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Tainui

 

For many tourists staying at the Spa Hotel in the 1930s their first trip in an excursion boat might have been on the Tainui.
She was based in the Taupo boat harbour and was used mainly for day trips and taking tourists to the Western Bays for fishing excursions.
Guests would stay aboard the Tongariro, now a houseboat moored in the boat harbour, Western Bays, and would use the Tamati for excursions round the other bays while the Tainui would come back to Taupo.
She ran this shuttle service in the mid 1930s for three to four years until her untimely sinking.
The Tainui was 32 feet long (four feet longer than the Tamati).  The only other structural difference was that the Tainui had iron ribs, an unusual feature, whereas the Tamati had standard hardwood ribs. These iron ribs were spaced a foot apart and were one inch by 3/8 inch wide.Both Tainui and Tamati had kauri planked hulls painted white and had varnished pine cabins with portholes on the side and were rounded off up front.  The two boats were built just after the First World War in  Auckland by Bailey and Lowe.
The Tainui plied for hire through the 1920s with various owners before the Newdicks, owners of the Spa Hotel, bought her in 1934.  She was powered by a four-cylinder Stirling petrol engine which gave her a cruising speed of 12 knots, fast for a boat in those days.  She was driven from up front and her engine was also up forward.  The engine room was lined with galvanised iron which was a survey requirement in those days.  A trip to Western bays would use four gallons of petrol there and the same back.  Her tank carried 16 gallons.
In 1937 the Tainui was on one of her regular trips over to the Western Bays.  It was a fine day and she had gone round Rangatira Point and then headed to Waihaha.  Coming round the cliffs back towards Waihaha she caught fire when the timing chain slipped on the engine causing it to backfire.  This blew back setting the carburettor on fire.
She had a honeymoon couple and the skipper aboard at the time and managed to get close into the cliffs to a large rock about 150 yards from Waihaha.  The three were able to scramble on to this rock.  The boat by this time was burning fiercely and drifted away.  The fire was so hot that the glass filter bowls melted into blobs.  She burnt to the waterline and finally after an hour she sank.
The three spent the rest of the day and that night on the rock.  They were picked up the next day by the Tamati which went looking for them when they failed to arrive.
Tainui's wreck was still clearly visible after the war and her remains, burnt to the waterline, but with the iron ribs sticking up in two lines, lie about 20 metres down.
Tamati
For three years in the mid 1930s the Spa Hotel, which was then owned by the Newdick family, ran an extension of their tourist hotel business with trips to the Western Bays.   Tourists would be taken around to the boat harbour in the Western Bays on board Tainui where they would sleep aboard the old Tongariro which had been converted into a houseboat with sleeping quarters for about a dozen people.
For two or three days the guests would enjoy fishing and sightseeing in Western Bay using the Tamati as an excursion boat while the Tainui returned to Taupo.
The first trip on her would be quite an experience because she only had a one-cylinder engine and every time she fired everybody shook a bit as she went "pop-pop-pop".  Looking through the cabin room up front you could see the open crankshaft and the big end going round with the connecting rod going up and down.  She had a big heavy flywheel which didn't take much to keep going but was a very important part of these one-cylinder boats because you could only get one impulse per two revolutions and the weight of the flywheel would keep the engine turning.
Tamati was built about the time of World War I by Bailey and Lowe in Auckland.  She had an all- kauri planked hull with hardwood (probably jarrah) ribs.  Her cabin in her early days was made of white pine which was varnished.  She was 28ft long and her 7-9hp one-cylinder engine gave her a cruising speed of about seven knots.  Her hull was painted white.  She was driven from the forward end of the cabin in which there was an opening hatch above the wheel.
During the war she was tied up and seldom used.  After the war she was bought by the Butler family who used her as a private boat for many years.    Her cabin was raised and her engine replaced, firstly by a Stirling for a brief time, and then with a Gray marine.
In the late 1960s she was sold to a Wellington owner who now uses her on the Paremata Harbour. She has been altered again and looks a lot different to the time when she was well known to the Spa's guests in the 1930s.

