the side-on pictures I had, plus the hull dimensions.

With the sides cut out and the roof shaped (did I mention I also had a drone picture of the boat?) I could start to assemble the cabin. This proved reasonably complex, since the forward cabin has a bunch of stepped sections designed to increase headroom above the bunks. Once again, in the absence of precise measurements and angles, I had to eyeball these.

And pretty soon I had something that looked exactly like my boat! At this point the project is adequate for my needs, because I can now experiment with different galley, toilet, seating and helm layouts.

The almost finished model.

Of course, it is not finished by any means and having come this far I plan to complete it to a fully working model. Apart from the outboards, which are currently being shipped, I have discovered an online model yacht shop from where I can buy a scaled-down steering wheel, dual throttle control, panel switches, cleats, gauges and even a chartplotter. I also need to add the guard rails, life rings, radar arch and a few other small finishing touches.

The only significant item I have not yet found in 1:10th scale is a model toilet! BNZ

1:9 scale model outboard motors are available from specialist model retailers in the USA.

Norman’s boat Dive Cat was lost at sea in February 2020 but locating the wreck’s exact position proved difficult. Nonetheless, Norman made plans to salvage Dive Cat himself, using lockdowns to order equipment and consult with experts, while also planning a major revamp of the salvaged vessel’s interior. After its position was eventually pinpointed in March 2021, a salvage attempt was foiled by gear failure. Norman says he will try again soon, once the sea warms enough to make diving on the wreck easier.

Many ways of steering

Every watercraft built since the dawn of time had to be steered in some way.

In ancient times steering gear was usually some version of an oar that was held vertically, which eventually led to the development of a dedicated rudder. The rudder was controlled by the helmsman sitting in the stern of the boat using a tiller, a horizontal bar fitted directly to the top of the rudder post. We see these today in dinghies and in some sailing boats, large and small.

The advantages of this system include a very simple mechanism and direct, highly-responsive steering. On the downside, to operate the tiller the helmsman has to remain close to the rudder and steering the boat can be physically demanding, especially in bad weather.

A conventional helm with a wheel. This example uses hydraulic pressure to turn the rudder.

The next major development was the ship’s wheel, mechanically connected to the rudder. How the wheel is connected to the rudder varies. Early systems used ropes and pulleys or a mechanical shaft and gears. They allowed the wheel to be located near the front of the vessel where the helmsman had better visibility, far away from the rudder at the stern. Different sized pulleys or gears reduced the force required to steer, although at the cost of a certain degree of responsiveness. Early vessels had spokes sticking out of the wheel to grab hold of – wheels could be difficult to turn, especially in bad weather – and many traditional vessels retain this design.

Modern boats have largely continued using one of these two systems, although the mechanisms have changed. Ropes and pulleys made way for cables and more sophisticated gearing, before hydraulic systems and power assistance became available. More recently, electric actuators can be used to operate the rudder – the wheel now acts more like a control switch, with no direct force transmitted from the wheel to the rudder or motor. An advantage of hydraulic and electric systems is that vessels can have multiple helm positions, often one on the flybridge and one in the main cabin, providing greater flexibility for locating the helm station.

A rope and pulley system, actuated by a ‘steering stick’ in the bow moves the outboard motor fron side to side to steer the boat.

Surprisingly, though, this is not the only way boats can be steered. Anyone who has been to the Cook Islands or Tahiti will know the local fishing boats are steered with what can only be referred to as a ‘steering stick’. This is a vertical bar sticking up in front of the skipper, who is positioned in a snug helm position right up in the bow of the boat. Moving the bar from side to side turns the outboard motor, facilitating tight turns at high speed.

These systems were originally developed with a ropeand- pulley arrangement between the stick and the motor, but newer ones use a modern cable or hydraulic steering system. We even saw one with electric actuators on the motor, where the skipper used a small toggle switch to swing the motor left or right.

Tiller steering is still used today, especially on yachts.

The main purpose of this unusual steering mechanism is to sight-hunt highly manoeuvrable game fish. It was developed in Tahiti to chase down mahimahi. The fishermen literally chase the fish across the surface until they are exhausted enough to spear easily. In the Cook Islands these boats are used to hunt mahimahi by day and flying fish by night. To beat giant trevally to the flying fish, fishers need to be able to spin the boat around very quickly to match the movements of the fish.

But arguably the field of GPS and marine electronics has produced the most significant changes to boat steering. With the combination of electronic throttle control and powered steering systems, electronics can completely control both the direction the boat moves and its speed. Of course, the basics are not new – Autopilot systems have been around for decades, and many larger vessels have been steered using a joystick rather than a wheel for some time. What is new is the availability of this technology for vessels of every type – even smaller outboard-powered craft with a single engine.

HamiltonJet’s ‘MouseBoat’ control.

Joystick steering options started appearing on recreational vessels in 2005, when Volvo launched its revolutionary IPS pod drives. Since these drives are self-contained and turn inside their mounting using an electric actuator, their joystick control provided one-handed operation when docking, removing the need for complicated dual-shift, throttle and steering combinations. Since then, Volvo has shipped more the 30,000 units and now competing technology is available from Cummins, Caterpillar and ZF Marine.

