Boats V

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SS Victoria - Taupo's first Steamer

In the early 1870's Taupo as getting the first of its permanent European settlers. Encouraged by the end of the land wars and with the Armed Constabulary based in the area the settlers wanted new areas for grazing. Another development at this time was the beginning of tourism especially with the popularity of the thermal sights of Rotorua nearby.

In anticipation of this Mr JW Bell built and launched Taupo's first steamer in 1874. Referred to as the 'little steamer', this firts commercially operated boat on Lake Taupo proved to be an uneconomic venture.

'Victoria' was about the same length as the 'Tongariro', 50 ft long. But whereas Tongariro gave many years service, the SS Victoria's lasted only five years. Her captain. Mr Bell had her built in Taupo from kauri timber brought down from Auckland. There was a small cabin on her deck and she had a wood fired staem engine down below which powered an 18" single thread screw.

Victoria was launched in Taupo with a cake and champagne ceremony. She could carry up to 30passengers with a crew of six and would take up to three hours to make the 26 mile(40 km) trip to the Tokaanu stream. Once there the passengers were rowed to the village.

Using a flexible timetable the Victoria made a weekly round trip. She also handled wool clips from farms scattered around the lake.

The SS Victoria proved to be an uneconomic venture. She was ahead of her time and was too big for the work that she was expected to do. The expected number of passengers and volume of freight was not realised for this sort of boat at that time. Added to this, the trout fishing, which made Taupo an attractive destination had not started and farming was only marginal. She was also unstable in rough conditions making some trips unpleasant for travellers.

Eventually she was laid up only to sink at her anchor because of neglect. Then after being raised for an equally uneconomic life transporting woolclips she was replaced by the schooner Dauntless.

In 1887 with the growing interest in tourism and the creation of the Tongariro National Park, two more steamers were put on the lake. The smaller steamer 'Hinemoa' was owned and run by Captain A.O. Sproule d the 'Tauhara' by Dan Ferney.

By 1894 Dan Ferney had taken over the operation of both vessels and commercial boats were well established on the lake.


Everybody knew the Victory.  A glance through one of her visitors' books revealed names of New Zealanders who came from many walks of life, as well as overseas visitors.Lord and Lady Freyberg and their guests spent a couple of days on her in January 1948.
Every year for 21  years since 1930 a party  from the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union came up to Taupo for a fishing trip.  The 1951 party included such names as Winston McCarthy, T Morrison and L Brownlie.  The remarks column commented "Some party, every assistance from our old friend Captain Jack Taylor.  We will come back."  They caught 119 fish on that trip.
The Victory was built in Taupo.  She was designed by Jack Taylor and built by him and his family.  Jack Taylor was a boat builder by trade, which he learnt in Napier, working for his father for a while before branching out on his own.
The Victory was built in a shed on the other side of the harbour from town where the boatyard is now.  She was built by hand and launched in 1939. No power tools were used in her construction.
She has a kauri hull and the ribs are jarrah, while the frames and floor timbers are totara.
The first engine was a 20/40 Doman.  This was an unusual engine, it was an American petrol four- cylinder engine and generated 20hp at 500 revs and 40hp at 800 revs.  This engine was used until 1950. 
She started her commercial career in 1939 and continued through the war, classed as a semi-essential industry for recreational purposes taking army personnel out on day trips.  After the war she was run as a successful commercial tourist launch, making day and overnight trips, mainly for fishing.
She was also used to pick up hunters from Western Bay and other commercial work. The only alterations that have been made have been to the cabin top and the engine has been changed twice. 
In the early 1950s a Glennifer six-cylinder petrol engine was put in and this was changed later to a Morris diesel.  In 1955 she accompanied Margaret Sweeny, who was the first person to swim from Tokaanu to Taupo.
 In 1982 the Taylors sold her to her present owner Patrick Cox.  Victory has now been sold again and moved away from Lake Taupo.