Friday 25 April 2014

Archie Scott

Scott on board Psyche in Sydney, 1926
Nobody has heard of Archibald Charles Scott. It's rather strange really, as a sailor he was been associated with some great vessels and passages (as crewman and navigator on board Waitangi, Restless and Psyche). He was also a successful (and prize winning) designer, with some well-known boats to his name, many of which survive today (Maranui, Ocean Maid). He also designed many a rig conversion for well-known vessels, including Ailsa, Oyster, Ariki, Kotiri and Wylo.

Scott was a plumber by trade, his day job was at the Evans Bay Patent slip. He was also rather deaf.Archie joined the Te Aro sailing club around 1910, racing centreboarders out of Clyde Quay. He became a member of the Port Nicholson Yacht club when the clubs, along with the Te Ruru Yacht Club, merged in 1915.

Ailsa with her bermuda rig
Along with Herbert ("Punch") Jordan, he purchased the Le-Huquet designed Galatea in 1917. Galatea had just had the rake of her rudder adjusted, and became a much easier handled and better pointed to weather as a result. Scott and Jordan had some success with her.

They obviously liked the seaworthiness and power of the Le Huquet designs,and bought the larger Ailsa, in 1919 from the Hamill brothers, recently returned from active service. Like so many who spent years at war, the Hamills don't appear to have taken an interest in sport after their return.

For the 1920 season they converted Ailsa's rig to bermudan. It wasn't a success, and the following season they changed her again, to a high
Ailsa with her high peaked gaff
peaked gaff (no room for a topsail). From that time, she was a very successful racer, competing in both the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club and the Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boating  Club.

Their partnership in the boat lasted until 1936.

Ailsa is still owned locally, rigged as a yawl in the Marlborough Sounds.

Scott's voyages

In December 1920 Scott made his first long cruise: as crewman, on board Waitangi on her delivery trip to new owners in Auckland. She had a difficult passage, but made it in quick time. A good account of it may be read here.

In early 1926 he crewed on board the Restless to Dunedin and back. It's reported the skipper, McLean, had an interest in the Sanders cup trials there that year.

Later in 1926, he crewed the yacht Psyche on a delivery voyage to Sydney, for the owner who had recently moved there. It was an epic journey, which almost ended before they were out of Cook Strait. The boat was far from seaworthy, shipping a lot of water, spoiling food and fuel. The boat was tossed by storms the whole way. The full account was serialised in the June, July and August editions of 1926 Australian Motor Boating and Yachting Monthly (click the "More issues" tab to read). Leo Thompson, a regular crewman on the Ailsa, was also on board for the journey, along with Redvere Quinlan (engineer) and F. C. Townsend acting as skipper. This was the first voyage of a private yacht from Wellington to Sydney, and only about the fourth from NZ to Australia.

The images above are of a section of a chart Scott marked with the courses of each voyage, along with annotations; and some of his notes interleaved in a copy of the NZ Pilot Book for the journey of the Restless.

Scott's oldest surviving plan

Scott's designs

Archie appears to have begun designing seriously in the mid 1930s. There is a large collection held at the Wellington Museum of City and Sea, and many can be seen reproduced in Sea Spray magazine in the late 1940s and 50s. He did original designs on spec and for clients, and appears to have designed most of the conversions in Wellington from gaff to bermudan rigs, including Ariki, Kotiri, Wylo, Oyster.

a 1947 design published in Sea Spray
His most successful designs built were the raised decker Maranui (now sailing in Auckland) for Ernie Hargreaves, launched in 1936, and Ocean Maid (currently moored at Porirua) in 1946. The Ocean Maid design was drawn as an entry for a design competition organised by the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club. The parameters were broad, but were to be a good racer with cruising capability and comfort, and it was hoped the successful entry would lead to a class of a robust design suitable for class racing in Wellington . Ocean Maid was the only one built, and is still in good order. The design was published in Sea
Ocean Maid at Clyde Quay April 1951
Spray in 1946. This was the first of many designs - yachts, launches and runabouts -  by Scott to be published by the magazine.

