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Sir Francis


Sir Francis has been owned by the same family for nearly fifty years now.  T B Drake bought her in Napier in 1937 and, like another boat owned by the Drake family in Taupo, she became redundant in Napier after the great earthquake raised the inner harbour where the airport is now.
The Drakes had an open 12ft boat at the time but in 1937 T B Drake sold her, cashed in his son Nevill's life insurance and used the money to buy Sir Francis.  She was called the Aloha then and had been called Fairy before that.
It is not known when Sir Francis was built but the family thinks it was just before the First World War.  Except for the engine she is an all-original outfit with the original hull, mast and the original lead-sheathed wiring up the back of the mast.
The little cabin on her was raised by Tasman Drake as she had been a flush decked launch.  He cut a rectangle out of the deck, raised it 18 inches, installed a cabin front and sides and thus made a cabin.  Sir Francis has a 1927 marine petrol engine which was put in as a new engine then and has been overhauled twice, but hasn't been rebored yet.  It has the original pistons and cylinders.  It is a crank-start engine - there is no self starter, and it is believed that she is the only crank-start launch left on the lake.  Her auxiliary engine is a 1928 Johnson outboard.
Sir Francis cost 70 in 1937.  She used to live in Taupo in a boat shed which was removed twenty years ago.
Sir Francis is now outside, alongside Romance and East Wind, having found a permanent home in the calm of Taupo's boat harbour.


For many people the restoration of an old boat is a hobby that they can get a lot of pleasure out of.

Tom Wilson is one such person. Two years ago on the recommendation of the son of a previous owner he bought an old kauri boat that was lying under a tree. It hadn't had a lot of done to it over the years and for Tom thankfully this included the boat having no major structural alterations. It had been used for fishing and apart from having been re-ribbed was in need of renovation.

Snipe spent all its life in Coromandel before Tom Wilson, a local carpenter, brought her to Taupo. It was built in Auckland in the mid 1930's  by the McLarens. The James family owned her for many years before selling her to another person in the Coromandel. Originally her name was Snipe but she was used for line fishing for many years ans also had a change of name to Cindy.

Tom wanted to restore an old boat. Having had some experience of boating on Lake Taupo including many years in his youth fishing with friends  on a similar boat, the Dolphin in Tokaanu, he decided to buy her. He bought her back to Taupo on a trailer and painstakingly  restored her over a six month period. Hours & hours were spent on the restoration and this included cleaning the hull, scraping the paint off, recanvassing the deck, resetting the windows, and adjusting the engine. Tom came across a number of strange features about the Snipe. The engine was bolted down with two inch coach screws and had no thrust bearing so that the prop thrust straight onto the engine. As soon as you gave it some gas the engine just tipped up. This was bolted down and a bearing put in. The front windows were 5/8inch thick glass. These were the original windows as were the 4 portholes. Unusually thick they have naturally survived 50 years but were difficult to reset & reseal.

Only one beam was rotten and had to be replaced in the kauri hull. The canvas was original and had to be replaced. The cabin & the hull is all heart kauri and an inch thick. The only holes in the timber were the nail holes. She is 21 ft long and has a beam of 7'7''.

Snipe is powered by a 22 HP aircooled Petta engine. This is not the original engine but runs well. She is very economical and will run for a day on a "beer bottle" of diesel. The engine is noisy but chugs along well. She is very good in all waters except when side on in heavy seas when she will roll a little.

Snipe is a lucky boat. She is based at Kinloch. Tom decided to rename her back to Snipe when he bought her to so as to "bring the luck back on board." She is only for the family's use and on many an evening she is loaded up with supplies and a few beers and is taken out and anchored up in a bay. On the way a fish might be caught. You can't do anything in a hurry on Snipe. It is a basic boat and so you appreciate the lake and the boat as you potter slowly in and out of Kinloch and around the bays.


In the 1970's a boat was salvaged out of the mud in Holland. There was nothing unusual about this old pleasure punt except that the boat was 100 years old, was built of concrete & as sound as the day it was built. During World War 2 many of the liberty ships were also built of concrete and so despite the lack of good cement until recent times concrete boats have been around for some time.

The first concrete boat on Lake Taupo came here in 1979. It was then owne dby Dick Barron who for many years was connected with the New Zealand Speedboat Association and himself owned & ran seven powerboats from the 1950's through to the 1970's. In 1967 he went with the New Zealand  Speedboat Association taem which was entered in the world speedboat championships held in conjunction with an Expo in Canada. They won the Canadian Trophy which was donated by the Canadian Government and was awarded to New Zealand for making the best contribution to sport in Expo year.

Dick has owned boat all his life. He started to come to Taupo in the mid-1960's when he brought the Waimea and regularly took it over to the Western Bays for weekends & holidays. In 1977 he went up to Whangarei to look at a concrete boat that was advertised for sale. He didn't buy but liked the idea ans went & saw Ed Sayers who built concrete boats. He got a quote off him and as it favourable decided to go ahead & get the hull built.

The biggest problem was to get this hull back to Waverly where Dick lived as he decided to do the interior himself. It couldn't be taken by rail because it was too wide for one tunnel on the main trunk line so a friend from Patea went up & brought it back by truck. Getting the hull off the truck proved to be interesting with 2 fortlifts having to be used. The first forklift just couldn't do the job & it was nearly damaged.