The joystick got its next upgrade in 2007 when HamiltonJet launched its MouseBoat controller. Paired with its waterjet propulsion technology and proprietary blueArrow electronic control systems, this handpiece looks like a miniature boat that moves and acts much like a computer mouse. Instead of moving a cursor across a computer screen, moving the MouseBoat moves the vessel in the same way – forward, astern, or sideways. The MouseBoat also added a third axis, so rotating the device would spin the vessel the same way, whether traveling ahead or astern, or even in place.

Both these systems also provided a feature called GPS anchoring. This is where the electronics hold the vessel in an exact position, regardless of wind and tide, and without deploying an actual anchor. This is especially useful deep drop-fishing over undersea structures in deep water, where anchoring is not an option and positioning the boat is critical.

Volvo Penta made joystick steering mainstream with the introduction of IPS.

This system was originally patented in 1995 in the USA and first appeared on trailer boats when it was adopted by numerous manufacturers of trolling motors. These devices are spun around in their mountings by an electric servo, and being electrically powered, their motors already enjoyed electronic control.

But being able to control outboard motors in a similar way to the pod and jet drives was recognised as a gap in the market, one which Yamaha was first to fill with its Helm Master digital steering system in 2013. This system added joystick steering and directional control for boats with twin outboards. The key breakthrough for this system was controlling each outboard separately, with independent powered hydraulic steering rams and digital throttle and shift controls for each motor.

That means the boat can be moved sideways by angling the engines at 90o to one another and putting one in forward gear and one in reverse. Their joystick control also includes that rotational axis of movement, so the boat can be moved essentially in every possible direction. All of which simplifies manoeuvring around marina berths or getting lined up onto a boat trailer, especially in high winds or strong currents.

A ’ma’i ma’i boat’ in Avarua Harbour, Rarotonga.

Since then, the market has become a bit more crowded with Evinrude adding its iDock Intelligent Piloting System, Mercury its JPO (Joystick Piloting for Outboards) and Suzuki the Optimus 360 Joystick control system. The Optimus system is in fact a third-party solution developed by Dometic (formerly known as SeaStar), which is compatible with other outboard brands that offer digital shift and throttle control.

The most recent steering innovation, and the most exciting for the smaller trailer boat customer, has come in the switch from a conventional hydraulic steering (with its helm pump, engine control pistons and supplementary electric hydraulic pumps), to all-electric actuators. These remove the need for any hydraulic rigging and dramatically simplify the installation of the boat’s steering system. Although a conventional wheel can be retained as the main steering control, with a digital engine actuator the wheel becomes a completely digital unit. In two or more engine installations this simplifies the whole installation and improves the responsiveness of the digital steering system.

Yamaha’s electrically-actuated steering module.

More excitingly, though, the speed of movement of these digital electric actuators has also enabled sideways manoeuvrability for boats with just one outboard. The Yamaha Helm Master EX – launched in New Zealand last year – provides joystick capabilities for a single-engine vessel. Although it works as expected when moving forward or astern, it excels in close quarters and when trying to fit the boat into a tight space: the engine turns itself and changes gear automatically, moving the boat sideways through the water.

All the other features of digital steering can be added to the Yamaha Helm Master EX system – the EX stands for “Expandable”. The most popular is GPS anchoring, called Fishpoint on this system. This will hold the boat at an exact spot, pointing the same way it was when you pressed the button. So, if you see something interesting on the sounder, press the button and you will stay directly above it.

Yamaha Helm Master EX joystick steering even works with single outboards.

Of course, an autopilot is another great option, and Yamaha integrates into several major brands of multifunction displays. So, you can set your course and speed, press a button and the boat will drive itself to the spot. The vessel can also be set to automatically slow down upon arriving at the selected location, and then hold itself at that position once you get there.

Although the Helmaster EX is somewhat more expensive than a conventional steering, if you factor in that it eliminates all the hydraulics, negates the need for a bow thruster, can provide the same functionality as a low-speed trolling motor and includes an autopilot, the additional cost on a new boat is modest.

Of course, other manufacturers are hard on Yamaha’s heels. Already Dometic has developed an all-electric actuator, and you can be sure the engineers are busy integrating this into their Optimus system for single outboards. It won’t be too long before technology eliminates the struggle to get your boat onto a trailer or into a berth in strong wind and tides. Watch this space.

Bring it on! BNZ

Ready for a change

There’s more than one way to rig a sailing cat. The two-mast biplane rig is a seldom-used alternative that offers many advantages over standard catamaran sail plans, as the Bay of Islands vessel Cool Change demonstrates. Words Alex Stone, photos Lesley Stone.

