Grandparents often leave a vibrant legacy in the memories of their offspring. Sometimes the memories are worth preserving and bringing back into the present in a fun way. Story and photos by Matt Vance.

In the middle of the last century New Zealand designer Richard Hartley and his team worked away quietly penning comfortable sea-kindly boats for a generation with a strong streak of do-it-yourself work ethic. The designs ranged from solid workboats to elegant yachts, from trailer-sailers to surf skis – and they were built in backyards, garages and behind fish and chip shops around the world.

One of these DIY builders was Hamilton businessman Jim Roberts. Back in 1975 he launched Mistral – his 22ft, Hartley Voyager. It took him a few years to build her – kauri frames and mahogany plywood held together with resorcinol glue – and he powered her with a 350 Chevy and Volvo 270T sternleg.
She was an instant hit with the family, taking them on adventures from the Coromandel to the central North Island lakes. And she gave three generations of the Roberts family a few lifetimes of memories.
Jim passed away in 2010 but the memories persisted – so much so that Jim’s grandson Morgan Roberts decided to put his mind to building a replica of Mistral.

“We already had Dad’s Pelin launch in the marina at Whangamata, but we needed a trailerable boat to get around. My memories are of the Hartley being a great all-round boat and, as no production boat was going to cut it, I decided to see if I could build another version of Mistral,” says Roberts.
Searching online led to the discovery that Hartley designs were alive and well in the age of the Internet. Plans were ordered for the Voyager and, like his grandfather, Morgan opted for the stretched 22-foot version, achieved with the addition of extra space between the kahikatea frames.

Between these frames, two layers of 6mm meranti ply were used as full panels on the bottom and sides, with the bow sections strip-planked to absorb all the curves and sheer in this area. She was rolled upright while her cabin and decks were built, before removing them to roll her again so that the hull could be glassed in 625-gram double-bias cloth and West System epoxy resin.
Glassed-in ply and foam longitudinal beams provide stiffness – as well as the structure for the engine mounts. Her fuel and water tanks were glassed into the hull structure and carry 200 litres of diesel and 100 litres of water respectively.

Power is supplied by a rebuilt, 200hp Nanni 4.390 diesel, which gets its power to the water via an Aquamatic Volvo 280 PT sterndrive. Auto Leisure and Marine in Hamilton customised the tandem Enduro trailer to suit the hull with full keel support rollers and a ComeUp electric winch system.
The entire build took six years part-time while Morgan and Maxine Roberts built a house on their property. Morgan’s father Clive, who had helped with building the original Mistral, put in many hours and the result is a testimony to skill, hardwork and the power of family. Fittingly, the new Voyager was named Mistral in honour of Jim.


On Board
Stepping aboard Mistral is a delight. A boatbuilder by profession, it’s easy to see Morgan’s craftsmanship – it enhances Hartley’s classic lines and clean layout. Mistral has the typical 60s indoor-outdoor flow with the aft end of her cabin open to allow a seamless transition between the open aft deck and the protection of the generous cabin.
The engine box provides easy access and a great place to sit or brace yourself. There are two side-saddle seats housing the batteries and a 20-litre Isotherm hotwater cylinder forward of this. There’s a full galley to port which contains ample storage with an oven, sink and cooktop arrangement. Below is generous storage in cupboards and drawers.

To starboard is an 85-litre Fridgetech unit, fitted beneath the helm seat. Appropriately, the dash has a 1960s look with mahogany trim and analogue gauges. But there is also plenty of modern technology – a Simrad chartplotter, Fusion stereo, CZone digital switching and trim controls.
Forward of the helm station is the enclosed head offering the comforts that make realistic overnighting possible. In the forepeak is a vee berth, with an insert to convert it to a generous double if required. That Mistral has all of this and full headroom in the main cabin – on a 22-foot boat – is remarkable.

On the water Mistral cuts quite a dash with her varnish trim and old-school styling. A purring inboard means her lines remain clean and motion through the water is more launch than a powerboat.
She cruises comfortably at around 20 knots and can muster 28 knots flat out. She took a leftover northeast swell off Whangamata in her stride with no pounding and her sterndrive and trim tabs kept her on her feet with ease.

A nostalgic contrast from modern fibreglass and alloy production boats, being aboard Mistral was a breath of fresh air. She comes from a time when sea keeping was king and blingy gadgets a distant second.
Most people want to be remembered in some way after they are gone, I can think of no better memorial than a nicely-built classic boat. I’m sure Jim would approve.