 

Tauhara
A hundred years ago there were only two ways of travelling between Auckland and Wellington.
The first was transport by ship and the second was by coach over a long winding track that stretched from Auckland to Taupo and continued from Turangi to Wellington.
The railway wasn't open until 1912.  The connection between Taupo and Turangi was a regular steamboat service which was firstly run with the Tauhara and later the Tongariro.  It was a regular service that ran at least twice a week depending on the time of the year and carried passengers as well as freight of all kinds.
The Tauhara started its run about 1880.  She was a 45ft boat with a beam of 12ft and had two masts.  She was steam powered and did the trip between Taupo and Tokaanu in about three hours.  For twenty years she regularly did the trip, rarely breaking down.  Because she was underpowered her sailing from Taupo was sometimes delayed if strong souwesters were blowing.
The Tauhara was built and launched at Waihi at the southern end of the lake.
There was nothing ostentatious about the Tauhara.  She was a counterstern boat and had a triple-skinned kauri hull.  The unusual feature about this hull was that it had no ribs.  This hull was built of 7/16 in - in planks which were crisscrossed against each other so that the inner layers were at 90 to each other and 45 to the outer layer at midships.  These angles would taper off to the shape of the boat.  It was a skilled job building a boat of this type.
The first step would be to build the keel with the stern and transom attached.  Then the framing would be put in place as on the plans.  The stringers would now be fastened to the framing after which the first diagonal planking would be fastened to the stringers at 45 to the decking.  Fastening would be done with copper nails.  The next planking would be fastened at 90 to this and so the final layer would be fastened parallel to the decking.  The framing would then be taken out, and the engine and floor bearers fixed so that they were supported on the stringers.
All the timber for her would be cut to 6-inch planking widths and dressed in Auckland before being brought down to Taupo by bullock wagon.  Bailey and Lowe, who were the recognised boat builders then, drew up the plans and built her.  It would have taken six men three months to build her.
After the Tongariro took over in 1901 she ran mainly as a sightseeing boat but because of lack of maintenance she sank in the boat harbour fifty years ago. 
 

RMS Tongariro

The RMS Tongariro was launched in 1901.  She was built in Taupo by the well known Auckland boat builders, Bailey and Lowe, who brought in heart kauri from Putaruru  rail station by bullock wagon.
RMS Tongariro was a two masted schooner, 55ft long with a beam of 11ft 6in.  She weighed just over 19 tons and was steam powered.  Her skipper was a well known personality Tom "Darby" Ryan.  The Tongariro provided a faithful and regular service for passengers, mail and other goods between Taupo and Tokaanu for 25 years until the road was put through in 1924.
She normally took two and a half hours to do the 41km trip which involved all kinds of weather conditions.  The big jetty at Tokaanu, which is still there, was built for her because of the shallow water in the Tokaanu area.
She did three weekly trips in the summer and two in the winter, earning the reputation of always being on time.  She had carrier pigeons on board which were released when she was half way through her trip and the note attached to these birds would give advance notice to the hoteliers of how many passengers there were on board and of those how many required meals and accommodation.
Tongariro also did fishing expeditions into Western Bay dropping off parties with their camping gear and picking them up a few days later.
After the road was opened to Tokaanu, the grand old lady was purchased by Mr Newdick, the licensee of the Spa Hotel, for use by his guests.  She was moored in the Boat Harbour, Kawakawa,  in Western Bay as a floating hotel . It costs guests 10 a week to stay aboard.  They were ferried over to her aboard the Tainui.  She was now different from her days as a steamer and looked more like a houseboat with apartments for sleeping accommodation built on to her deck.  Below the hold had been turned into a galley where guests had their meals.  All the cooking was done on a woodburner fire on a large flat rock beside where she was moored.  Evidence of the accommodation is still visible in the derelict hull.
In the early 1940s she was towed back to Taupo.  It had been planned to have her sitting up on a plot of land near Acacia Bay and to use her again for accommodation.  These arrangements did not eventuate and she now rests on Bob Fitzsimmon's property on the west side of Tapuaeharuru Bay.