Imagine a yacht that can go to windward in a storm under bare poles. One that never heels beyond four degrees, is easily beach-able, and does so often. A large cruising yacht handled by two people, able to sail at 15-20 knots and regularly clock off 200-nautical-mile blue-water days, with a wardrobe of only two fully-battened sails. No loose-footed sails, so no flogging, ever. A boat that requires no maintenance to standing rigging, where you can hoist and drop sails at any angle to the wind, no rounding up necessary.

These are the advantages of Cool Change. To gain these benefits, some lateral thinking – and its practical application – is required.

The majority of cruising sailboats are monohulls – those sailors who have opted for fast, modern cruising catamarans have already escaped the conventional. But the vast majority of cruising sailboats – monohull or multihull – have the same rig. The Bermudan sloop.

There must be significant advantages in this, right? Well, not necessarily...

For any cruising yacht, resale value is important. A conventional design makes it easier to on-sell your asset and the predominance of the Bermudan sloop rig reflects this market reality. It’s common because it’s common. Or to put it less bluntly, it’s popular because it’s popular. But…

A catamaran’s wide beam offers an advantage not often fully utilised by yacht designers. It allows for a wider staying base, or two masts, one in each hull. This offers alternatives to the usual Bermudan sloop, some with singular advantages.

The development of modern cruising cats began only 50 years ago, despite Western seafarers who encountered Pacific oceangoing catamarans already acknowledging their superior speed in the 16th century.

Which segues us neatly into the alternative catamaran rig chosen by Don and Marilyn Logan for Cool Change: the biplane rig. With the advent of modern composites technology, the biplane is a seriously viable alternative to the standard, stayed Bermudan sloop.

The biplane rig typically sports two unstayed masts of equal height, one in each hull directly opposite one another. It has many advantages.

The first is that the centreline mast of almost all cat designs requires engineering add-ons to make the whole structure more rigid. The downward force of the mast in the middle of a centre beam must either be counteracted by a sturdy box construction, or a dolphin striker in smaller cats. A seagull striker counters the upward pressure of forestay loading on the front beam.

Both dolphin and seagull strikers require strong cables to run over them, and equally strong anchor points in each hull. More wires, more complication, and more things to fail under stress.

The biplane rig eliminates the need for centreline strengthening, seagull and dolphin strikers. Each mast is keel-stepped. This requires solid mast steps and reinforcing on deck around the mast gates, but that’s it – no extra wires and no loading across large moments of force.

“Won’t one sail blanket the other?” people ask. Well, no. Any experienced sailor will know that when approaching an exact beam reach, cats (and light/fast monohulls) should be steered to bring the apparent wind forward. A win-win airflow is created – the faster you go, the more wind you’ll get accelerating into the breeze.

Cool Change running goosewinged before the wind. A square sail can be rigged between the masts for more speed, but Don and Marilyn reckon she’s fast enough without one.

So, no, you don’t want to sail on an exact beam reach. And for fine reaching, or close-hauled, the two sails of the biplane rig work to create an efficient slot.

The biplane rig was effectively demonstrated at the Weymouth Speed Trials in the 1980s, with the ‘skewed catamaran’ Crossbow II. Its leeward hull and rig were further forward – optimised for the starboard tack of the course – but this wasn’t necessary. Crossbow II managed 36 knots, a world record for years.

The biplane rig took a reputational knock with the demise of the giant catamaran Team Phillips. It was commissioned in 1999 by Pete Goss to win The Race, a no-holds-barred circumnavigation challenge. At 36.66m long, 21.34m wide and 41.15m high, this monster cat was biting off more than the technology of the time could chew. Team Phillips broke up at sea twice and was abandoned mid-Atlantic in 2000 during a freak storm with 70-knot winds and 10m waves. But this was no fault of the rig.

Cool Change has a large and functional galley ideal for charter work or extended offshore cruising.

Off the wind or dead downwind, the biplane rig offers goosewinging and/or an efficient square sail between the masts, but Don and Marilyn found it a handful for just the two of them. The boat is quick enough anyway.

Other advantages? No foresails that flog. A minimal sail wardrobe. Tacking without adjusting sails. Flat work platforms at the base of each mast. Multiple reefing options. And unparalleled visibility from a central helm.

Based in the Bay of Islands, Cool Change is the most successful of New Zealand’s biplane-rigged cats. It’s ironic that most of Don and Marilyn’s charter guests are unaware they’re being taken out in such an iconoclastic boat. All they see is Don and Marilyn getting underway with no fuss. Other sailors usually see Cool Change’s stern. She’s remarkably quick. In these pictures Cool Change is doing 9 knots in about 6-8 knots of true wind speed.

Flat spaces below the masts and the ability to raise or drop the the sail at any time are among the advantages of the biplane rig.

Cool Change was designed by Derek Kelsall as a conventional cat. But during the seven-year self-build in Opua, Don and Marilyn became sold on the biplane rig. So Kelsall modified the design scantlings for the two keel-stepped masts and re-visited the sail area calculations. Turned out Cool Change could safely carry 30% more sail area, which explains her speed in moderate airs.