Archie Scott died about 1967. His eulogy was read by Bill Fisher, long time friend and fellow yachtsman.

A report and full table of Archie Scott's designs at the Wellington Museum of City and Sea may be read here

Saturday 1 March 2014


Ilex was a large cruiser-racer type yawl designed by the Logan yard. She was Wellington-owned for only about four years - but they were significant ones.

Ilex had many adventures, and was associated with some pretty interesting people. A powerful boat, she saw her fair share of stormy weather and near disaster, before finally succumbing in the Pacific. In 1946, representing Wellington, she was the first NZ yacht to compete in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

She was built by Logan Brothers for R. H. Shakespeare and Capt. W. Spenser Stanhope of Barrier Island, and launched 7th May 1903.

LOA 50'
LWL 35'
Beam 11'
Draft 6'

Ilex' construction was of triple-skin New Zealand kauri, in true Logan fashion her planks ran the full length of the boat. She was intended as a cruising boat, and fitted out as such, with her interior panelling carefully highlighted with blue and grey paint, with gold and oak graining. The upholstery was of Pantasote (an easily maintained hard-wearing imitation leather).

Kawau 1906. Source: Auckland War Memorial Museum
During May 1904 at Kawau Ilex played host to Premier Richard Seddon who was on board for a fishing holiday.

Under several owners, Ilex participated in the cruising races in Auckland

Macky converted her to a cutter in 1911. In March 1913 she was for sale, but she was still owned by Macky when he and his wife, on the way to visit family, were killed when the Lusitania was torpedoed in 1915.

In Clyde Quay before departure for Sydney. Norman right(?), Roydon 3rd right
Ilex was purchased and brought to Wellington via the East Coast by Norman Thomas in 1944 . He constructed a new robust wheelhouse, and converted her to a ketch rig. When WWII ended, he set about covering many miles in her. On top of regular trips to the Marlborough Sounds, his first sizeable passage (December 1945) in Ilex was to New Plymouth, then on to Onehunga.

Satisfied with the cruise, in February 1946, Ilex departed for a circumnavigation of the South Island. She almost came to grief on the West Coast however, when they sailed into a gale. Seeking shelter in Bligh Sound, all anchors dragged, as the cliffs created a terrifying wind tunnel. Manoeuvring bare-poled, she finally fetched up at the last possible moment. Lines were made fast ashore and they waited out the gale. The circumnavigation took 19 days.

Departing for Sydney. RPNYC, EBYMC burgees flying
Mr Thomas was obviously a keen chap, and decided the next thing to do was to take Ilex across the Tasman to enter the first Sydney to Hobart race. They departed November, and arrived after 13 days of gales and headwinds, on 11 December. Ilex, representing Wellington, under the banner of both the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club and the Evans Bay Yacht and Motor Boat Club, was the first NZ yacht to compete in the race.

It turned out to be something of a damp squib however, and after a couple of days in very large swells but no wind, they withdrew from the race, and motored on to Hobart. The return journey Hobart to Wellington took eight days.

Norman's son Roydon was a crewman on board for the crossing, and at 13 years old, remains the youngest active crewman to compete in the Sydney-Hobart race (there have been younger people participate since, but all have essentially been passengers). With a lower age limit now set, it appears likely this record will stand for some time to come.

In 1948 Thomas sold Ilex to the Free Church of Tonga.

Norman and Roydon Thomas were both among the delivery crew to Tonga, and received a great welcome there. The Free Church of Tonga renamed her Tu'uakitau, with Queen Salote officiating. In 1957 she was purchased by Tofa Ramsay, and renamed Tuiakaepau.

In July 1962, she was wrecked at Minerva Reef. All on board survived the accident, and lived inside the wreckage of a Japanese freighter which had also come to grief on the reef. After several months, four of the 17 had died through exposure. A boat was made from the wreckage, and two men put to sea to find help. The story of this episode makes interesting reading.