The Classic Yacht Waitangi was launched on 13th December 1894. She is a gaff rigged cutter built using a frameless 3 directional kauri timber construction. This construction method produced lighter and stronger vessels than those of other builders of the time. Waitangi was the last major yacht built by Robert Logan Snr. Logan founded the dynasty that for three generations was at the forefront of yacht design and building in New Zealand. In a letter to Mr J Jamieson dated 21st April 1894 Robert Logan offered to build to Jamieson's plan and sail Waitangi to Wellington for the sum of 500 pounds. Payment to be a trade of Jamieson's old yacht "Xarifa" and 300 pounds cash. Delivery date to be 15th January 1895. Waitangi was duly built, painted black and launched on 13th December 1894 and sailed to Wellington in time for the regatta.
Her time in Wellington: Waitangi went on to win the New Zealand First Class Championship at the Wellington Anniversary Regatta on her debut outing on 21st January 1895. She was skippered by Robert Logan in this regatta for the Wellington syndicate of owners and collected 100 pounds prize money. She continued to dominate the Wellington yacht-racing scene for the following decade.
On his 1896 visit the Earl of Glasgow sailed on Waitangi for the Port Nicholson Yacht Club picnic. The club obtained the Admiralty Warrant to fly the Blue Ensign from this visit and became the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club.
Wellington owner John McLean converted Waitangi to a cruising ketch in 1908 and fitted an auxiliary 15hp engine. Norman Gibbs purchased her in 1911 and converted her back to a cutter configuration and subsequently sold a share to H S C Boulcott. A syndicate comprising Aubrey Lancaster, Albert (Tal) Otto Gray, M Rowle and E Proud purchased Waitangi in February 1913 and converted her to the original big cutter rig in 1915. During the World War I years Waitangi deteriorated. On 4th October 1916 Tal Gray died in France as a result of war injuries. Tal died without leaving a will. In May 1918, the public trustee took over administeration of his estate. His only listed assets were life insurance and, according to the probate records at National Archives, a ½ share in the yacht Waitangi, worth at the time £100. Waitangi was overhauled to a yawl configuration and painted white before being sold to an Auckland syndicate.
Her time in Auckland: Waitangi left Wellington on 27th November 1920 and arrived in Auckland on 4th December 1920, where she was given a speedy overhaul by Bailey and Lowe and restored to full racing condition over the following year by her new syndicate of owners; Tom Alexander, Neil Macky, John Frater, J B Johnston, and K Rutherford. She was issued the sail number 13 under the Kaiser War numbering system. Within a year she was renumbered under the the alpha numeric system to A6 which she still carries today. An engine was fitted in 1923. Waitangi spent the next 20 years racing and cruising north over the summer months. During the war years Waitangi was not launched for the 39-40 season and stayed on the hard until the end of 1945.
A cup held by Gillie Kennerley (nee Frater) is inscripted "to the dry ship Waitangi from the Wellesley Club 1925" This cup remains a mystery given that the Wellesley Club was a Wellington based gentlemens club and Waitangi was based in Auckland at that time.
The members of the Auckland Syndicate varied constantly over the years and she was privileged to carry five RNZYS Commodores flags: J B Johnston 1920 to 1922, Alex Burt 1922 to 1924, John Frater 1926 to 1928, James Frater 1932 to 1934 and C S Tewsley 1944 to 1946.
On to Lyttleton
In 1946 Waitangi was sold by the remaining owners John Frater and C Tewsley to Mrs K E Clarke and J R C Kilian of Lyttleton. Before leaving Auckland for Lyttleton she was returned to ketch rig. The main boom was used for the main mast, the spinnaker boom became the main boom. The mizzen mast was placed in the cockpit just forward of the tiller. After a summer cruise in Auckland she was sailed to Lyttleton arriving in March 1947.
And back to Auckland
By March 1948 Waitangi was for sale again (for 1500 pound) due to her owner becoming permanently disabled. Through a short term ownership by Wilkie Wilkinson a broker of yachts at the time, she was available for short term charter in the Hauraki gulf and eventually sold to Mr E B Chapman and family in late 1948. Chapman and his Australian wife and 5 year old son lived on board in Whangarei prior to moving her to Auckland for a refit for blue water cruising.