Things then went high-tech when in 2005 Don and Marilyn received an innovation development grant from the government to build the biggest free-standing carbon fibre wing masts in the country. After a feasibility study by Chris Mitchell, a Team New Zealand America’s Cup engineer, with final calculations by Pete Lawson, they teamed up with Innovation Lamination, based at Katikati. The secret was to build with epoxy resin infusion, reducing weight without sacrificing strength.

Don reckons he over-specified the strength of the masts. Standing 20m above the deck, they were designed to flex only 1m sideways under full rig load in 35 knots, with a big safety factor. Now Don says he could have gone for 1m of flex at 25 knots (you can always reef), for 20% less weight. No matter. The masts have proved themselves in all conditions, including voyages to the Pacific Islands.

Marilyn at the helm of Cool Change.

The masts themselves are Cool Change’s storm sails; Don and Marilyn have logged respectable speeds going upwind under bare poles. There’s no conventional rig that will top that.

Wing masts are known for ‘sailing and tacking’ a boat at anchor. With a biplane, this is fixed by securing the masts facing each other, cancelling their wont to go sailing on their own.

During our sail aboard Cool Change, the masts automatically tacked smoothly and silently, as the sails filled on each new tack. The angle of the masts to the sail entry can be adjusted with a yoke system – Don doesn’t adjust this much, but it is more efficient to over-rotate the masts on a reach, creating a deeper overall foil shape.

Cool Change’s sails are visibly flat. This is because the fore-aft dimension of the wing mast itself is part of the chord of the sail. The extra wide booms allow for more space between the lazyjacks, making it easier to hoist the sails.

Rudders and other under-hull appendages can be retracted to park the yacht on a beach.

The really big advantage of Cool Change’s biplane rig is that you can drop the sails at any angle going downwind. No need to round up. Don simply lets the sheets go until the sail itself is feathered, pointing directly ahead if necessary, and up or down comes the sail. The unusual technique has led to confused callers on the VHF radio asking whether Cool Change is coming or going!

There are other noteworthy aspects of Cool Change. She can be beached easily – Don and Marilyn do this often. The daggerboards, which draw 3.5m, can retract completely beside hull-protecting, shallow keelsons. The rudders kick up and both motors retract fully too. Naturally they have bottom plates below the propellers, to achieve a flush, smooth hull for sailing.

The propellers are driven by hydraulic motors, which are actually in the bulbs at the bottom of the shafts. These hydraulic motors are driven by 68hp marinised Isuzu diesels. This is an advantage cruising the Pacific – Isuzu diesel engines are common, so there’s always someone who can fix them. With 900W of solar panels, Cool Change does not need a genset.

An extra-ordinary boat indeed! BNZ


The Logans came from Ponui Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, where the family has farmed for generations (and developed a unique breed of donkey!). So naturally, they also knew of local yacht designer Bernard Rhodes and his well-travelled biplane-rigged cat, Flying Carpet, on neighbouring Waiheke Island.

Bernard built Flying Carpet in 1984-1989 (considerably pre-dating Phillips), with a more low-tech approach. Her hulls are strip-planked macrocarpa felled and milled and seasoned by Bernard. Flying Carpet’s D-shaped section masts are also wooden – strip-planked Douglas fir – with footholds for a ladder cut in the aft face. Because they are flexible up top, they also reduce the shock loading catamaran rigs are subject to.

A further innovation with Flying Carpet is her wrap-around two-ply sails and wishbone booms.

Flying Carpet has proven herself with many mighty voyages in the Pacific, at one stage taking Bernard, his wife Yachiyo and their young boys Andrew and Ken on an extended cruise to Japan. The travels of Flying Carpet won a Yachting NZ Cruising Award for a most meritorious cruise.

Kelsall also designed the biplane-rigged cat FastKat49 – a 49ft pod cat with twin rotating masts, last seen in the Hervey Bay region in Queensland, Australia in 2018. Unusually, it has a supporting beam linking the masts at three-quarter height.


Better put a bib on!

Trolling bibbed minnows is arguably the easiest way to catch kingfish – if you know the basics!

These essential elements include: using suitable tackle, identifying productive trolling areas, and knowing how to set up and get the best from your trolled minnow/s.


Gear can be of modest size but must be robust enough to handle 24kg or even 37kg breaking strain line, as plenty of pressure may be required to avoid breaking the line if a hooked fish finds nearby structure. When kingfish break off, there are no winners. You lose an expensive lure, a tasty dish and/ or bragging rights after a tough fight, while the kingfish ends up with a lure in its face, perhaps also trailing line, affecting its long term ability to feed and survive.

Rapala CD18s are hard to beat. This Rapala accounted for a lovely Wellington kingfish. (Photo: NZ Fishing News)


A relatively short (6’/1.83m or less), powerful rod does the job,
providing maximum stopping power and leverage.

Important features include:

• A longish fore-grip to allow an effective, stiff-armed fishfighting stance for greater leverage with less effort.

• A sturdy butt section well-protected by EVA grip material. The butt comes under a lot of pressure when a kingfish hooks up – unprotected butts in metal rod holders can snap.

