Sunday, 30 June 2013


Source: NZ Yachtsman 07 June 1913
It's difficult to believe, but the clipper-bowed, carvel built 40 footer pictured here started life as a 28 foot clinker-built whale boat.

Just as strange, the whaleboat was commissioned to be built in Tasmania and shipped to Wellington. It's not as if there was a shortage of such craft here at the time - even if there wasn't, one could easily be commissioned.

Anyhow, commissioned in Tasmania she was, and delivered to the owners in Wellington, Messrs MacDermott and Tarleton, in 1882 for private use.

Named Elaine, she was built of Huon pine, measured 28 feet LOA with a beam of 6 feet, 6 inches. She was rigged as a yawl, and had two centreboards. Her build including sails cost 80 Pounds, plus whatever the shipping rate from Tasmania was at the time. After such effort and expense, the partners found they didn't really enjoy the sport after all, and sold her to the well-known yachtsman and personality John Coutts.

Elaine ca. 1888. Source ATL Library
Upon purchasing Elaine, Coutts had her centreboards removed to be replaced by an external lead keel, decked over, a small counter added and converted to a cutter rig. Coutts was a founding member of the Port Nicholson Yacht Club and raced her in the second class fleet of that club. In 1889 he had her remodelled with a cut away forefoot and rerigged her. He relaunched her with the new name Carina.

NZ Yachtsman 06 Nov. 1915
In October 1893 she was up for sale until she broke her moorings at Thorndon and fetched up on the rocks at Kaiwharawhara. She was smashed up considerably below the waterline, was salvaged and floated back to Paul and Robert's yard at Clyde Quay upside down. There was now no question of being able to sell her, so Coutts decided to rebuild her completely remodelled. She remained at the yard for two years.

On board Carina: Seaspray 01 July 1948
Carina was rebuilt from the waterline down to the keel in carvel. Inspired by the 5 raters, Coutts also had the forefoot further cut away, totally remodelling her forward sections. She was opened up and her beam increased, she was extended 10 feet by a new counter stern and a clipper bow.

Several years later he had the topsides, last remnant of the original boat, replaced as they were shaking loose from their stressed fastenings.

And there you have it: a 28 foot whaleboat, dual centreboard, clinker built in Huon Pine becomes a 40 foot keel yacht, carvel built in NZ kauri - in three easy steps!

In 1902 Carina was put up for sale again by tender. There was a fair bit of competition in selling the larger boats at this time, and no satisfactory tender was forthcoming. Rather than see her go too cheaply, Coutts decided to break her up and sell her piece by piece.  In the end he realised 75 pounds on the boat, which was ten pounds more than he was offered for her intact.

Source: NZ Yachtsman 07 June 1913
Coutts was a founding member of the Port Nicholson Yacht Club. A Canadian by birth, he left home at 17 to travel, fetching up in New Zealand where he remained. He first worked as a tailor, and later became a public servant. I thought he may be an ancestor of Russell Coutts, but despite "two or three good chances and some narrow escapes", he never married.

He retained his accent, and his "Americanisms" were greatly appreciated by those who knew him. He was well-known for his Man of the World's laid back,  indulgent style (though not to fools), good humour in "knocking the corners off bunnies", and his somewhat salty vocabulary.

Coutts was the first to come to the waterfront to congratulate the the crew of the Taipare upon her safe return from the Marlborough Sounds linked to in the previous post.

His best mate and  crewman was Carlo Hebbend, who was just as popular in the club rooms. Coutts' most well-known quote was "Jam 'er to wind'ard, Carrr-lo", which became a bit of a catch-phrase around the fleet whenever a similar command was needed.

Below is an article from the Evening Post (18 November, 1895) describing the two-year period when Carina received her most significant alterations.

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