Off to Australia with a short return trip to NZ: In 1949 Waitangi left New Zealand for what was planned to be a world cruise by the Chapman family. A young 23 year old Peter Oldham was invited to skipper the boat on the first leg to Sydney. (Refer extract from an interview with Peter held in November 2012) After a roll over in the mid Tasman Sea the Chapmans changed their mind about a world cruise and sold the boat soon after their arrival in Sydney.
Waitangi had a series of owners in Australia. In 1950 she was renamed Seven Seas. In 1952 W H Kuhl, the first general manager of Lufthanser in Australia, bought Waitangi. He renamed her Tahi Waitangi (first Waitangi) due to another Waitangi having already been registered in the British Ships Registry. He replaced all electrical fittings with more traditional petrol lights. At this time she had 8 berths. In 1955 he had to sell her on due to the financial strain that her upkeep put on him. After selling her he visited Tai Waitangi (his 1st love) every year on his return to Sydney for many years. She was sold to two young enthusiasts who quickly realised they also could not afford her upkeep.
Waitangi was purchased around 1960 by Sea Captain Percy London, a 78 year old New Zealander who held qualifications in steam and sail. The unsightly structure nicknamed "the tram shed" was added to provide more comfort. He was more interested in motoring than sailing on the journey to NZ and loaded Waitangi with several 44 gallon drums of fuel (that destroyed her deck beams) before setting off on a return voyage to NZ around 1960. His crew included John (Jay) Booth and Jon Smith, who was on his first sailing experience and later skippered another yacht around the world. Jon Smith's daily log captures some of the adventure. The journey took three weeks each way due to atrocious weather, with the remainder of the 3 months away spent cruising the coast of NZ. On the return sailing to Australia, Waitangi was "lost at sea" some 60 miles east of Sydney in a huge storm, then located by Sabre jet and towed into Newcastle due to lack of fuel.
Later owners Denis and Jann Pilkington had the interior fitted out in the fashionable material of the day - laminex! The yacht was used for tourist cruises on Pittwater Harbour for some years, including as a floating hearse taking her passengers for their final sail. During a visit by Denis and Jann to Waitangi in Auckland in December 2016, Denis fondly recalls a journey from Melbourne to Sydney with Graham Anderson and some of the syndicate owners following her relaunch celebration in 1994. Denis described "Weather conditions were appalling. We had a 4-1 block and tackle on the helm and she griped over the tops of the waves and drove through the following waves, green water a metre deep tearing down the deck. Down below every thing was quiet and serene – NZ Kauri must have magic properties".
Restoration to original condition: In 1986 a group of Melbourne enthusiasts developed a rescue plan for her restoration. At that point she was still ketch rigged.The syndicate signed on bosun Graham Geary to lead the restoration team and shipwrights John Johnson and Kevin Bach together with two assistants were taken on to commence the restoration in 1990. Many other specialist engineers, sailmakers, and sparmakers were taken on at various stages of the restoration. Syndicate member Doug Shields spent considerable time researching Waitangi's history and several trips were made to New Zealand to source information. No plans were available however and most of the information for the restoration came from old photographs, library archives and interviews with past sailors on the vessel. The restoration was faithfully completed as closely as possible back to her original style and condition. Waitangi was totally stripped inside and out and the deck, bulwarks and rudder removed leaving a bare shell with just the stringers and lead on the bottom. The timbers in the boat were very wet and left for 8 weeks to dry out. The timbers had no rot at all, not even where the garboard seam and lead joins the boat.
Starting at the bow the boat was progressively refastened, each roving was ground off, each nail was replaced with one of a larger gauge and the roving replaced. More then 3000 nails and rovings and 1500 screws were used. The deck was completely reconstructed with decking cut from 100 year old kauri timber which came from roof beams of the demolished Wanganui NZ railway station. The interior work was completed in mahogany and painted in white lacquer. The topsides were returned to her original iconic black livery. Colin Anderson of Hood sails was responsible for the rigging and sails. Col built the sails using a cream toned cloth developed overseas using a mixture of old and new techniques called Hood Irish Classic Dacron. Sail fittings such as the press rings in the sail corners were made from cast bronze, and the cloth was cut and sewn with narrow panels to create a traditional look. These sails are still in use on the boat in 2013, some 19 years after manufacture.
Waitangi was relaunched after this full restoration on her 100 year anniversary on 13th December 1994.