• A gimbal nock to keep the rod locked in position in the boat’s rod holder, as well as in the rod bucket when fighting a hooked fish.

The bigger the minnow’s bib and the shallower its angle, the deeper it will swim


Reels can be spinning or free-spool types, able to handle 24–37kg lines, either GSP braid or nylon monofilament.

Free-spool reels can be star-drag or lever-drag models, but lever-drags allow you to set the drag for the strike and then precisely adjust the drag pressure on the fly while fighting the fish. Altering the drag pressure on a star-drag during the fight is largely a matter of guesswork.

Other prime considerations include:

• Capacity for at least 300m of 24–37kg line. Line can be braid or nylon, but braid cuts through the water better, allowing the trolled lure to get down deeper and making it less likely to ‘flip out’ while trolling.

• When trolling minnow-type lures, reel drags should be set to exert no more than 8–12kg of drag pressure over the rod; any more than this can bend the hooks out.

• Harness lugs allow the use of a harness, making fighting big fish easier and the fishing experience more comfortable.

Reasonably short, powerful 24kg rods are suited to trolling large bibbed minnows. (Photo: NZ Fishing News)


Trace choice is important.

A thick trace is more affected by water pressure/friction than a thinner one, decreasing the depth of water the lure can reach. It also inhibits the lure’s natural action and makes the trace easier to see. However, go too light with the trace and you’ll experience too many break-offs. I suggest 27kg trace for small to medium-sized minnows and 37–45kg for the larger ones.

A long leader provides greater abrasion protection should the leader rub on rocks or structure. Connecting the trace to the main line via a robust swivel and a couple of uni-knots is fine, but a PR, FG or Albright knot that passes easily through the rod guides is better. If you still want a swivel, rig it just a metre or so from the lure, so you can wind down close to the lure and control the fish at the boat with the rod. No need to grab the leader.

Tie on the minnow with a uni-knot or a Rapala loop knot, or use crimps, rather than attaching it with a snap-clip. A bulky clip interferes with water flow onto the lure, adversely affecting its action. That said, the compact but strong Mustad Fastach clip works well.

Two options for attaching bibbed minnows.


The best kingfish trolling lures dive down and ‘wobble’ or ‘wiggle’ rather than spin.

Popular colour combinations include fluoro orange-and-gold; blue-and-silver; pink-and-white; green-and-yellow (especially fluorescent versions); and white with a red head. Which colours the fish prefer can change from day to day and hour to hour, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

The size, shape and angle of the lure’s bib determines the depth it runs and the speed at which the lure can be trolled. The bib also plays a big part in creating the overall movement or ‘action’. Basically, the bigger the bib and the shallower (more obtuse) its angle, the deeper the lure is designed to swim, but also the slower the trolling speed it will handle.

Choose a reputable brand of lure armed with high quality single or treble hooks. Treble hooks with their multiple points are potentially dangerous to fish and anglers alike, so using lures designed for single hooks may be to your mutual advantage.

Some lures armed with trebles can successfully be changed over to single hooks, but this sometimes adversely affects the lure’s swimming action and trolling behaviour.

The Mustad Fastach clip is a good option when attaching a bibbed minnow to the line. Most other clips are too bulky, disturbing water flow over the lure’s bib and affecting the minnow’s swimming action.


Simply trolling in open water between destinations tends to be a recipe for failure. Kingfish generally inhabit areas of reef and foul bottom, swept by current with baitfish present and a bit of white-water action for cover. For best results, push in as close as is safely possible to rocky coastlines, islands and reefs and also concentrate on trolling the edges of feeding baitfish schools.

Don’t drive the boat through schools of mackerel, trevally and kahawai feeding on krill or small baitfish on the surface, as this will only put the schools down. Instead, keep your distance, skirting around the working fish before straightening up so as to drag the lures past the edge of the work up. Any kingfish shadowing the school will be quick to snap up one of these percieved ‘stragglers’.

The propeller’s turbulence can upset your lure’s natural action, so when setting the lure, carefully lower it into the water to one side of the boat and then release line until the lure’s at least 10m back. Gradually slow the line release before engaging the reel, as a sudden stop can make the lure fly out the water. Set two lures at staggered distances behind the boat – perhaps one around 20–30m and another at 40–50m. Keep in mind that the more line you have out, the more likely a hooked kingfish will find its way to the bottom where it can break you off.

Consider mixing up your trolling spread with lures that swim at different depths – maybe add stick-baits or poppers. These can be spectacularly effective, especially if the angler holds the rod to one side away from the boat and pumps it to make the surface lures bubble and splash.

Always stow a large, soft-rubber mesh landing net on board, along with a decent gaff. The net is used for smaller kings while the gaff is for larger specimens. You can carefully lip-hook kingfish beside the boat and still successfully release them. Otherwise, if you intend to keep a fish, aim for the shoulder near the head so as not to damage good fillet meat. A set of long-nosed pliers safely removes hooks from thrashing fish.

