Rebuilding Pastime –  PASTIME PART 3

At The Boatshed, Craig Wild’s yard at Tamahere, near Hamilton, the iconic Lyttelton cutter Pastime is well on the way to a rebuild to her original (1889) configuration. By Harold Kidd.

In the June issue I left plucky Pastime at the end of 1894, wilting under a serious challenge from Mascotte, James Sinclair’s brilliant new 53ft cutter. There are four main threads to the story; the yacht’s amazing competition history and her survival; the connections of the present owners to her; the manner in which she is being restored; and finally, the deep roots Craig Wild has into the fabric of New Zealand’s yachting history.

To continue Pastime’s competition history, the 1895 Lyttelton Regatta resulted in another win for Mascotte with Collins’ first Kia Ora second and R.J. Scott’s Zephyr third. Pastime retired with broken gaff jaws. Mascotte and Pastime took the long trip north again on January 14th 1895 where they met the new Robert Logan crack Waitangi sailed by Robert Logan Sr in the New Zealand Championship race at the Wellington Regatta.

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Pastime in 1912.

Malcolm Miller caught a steamer to Wellington and sailed Pastime in the race. Waitangi won, with Mascotte second, Pastime third and Maritana fourth. Pastime was the smallest yacht by some margin. In a handicap race a few days later Pastime went to the assistance of a crewman overboard from Mascotte. The race was resailed and Pastime won.

The second New Zealand Championship race was held in conjunction with the Lyttelton Regatta in January 1896. It was a dramatic race, the highwater mark of South Island yachting contests of the period. There was big prize money. Waitangi sailed down from Wellington for the event and led all the way. But even the mighty Waitangi could not make up for nippy little Zephyr’s handicap and skilful sailing by R.J. Scott.

On time, Zephyr was first by a whisker, Waitangi was second, Pastime third and Mascotte a bad fourth. Sinclair had taken two tons of ballast out of Mascotte and shortened her rig to lower her rating and increase her time allowance on handicap, but the alterations had ruined her performance. Again, at the Akaroa Regatta in December it was Pastime 1, Zephyr 2 and Mascotte 3.

In 1897 Pastime won the Lyttelton Regatta, came second in the Wellington Regatta to Waitangi and won the Akaroa Regatta. Sinclair did not race Mascotte this year. In 1898 Pastime again won the Lyttelton Regatta, Onawe was second and Mascotte a bad third. Sinclair had installed an experimental rig in Mascotte, a strange lugsail on sheerlegs, much like his successful smaller yacht Bettina, but it failed to propel the hefty yacht adequately. Pastime again won the Akaroa Regatta with Collins’ new, R.J. Scott-designed, Kia Ora second.

In 1899 interest in yachting in Canterbury appeared to be slowing down. At the Lyttelton Regatta the C&W Bailey 2½ rater Thelma from Dunedin won from Pastime, Kia Ora was third and Mascotte fourth, a spent force, it seemed. Pastime took part in most Lyttelton Regattas from 1900 and several Akaroa Regattas too, although interest was falling there as well.

Mascotte, 1898

Malcolm Miller died in 1909. His son Malcolm James (Jimmy) Miller inherited the Miller boatbuilding business and Pastime. Jimmy reduced Pastime’s rig and installed an auxiliary. Pastime then led an active life as a family cruiser around Banks Peninsula. Jimmy sold the Miller boatbuilding business to his brother John in 1913. When John died in 1920, control of the business passed to John’s son Alex, who had lost a leg in WW1. Alex bought Pastime from his Jimmy in 1934, and despite his prosthetic leg, set about putting her back in her racing rig and competing vigorously, making Pastime scratch Lyttelton boat very quickly.

In 1955, unable to race her anymore, Alex Miller reduced Pastime’s rig for cruising. In 1963, as he could not persuade his family to take her on, he sold her to publisher Albion Wright, owner of the Pegasus Press, an ex-Navy man, and Frank Adams.

Pastime’s new owners kept her racing for another 20 years. They even set out on a circumnavigation of New Zealand in 1965 but called it off at Gisborne, most sensibly. In 1976 Albion and his then partner in the yacht offered her to the Historic Places Trust but, after ruminating about it for a couple of years, the Trust declined. When Albion died in 1983, his then partners in the boat, Dennis Donovan and Peter Beecroft, tried to get public funding but sold to Graeme and Ruth Kendall in 1985. Ruth did a huge amount of research which is proving of great benefit in the rebuild.

Albion Wright

In 1989 Pastime was sold again, to Arthur McKee as the centre-piece of his tavern, the Pegasus Arms in Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, where she was installed in a pool. There she was sabotaged and sunk. In 1995 members of the Banks Peninsula Cruising Club formed a community organisation to care for her, the Pastime Trust. The Trust placed her with renowned Lyttelton boatbuilders Stark Bros Ltd for dry storage and occasional work as funds became available.

Twenty-two years later, Pastime was still stable and dry and Starks had done some good work on her. But, clearly, the ownership model was not working to get her in the water anytime soon. Along came John Erkkila and Chris Kendrick, both comfortably successful businessmen, and both direct descendants of Malcolm Miller, both brought up in the magic family heritage of Pastime. John and Chris acquired Pastime from the Pastime Trust and paid the bills at Starks. They have formed a new trust for her and are personally funding her remedial work, well aware that the expense will never remotely be recoverable.

John Erkkila and Craig Wild have had an association since 1993 when John commissioned Craig to fit out his 32ft Genesis Crazy Diamond. Subsequently Craig built John two Ron Given 18m catamaran motor sailers, Te Okupu and Te Ngakau a Kupe. Te Okupu was originally in charter but she’s now in Auckland’s Viaduct as John and his wife Christine’s personal cruiser. Te Ngakau a Kupe is in Nouméa.

The brief for Craig’s work on Pastime is simple. Craig’s, John’s and Chris’ mindset is conservation, not restoration. Since she is so incredibly original, for example, the spars appear to go back to the early 1890s, every effort is made to keep original parts, no matter what it takes to repair or reconstitute them.

Craig goes to great lengths to retain as many tired and battered parts in her fabric as humanly possible, making them 100% functional, and uses traditional boatbuilding techniques and materials in the relatively few instances where replicas are required. They have collected a mass of photographic material from family and public sources and carefully analysed each image to put a date on it and put it into the context of Pastime’s present state.

Craig and John.

Ryan, Craig’s eldest son, frequently joins his father working on Pastime. Ryan served his time with Craig. Craig served his time with his father, Robert Wild, who served his time with his uncle, Colin Wild of Stanley Bay, alongside such luminaries as John and Bob Salthouse and Chris Robertson. Colin Wild, in turn, served his time with Walter Bailey and Bill Lowe who had served their time with Charles Bailey Sr who had served his time with George Beddoes. That’s going back to the 1860s in a straight line of transferred skills and craftsmanship.

John and Chris’ plan is to have Pastime ready to launch on the Waitemata at the time of the America’s Cup races in March 2021 and meet up once again with Waitangi after over a century. Pastime is well on track for that. Boating NZ will be updating progress from time to time on this magnificent venture.

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