And home to New Zealand: In the year 2000 the Melbourne syndicate took Waitangi on a return trip to NZ, this time as deck cargo, to join in the festivities of the Americas cup defence in Auckland. It was this journey that sparked a strong interest in the boat by several New Zealanders including Bruce Tantrum who eventually inspired the purchase and permanent return of the boat to New Zealand.
The yacht remained as a "working museum" in Melbourne until late 2002 when the syndicate members who had taken on the restoration of another historic yacht "Sayonara" decided to put Waitangi up for sale. John Street on behalf of the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust, negotiated and funded the aquisition and Waitangi was returned to Auckland.
Waitangi remains an active museum piece on permanent display at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum in Auckland and regularly races in the Classic Yacht Assocaition of New Zealand regattas. She is of considerable cultural heritage significance on a national and international level.
Waitangi is a protected New Zealand antique under the Protected Objects Act 1975.
Waitangi is a British registered ship.
2013 maintenance project: Waitangi is generally maintained and kept in racing trim by the team of volunteers who sail her. In april 2013 a major maintenance programme was carried out to ensure she is preserved as a key part of New Zealands history for decades to come.
The maintenance programme was strongly supported by the Lion Foundation with a donation of $90,000. Crew and skippers also contributed considerable time and energy toward the project. The work required included removing the rig, lifting and transporting hull to the boat builders yard, removing the fibreglass skin from the hull, effecting the repairs, including replacing some external timbers on the starboard bow, refastening timbers and hood ends, adding diagonal spears down to the keelson in the bow, replacing bowsprit, re-fibreglassing and painting hull, anti-fouling, relaunching and rerigging. Work also included sanding the oil blackened deck back to expose the laid kauri deck and reseal with thinned sealer to ensure good traction when walking around deck. The brightwork, caprail, mast and spars were all stripped back to bare timber and revarnished with Altex Coatings Ltd new high UV and impact resistant varnish. The cabin sole and fiddle work around the galley were all revarnished. The engine was removed and serviced, electrics tidied up, stern tube replaced and hydraulic drive gear box soda- blasted and recoated.
The project took 4 months from February 2013 with splash day Monday 24th June at Pier 21 Auckland.
Auckland Council kindly loaned space in the Lysaght building in Packenham Street West, Wynyard Quarter where standing rigging maintenance, and stripping and revarnishing of the Mast and Spars was carried out by volunteers.
The final project to complete the maintenance programme is to replace all 47 of the blocks on board at a cost of $12,100. The blocks have been beautifully crafted by Paul Leppington and his small team at Ariel Rigging. Funds have kindly been donated for these by the New Zealand Community Trust and Auckland Council Environmental Initiatives Fund. Rigging time was donated by crew members who installed the new blocks.
2015 repairs: Waitangi sustained damage to her starboard aft topsides when a small steel work barge became wedged between the boat and the mooring pole. She required a full topsides repaint to be able to match the paint work. Gloss Boats completed the work in a plastic tent at Pier 21 using Altex Yacht and Boat Paint products. The crew took the opportunity to complete the antifouling using products kindly donated by our major sponsor Altex Yacht and Boat Paints.
MAD Marines: For the past 4 years the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust has supported the Auckland Council and Department of Conservation initiative MAD Marines. This year 15 students and DOC and Council representatives took part in learning to hoist and set sail on Waitangi and sailed to Motuihe Island. The students went ashore and planted cabbage trees as part of the Motuihe Trust reforestation programme. Alan Good joined in the support and brought along his 1912 Logan 33 to provide a classic launch experience and help ferry the students ashore. For more information on MAD Marines visit the DOC website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/training-and-teaching/education-projects-and-programmes/make-a-difference-mad-marine/
MAD Marines event photos: http://www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz/gallery.htm?gallery_id=66
To contribute to ongoing restoration projects through financial or time/skill donations refer to the "friends of CYCT" link on this website. http://www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz/friends.htm
Photos from 2013 maintenance programme: http://www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz/gallery.htm?gallery_id=51
Photo gallery: http://www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz/photos.htm
Historical photos: http://www.classicyachtcharitabletrust.org.nz/gallery.htm?gallery_id=8
Historical Article: Sea Spray 1 June 1946
Historical article Dominion 8th December 1920 voyage to Auckland http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=DOM19201208.2.47