Finally, a plea. Kingfish are big animals that provide plenty of fresh meat. They are delicious eaten fresh, as sashimi or grilled on the barbie, but the meat doesn’t freeze well. So consider sharing one fish among your boat party – certainly no more than two! BNZ

A regatta 'on the rocks'

It started well but danced around the engine compartment in a most alarming manner, so we sailed between the big breakwaters into Dun Laoghaire harbour, past the yachts straining at their moorings off the yacht club and into the ‘coal harbour’ at the western end where the fishing boats berthed.

We ran out of wind in the lee of an ice plant and coasted in until the way came off so I dropped the anchor and began unlashing the dinghy to row a line ashore.

Two fishermen were working on a net which hung from a gilson, or derrick off the mast. One walked a couple of paces to the wheelhouse, took a lifering from its bracket, tied netting twine from a spool onto it, and heaved it in our direction.

A Hooker under full sail.

Wind and tide carried it down until I could pick it up with a boathook. I tied a mooring line to it and he turned away from his work again to pull it in, untie our line and transfer it to his forward bollard.

By the time I’d pulled alongside and made her fast, the men had retired belowdecks and I knocked on the wheelhouse door to thank them.

“You’ll be right, boyo,” they replied, “you’ll be nice and snugged up now to be sure. And there’d be a couple of fishes wrapped in that newspaper there.”

For a few days we lay in the coal harbour while I sourced new engine mounts. In the morning I’d pull the boat back to let the trawler out, pull back into their berth for the day and warp the boat out again so it would be free when they returned from the day’s fishing.

The picturesque town of Galway with its prominent cathedral.

Our cat grew plump and glossy on a diet of fish livers and titbits he cadged from the men as they cleaned their catch.

Then one day, at the information office, I saw the poster saying: ‘Galway Bay Hooker Regatta’ with a date.

I asked Padraic, from the boat next door, what a hooker was. “Weell, I’m not really certain, to be sure, I tinks they’s auld work boats from the west…”

‘Old boat from the west,’ sounded like me. I love old wooden workboats sailed hard by working sailors and fishermen. I’d sailed on Bahamian conch skiffs and turtle boats in Anguilla… why not hookers in Ireland?

The next day we left our boat and cat in the care of the fishermen and boarded a bus bound for Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast.

Claddagh pulled up on the beach, a popular subject with photographers.

The bus wheezed through villages of squat stone houses and rolling paddocks hemmed with dry stone walls and as we crested a hill to roll into Galway almost every second one of the houses lining the road had a B&B sign prominently on show in a front window.

They seemed like doll houses as the mysticism of Ireland’s west coast seeped into us. A leprechaun could have skipped across the road in front of the bus and we wouldn’t have thought anything of it.

In Galway, half a dozen hookers were clustered in the wee rock-walled harbour and men in tweed jackets and cloth caps rove ropes and did last minute jobs.

“G’day,” I asked, “my names Lindsay from New Zealand – does anyone need a hand for the regatta?”

“Yeah boy,” one man replied – “ye can come along wi’ us.”

Hookers and other traditional working boats lit up in Galway Harbour.

Next day I turned up bright and early, grasped a rope shroud and swung down onto the deck. “What do you want me to do?”

The skipper man regarded me thoughtfully through a thatch of bushy eyebrows, and rubbed his head with a handful of his tweed hat. Woollen threads sprouted from the holed elbows of his tweed jacket and a baggy pair of corduroy trousers fell down to a pair of scuffed brogues.

“Weell boy,” he said finally, “ye’ll be on de rocks, to be sure.”

Beaut, I thought, sounds like a good job – though I wasn’t exactly sure what or where the rocks were.

Hookers and geese. Note the vessels’ extreme tumblehome.

Galway Bay hookers evolved when there was no port in the bay. Freighters anchored in the roads and discharged their cargo to and from lighters – which became known as “hookers.” The crews were paid per trip so the fastest boats earned most – they raced all day for as long as the cargo needed unloading.

Over several hundred years their lines evolved to suit the work and typically, hookers have a near plumb, slightly rounded stem; a cod’s head and mackerel tail waterline shape with the maximum beam well forward, extreme tumblehome and the rudder raked about 40o inwards.

Most of them had larch planking fastened to white oak frames with big galvanised boat nails. Douglas fir from the north of Ireland is also used for some structural members and masts. Then the whole boat was ‘painted,’ inside and out, with tar….which quickly transferred itself to any clothing that came in contact with it.

But, there’s no other boat quite like a hooker.

Popular with tourists, Ireland’s west coast is home to many traditional wooden boats.

They come as either baid mohra (big hookers), Leith bhaid (half hookers), gleoieogai (medium hookers) and pucain (small single-sail hookers with dipping lug mainsail). Latterly they were used to carry cargos of hay, livestock and peat to and from the offshore islands, or for fishing.

I’d chanced on a half-hooker, An Reamon, about 9.8m long on deck, 3.5m on the beam, a draught of about one metre, with a big gaff mainsail and jib tacked at the end of her retracting bowsprit.

