by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

Of sharp looking sharpies, a ketch called Flamingo,
and grown men who walked around an island
racing model yachts for a twenty buck bucket!

In 2003 (which using my fingers I reckon… is let me see, six years ago), a fellow  Auckland, New Zealand Ancient Mariner model yacht sailor and friend of mine, `Big John’ Stubbs built the beautiful ketch (seen below) which he named  Jaunty.  I’m no good at all this `twice and thrice removed’ stuff, (if it’s been removed it’s gone, sunk or been ruddy stolen) and this boat, its design by yacht designer David Train, is still very much alive and well cos I saw it only day before yesterday!)

Okay, Ralph Middleton Munroe of New Haven  to satisfy his need for a shoalwater vessel capable of seaworthiness in rougher stuff waters did further refine Train’s design which culminated in his own Presto Commodore 40 which gave the boat a deeper body, and a boat heavier and beamier at the sheer which brings us to the one built by Stubbs, 1250mm in length, radio controlled and living up to its name (Jaunty) `sprightly’ indeed.


John and Jaunty

Built plank on frame from a plan he found in a book the timber used for planking was kauri, used also for masts and spars, all trim in teak. The boat fits into his car fully rigged and the boat has two keels, one 3lbs for light weather sailing the other 5.5 lbs for heavier weather.  That then is a capsule look at Jaunty, indeed a rather sharp looking sharpie.

The other sharpie I choose to write about is a model in Maryland, USA, this one a schooner built, tried, tested and successfully raced at races staged by the Great Schooner Model Society and the US Vintage Model Yacht Group by George Surgent of Seaworthy Small Ships.  His schooner (seen below) is called Bay Boy and was inspired by an article in WoodenBoat magazine some years back on the Carolina sharpie schooners of old. A long time sharpie fan he built the model in 1998. It has sleek lines, is low to the water and always proves when sailed in competition how damn fast she/he (well sometimes, these days you can’t tell!)  it really is.  Bay Boy has had some truly memorable close battles with South Carolina’s Andrew Charters larger schooner of Fife design, Cicely, one of those tussles captured below.

      George Surgent with Bay Boy

Bay Boy stretches its legs  


Mark’s impression of his Fijipsy Jack

A David and Goliath run for the line!


Life without humour is like sailing without wind


The craftsman aboard The Dove

The Dove at sea

This is a story of two boats, one a 72’ steel ketch launched in 1975 and regularly seen on the waters of New Zealand and within the Pacific, the other, a 1/15th full size model of the first mentioned, 1.53 metres long built in 1992 by ship modeler. Roy Lake.

The Dove (the larger of the two) was designed in 1973 by Don Brooke for a retired sea captain as a luxury round the world cruising yacht with better than average sailing performance.  She is fitted with a 150 HP Gardner Diesel engine with a fuel capacity of 880 gallons and a range of three thousand nautical miles at 8.5 knots.

Roy Lake became so enamoured over the ketch when he saw her in 1991, he went aboard when the boat was on the hard, took several rolls of photographs to help him with details and measured virtually everything that could be measured.  After 1,700 hours of work over eleven months, his model of the boat which he called Flamingo was a reality. The model was built around a solid timber core of building pine and is radio controlled on all sails, her masts are planed kauri timber and booms also of kauri, and is fitted with a 6volt electric motor with 6 to 1 speed reduction.

I remember being amazed at the wealth of detail aboard, right down to the instrumentation, bookshelves with books, furniture and stocked drinks cabinet. My photographs of the model were taken of the boat on two lakes in Auckland. Presently the model is in Modelworld museum outside of Auckland in Greenhithe in its own glass cabinet.



I’ve several times written about it and called it `the greatest little model yacht ocean race of them all, the one that used to take place each of a few consecutive years, in the ocean, over about eight hundred metres of the Pacific.  Because the owners sailing the little Townson `Electron’ RC boats, walked thigh and often waist-high around Toam-beh-rua island in the Fiji group, (grown men and one or two women) holding their transmitters aloft, `walked it’ for the glory of the race and in a bid to win a twenty dollar galvanized bucket. It was an event that spoke volumes about `simply having fun !’  Actually, the post-race scramble to the island bar for Fijian brewed beer, I often thought was the more important race of the two!

A walk in the wet  

Spoils of victory

Regatta fleet on the sand


Such great memories! I need a drink meself now and what’s more I feel a poem coming on – model yachts can be most conducive to many things. No better way to close this months column, in my humble opinion.


Whither doth thou goest tiny schooner

whilst winter-clad I sit upon the morn,

Is it up the coast of Maine to pierce the mist

 or neath the Andes then to round the horn?


What bounty dost thou carry anyway,

save the batteries on board, the leaded keel?

The wind I sense soon maketh presence felt,

Pray slocum…please,

Thy hands upon the wheel!




Admiral of Vice/Race Officer Murray White

The Bewdy Boat

Schooner Labrasa

When the Auckland Ancient Mariner schooner fleet meet for their annual Schoonersail regatta at Onepoto lake (and they did so last year on December 11th), winners of the Timed Speed Trial, where they compete in pairs over a short course for the best time overall, the dinghy towing schooner race, and a fleet race six boats at a time with a final of the first three in each group all won the `more of a memento of the regatta’ medals shown above.  Richard Gross’s schooner, Poppy G (in the fifth photo, above) took the gun in the timed speed trial, Shane Pittam sailing his brothers schooner, Labrasa in the fourth photo being the winner of the fleet race. Murray White who was also `Race Officer’ won the Dinghy towing event with his Black Joke.

The writer always makes a `Bewdy Boat’ medallion award to the owner of the schooner he considers worthy of Concours D’Elegance status, on this occasion to Lawrie Manning seen with his incredibly well finished model of the yacht America in the top left photograph, the same model for which he was awarded The Great Schooner Model Society Cup for 2008/2009.


Pond Snogging and the Penalties

You two in the photo (above left) must stop meeting like this as people are starting to talk, knowing that each of you belongs to different people!  These on-the-water displays of admiration  are too frequent and `water clinches’ are also a traffic hazard, you should know that!  And it costs money each time the `Untanglement Offisa’ (see top right photo) has to motor out to part you, then serve an `Infringement Public Morals Notice number 389A3 in triplicate!

Windling (it is said) started in 1894 in remote Ghobadi Bhaba  where the pre-boat-in-the-water launching chant was first heard. “Hadja Sadjoo Branja Vleez   (Bows in the water, sails for the breeze). A little codswallop is good for the soul, but is it true? Just don’t say that within earshot of hadja tribe elders!

Philip Bolger, known to thousands of boating people, of his own free will closed the shutters of his life with immediacy in the early morning of May 24th, on his home property in Gloucester, Massachusetts in the United States.

Were he still alive he probably wouldn't remember two letters each that we shared some years back when I was doing a little item on his light schooner and he had been most helpful. Susanne Altenburger his wife and best friend, and full business partner found Phil's body out of public sight and wrote a stirring tribute posted on Duckworks. All with interest in the late Phil Bolger should hasten to read by clicking this LINK.

He had attained the age of 82, up to a year earlier was reported in excellent physical shape for his age, but had self-noted the progression of his diminishing mental faculties for some years and wanted (as Susanne Altenburger wrote) `to leave this world on his own terms'.

Suicide generally is a frowned-upon option but in cases such as this, I believe is totally understandable. This is merely my acknowledgement of his passing for as I have already said I did not know the man though I dearly wish that I had. Rest in peace much admired boat creator, may the troubled mind rest peacefully while your legacy forever liveth on.


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