Dick chose a concrete hull because it was competitive in price and the lack of maintenance needed on the hull was also an appealing feature. The hull is one inch thick and is concrete layered on a steel mesh. Concrete hulls compare favourably in weight with with wooden hulls for boats over 30ft long but for shorter boats wood hulls are lighter. They ahve a great advantage over wooden hulls with less maintenance required and they keep fairly dry inside. Dick put in carpet tiles to stop condensation as they do sweat a little.

Most people build boats from plans but Dick decided to plan his own interior. This he has done using tanalised white pine. This is used for all the cabin framing. There are two large cabins with galley with a galley & double bunk in one and a toilet, basin & twin bunks up forward. She also has a cockpit.

Stealaway is driven from the mid section with the driver sitting in a comfortable swivel seat. She is 30ft long with a beam of 10ft. She has a cruising speed of 7-8 knots and is powered by a 254 cu Fordson Diesel through a two-one Borg Warner box. A 25 HP Johson is used for trolling.

Stealaway is moored in the boat harbour. She is still owned by the Barrons. They have found her to be a good boat and regularly go for trips out on the lake.

Stephanie May


One of the more unusual looking charter boats on Lake Taupo was the Stephanie May.  She was built by Peter Haszard and Buster Pain over an eighteen-month period in the back yard of their Taupo home and was launched in October, 1982.
She is a boat with a different look about her and could be described as a compromise between a fishing boat and a yacht.  In appearance Stephanie May resembles the old Norwegian type of fishing boat but was designed by a Californian, Bruce Roberts, who designs ma could be ny craft for amateur builders.
Peter and Buster built her from a set of plans, adding in a few modifications of their own, and some others to meet survey requirements.  An example of this is that the original plans allowed for portholes to be on the side but the survey requirements would not allow this and so the portholes were put into the deck.  She could be run under sail or by motor.  There were four sails with a total area of 946 sq ft.  She was powered by a six-cylinder 120hp Ford engine and had a maximum speed of 10-12 knots and a cruising speed of 8-9 knots.
The hull was built of 5mm steel plate which made her very stable and easy to handle, especially in high winds.  She was heavier than the original designer planned mainly due to the survey requirements.
 Peter and Buster operated a charter business with her on the lake for 18 months and then took her to Tauranga.  They were cruising in the Pacific Islands for a while but are now in the Bay of Islands.
Sunbeam was one of the first boats on the lake with radio communication.  By the end of the late 1930s commercial tourist fishing in the Taupo area had developed such a well-known reputation that large boats were being built to cater for the increasing number of tourists.  One of these boats was Sunbeam.  36ft long, she was a narrow-gutted boat - one typical of the era, and had a beam of 8ft 6in.  She was impressive looking and was considered the best boat on the lake at the time.
Sunbeam was built by Sam Ford in 1936 for Sid Blake who wanted to use her to ply for hire on the lake.  She was a sedan type of boat of standard design with an all kauri planked hull and a kauri cabin.  Originally she was powered by a Scripps engine but when Donald Hunt bought her from Sid Blake in 1939 he put in a six-cylinder Gray petrol engine, plus trolling motor.
Her next owner was Jack Edlin, who ran her briefly during the war before selling her to Jim Storey.  Jim took her down to Tokaanu and for a number of years after the war up to 1952 plied for hire in her from there.  Most of the guests were fly-fishermen who wanted to fish over in Western Bay.  At this time there was many overseas as well as New Zealand tourists.
During, and just after the war, many American servicemen on leave would come to Taupo fly- fishing.  As well there was a large number of Englishmen, especially retired army officers, on fishing holidays.  They would often bring their own gear and came back regularly.
A typical fishing trip would be a party of four who would book Sunbeam for a week of fishing in Western Bay.  It cost them 4 per day, they slept and had their own meals on board.  She could sleep four in a cabin while two others slept forward.   These fishermen would get up at 5am, go fly-fishing, rest during the day, and fish again later up to 11pm.
There were two small Primus stoves on board for cooking.  Her interior was very nice with those in the cabin sleeping head to foot on the straight seats which were on either side.
Her engine room was up forward and she was driven from the front of the cabin, although she did have a tiller at the back.  She was fast with a top speed of 12 knots.  Sunbeam could also be used for trolling, using one of the engines.  Trolling for fish wasn't as predominant then as it is today.  Many fishermen then preferred fly-fishing.
Another necessary feature of boats in those days was the boxed-in engine with galvanised-iron being used right around the interior of the engine room.
An interesting feature was that she had radio communication.  The Storeys ran the first radio station in Tokaanu using surplus army ZC1s.  Mrs Storey used to relay messages from Western Bay to Taupo because Taupo's radio station, which was at the post office, could not receive the signal from the boats in Western Bay.  These ZC1s were run from batteries and were reliable and good radios.
When Jim Storey moved to Taupo in 1952 he sold Sunbeam and another boat he owned, the Lady Luck, to Bruce Proctor who owned the Braxmere Fishing Lodge at Waihi.
Sunbeam later went to Tauranga and it is believed she is now in Whitianga.