‘The rocks’ were ballast, neatly stacked in the bilge and my job for the weekend would be to move them from side to side as we tacked. They weighed roughly 10kg each but got heavier as the day wore on.

The rest of the crew began arriving, all attired in worn tweed jackets and knitted vests and mostly armed with flasks of Jameson’s whiskey.

Ireland’s west coast is stunningly beautiful.

Dermot, the skipper, took the long tiller and another old man sat on a board next to him. The boat developed huge weather helm and the second man’s role was to trim the mainsheet and put his back into the tiller. These two were also sailing masters and tacticians.

My role was to move rocks and I’m sure that the seafaring people of Galway Bay must still be laughing about the Kiwi who spent the regatta on the rocks.

“OK boys,” Dermot would say quietly and that was my cue to start pulling rocks out of the windward bilge. As she came into the wind and the big mainsail slapped and cracked above me, I’d move more frantically, placing the rocks so they wouldn’t move if we took a knockdown. Originally sacks of sand were also used in heavy weather because they got heavier as they absorbed water. And pig iron ingots or concrete blocks.

Then, as we filled away on the new tack, I’d place the last of the rocks, stretch my back and perch along the weather rail among my crewmates. Flasks would be held out in my direction and, as the whiskey rolled down my throat smiles would break out all round. Every man there had done his turn on the rocks.

A Galway Bay Hooker outward bound.

“We’ll be coming off the wind soon, to be sure – could you pull some of those rocks back from forward of the mast and set ‘em back here at the stern,” Dermot said, but pretty soon I came to anticipate our moves and move the rocks accordingly.

We were second boat round the course; out of the bay, round a buoy laid in the former freighter anchorage and back up the bay.

And in the pub that night I was introduced as “the fella from New Zealand who was on the rocks.” Wives and girlfriends looked at me with greater respect….well, in my head anyway.

We ran a closer second place the next day and spent a couple of hours on board, putting our boat to bed, drinking whiskey and ‘debriefing.’

My back ached and I felt like a human hairpin…. but the racing had been great. Not particularly fast, but fun, and anyway, it doesn’t really matter what you race as long as you race it as hard as you can.

We’d raced hard and Dermot clasped my hand to help me onto the dock. “Yer did well,” he said, “will yer be around for next year’s racin’?

“But I won’t put yer on the rocks.” BNZ

Haines Hunter celebrates 75 years

The Auckland suburb of Ellerslie can celebrate 75 years of boatbuilding this year, with the company behind Haines Hunter Boats in New Zealand marking its 75th Anniversary.

Boating New Zealand sat down with Haines Hunter Director Lionel Sands and CEO Denis Kendall to talk about 75 years of artisan boatbuilding – and what the future holds for the company.

BNZ When did boatbuilding start for the business in Ellerslie, and what was the company building?

LIONEL SANDS In 1946, SeaCraft – the forerunner to Haines Hunter New Zealand – was established by my late father, Yeoman ‘Sandy’ Sands. Over the past seven and a half decades, the company has continuously evolved and maintained its position at the forefront of the trailer boat industry in New Zealand.

In those early years, we produced clinker-built timber boats and oars – in fact, SeaCraft was the largest manufacturer of oars in New Zealand for over 20 years. The range of boats we built were powered by Seagull outboards or small inboard petrol motors.

‘Sandy’ Sands.

BNZ When did things start to change from that traditional style of boatbuilding?

LIONEL SANDS Seacraft grew quickly throughout the 1950s, driven by solid demand for quality boats and good accessibility to outboard motors, allowing the company to consolidate its position as New Zealand’s most prominent production boatbuilder.

The mid-sixties saw a transition from wooden boat manufacturing to fibreglass – a radical departure from traditional boatbuilding skills, but we immediately recognised it as the new way forward.

To fully embrace this new technology, two of our staff were sent to California to learn the new processes. During that period, the company constructed a purpose-built lamination/ glass factory. With temperature and humidity control, this new factory was state-of-the-art, giving us the means to produce world-class boats.

The 535 range was a huge success over more than 36 years. It has been superseded by the SF545.

BNZ At the time, was there a model that stood out for the company?

LIONEL SANDS Yes, absolutely. Having acquired the Mercury Outboard franchise and with more horsepower available, SeaCraft developed a range of fibreglass boats to suit these ‘BIG’ engines of up to 130hp! The flagship was the SeaCraft Valencia, a 17-footer [5.2m] powered by a 115hp motor and retailing for $5,000.

BNZ When did Haines Hunter enter the market?

LIONEL SANDS Haines Hunter (NZ) Ltd was established in New Zealand in 1972. The business acquired the manufacturing rights to Haines Hunter in 1980 and purchased the Haines Hunter brand outright in 1984. From those early years in the 1980s, Haines Hunter was taken to another level with the introduction of now-iconic models such as the 1800S, SF535, V565L and SF700.

BNZ What were some of the iconic Haines Hunter models in those early years?

LIONEL SANDS I guess the model that catapulted the Haines Hunter brand in New Zealand was the V198 which we manufactured between 1974 and 1985.

The V198 came onto the market just as bigger horsepower motors became available from manufacturers in the US. The V198 was almost the only New Zealand boat on the market that could handle the 175hp Mercury Black Max and the 200hp Evinrude/Johnson outboards released in 1975.

Haines Hunter built 320 V198s, and while we stopped production in 1985, the model has retained an enviable reputation for its exceptional seakeeping and rough water performance.

The SF700 Mk1 with Lionel Sands at the helm

BNZ The V198 was originally a V19 wasn’t it? And it turned out to be quite an important model for the brand?

LIONEL SANDS Yes, that’s right. The V198 was originally a Haines Hunter V19 – they were manufactured under licence in New Zealand by Fibreglass Moulders. The V19 had a turnedout chine, so what they did was turn the boat upside down, recreated the topsides and a new deck, retained the underwater shape, and that became the V198 in New Zealand. It was essentially an exclusive model to New Zealand.

Over here on the New Zealand side of the ditch, it was just a brilliant boat. During the early period, the boats were available in various power configurations – sterndrive, single outboard and twin outboards.

When we took over the moulds in 1980, we upped the ante with upgrades to trim and upholstery. We only did a few with sterndrives; we focused on the outboard-powered models since bigger outboards were becoming more readily available, and it suited our production facility.

Such was the success of the V198 that it helped shape future Haines Hunter models.

What became apparent in the early 1980s was that people wanted bigger boats and more cockpit space. In about 1985, we thought that if people wanted a bigger boat, why don’t we build them one, so we took a 198 hull, added a metre to it, created a whole new set of topsides and new strakes and that morphed into the 700.

The 700 evolved into the flagship of today’s Haines Hunter range, the 725. The gene pool goes right back. You can trace the lineage of today’s Haines Hunter boats right back to the V198.

CEO Denis Kendall

BNZ The SF535 is arguably the most successful production trailer boat in New Zealand. What were its origins and what made it so successful?

LIONEL SANDS It certainly was a very successful model for Haines Hunter. Between 1984 and 2021, we built just over 3,000 units of the 535 – the model is now of course superseded by the SF545.

The 535 was developed from the original V17R and V17L. They were Australian designs manufactured under licence by Haines Hunter NZ. When we acquired the manufacturing rights for New Zealand, we set about redesigning the boat. We retained the underwater hull shape with the deep V and redeveloped the topsides and the deck to form the SF535.

We designed it with families in mind. It was a manageable boat; it didn’t require a large tow vehicle, and it performed well with moderate horsepower, which made it a very cost-effective package for Kiwi boaties.

It had a practical and roomy layout, a variety of seating configurations, plenty of storage options and a spacious cabin – from fishing and diving to family boating, it did it all. Family-orientated and affordable, it was well-suited to New Zealand conditions.

It also had the inherently soft-riding, 21o deep-V hull with exceptional rough water handling characteristics. It was the next step up from an entry-level boat but gave people confidence in boating – we’ve seen many of those boaties move up through the size range into bigger Haines Hunters.

Seacraft’s Ellerslie facility in 1948

BNZ How many Haines Hunter’s have left the factory over the years?

LIONEL SANDS There isn’t an official record of just how many Haines Hunter’s have been built in New Zealand, but the estimated figure is in excess of 6,500.

BNZ In the past year you’ve released a new model, the 635. Are you always developing and improving? What changes have you been making?

DENIS KENDALL Like any craftsmen, we’re always looking to see how we can improve our products. We are pioneers of fibreglass boats in New Zealand, so Haines Hunter boats have been evolving constantly. Among a raft of improvements and innovations, the new generation Haines Hunter designs now feature a moulded composite PVC foam floor that’s bonded to the hull, creating watertight chambers that deliver reserve buoyancy.

With each model that comes out of the factory, it’s always about all-round continuous innovation. Every builder should listen to its customers and dealers, so we’re always making refinements – from ergonomics at the helm, around the cockpit and throughout the boat to upholstery upgrades. Making what we think is already a great boat even better.

The company’s flagship 725 in SS guise.

If we look at the ergonomics of the helm station on the 635, for example, we want everything to be easy for the skipper to reach. We have provided more niceties such as cupholders, charger points for devices – evolving our product to match the way Kiwis want to go boating.

We’ve always been very proud of our seating configuration and the level of comfort our seats provide. Just recently, we’ve upgraded our seats with new vinyl, and we’ve upgraded the panels and bolsters to give even more comfort and support.

BNZ What does the future hold?

DENIS KENDALL Building more boats! As for much of the industry, sales during the Covid-19 pandemic have been very good for us. Our new model launched last year, the 635, has been well-received by our dealer network and Kiwi buyers.

The future? As always, we remain focussed on our dedication to continuous innovation and to refining our range – and to seeing more Kiwis getting out on the water in a Haines Hunter! BNZ