Dave Moore Remembers Yacht Clubs at Birkenhead and Northcote from the Early 1950s

Dave’s Preferred Beverage

“ Dave, would you like a coffee?” asked Keith as we settled round a table at the Birkenhead Wharf Cafe for our chat about Dave’s sailing life.

“ Never had a coffee in my life!” grinned Dave. “  But beer! Now that’s another story!”

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Dave Begins Sailing at Northcote Point

Dave,  a lifelong resident of Birkenhead,  bought his first boat in 1952, an Idle-along (IA117) ‘ Topic ‘ from Bill Williamson, and sailed from the Northcote & Birkenhead Yacht Club out of the Gold Hole on the city side of Northcote Point and at this time, years before the construction of the Harbour Bridge.

“As far as I can remember, the Northcote and Birkenhead Yacht Club had existed for  many years when I began my sailing career.”

 Dave had begun sailing about 1950 with Alan (Rumpy) Riley in IA9 ‘Shannon’ and in IA17, ‘Maxina’ with Mark Windram.

Other names that come to Dave’s mind from this time: Barry Finnemore owned ‘Bluestreak’ (IA 88 ), Bob Harkin built ‘IXL’ ( IA 146) , the Pugh family owned IA 16 ‘Mischance’ and Colin Standen raced ‘Sandra’ ( IA 7). Ian Prescott built   ‘Torea’( IA147) , Noelene Jull owned a Silver Fern , ‘Billy Boy’ ( 33) and Ted Fitzgerald  had owned ‘Swiftsure’ for a very long time. Alan Reid had a Zeddie, ‘Aurora’ Z202

“I sold ‘Topic’ to Fred Pulham who later died in a plane crash in the Kaimais in 1963. Then I built ‘Zigzag’ a Q class designed by Bill Herald.”

“ I’d gone to Northcote Intermediate but not Northcote College which didn’t have the engineering courses I wanted so instead went to Seddon Tech from 1951 – 1954, crossing daily to the city on the old ferries.”

“I don’t remember the Northcote and Birkenhead Club having a club-house at the Gold-Hole on the city side of Northcote Point. Kevin Michael and his wife were the race committee during my time there. Boats were hauled out on the flat by Bill Cauldrey’s boat yard. I left around the time  the club began to focus on keelboat racing and cruising and that’s when the Birkenhead Boating Club was formed in 1954.”

Birkenhead Boating Club ( BBC) – Established 1954

Racing off Needles Eye and  without a clubhouse, BBC was set up by a group of friends – Harry Lamb who was the secretary, Ron Jull, Bill Herald, Teddy Fitzgerald and a few others.  Racing marks and anchors, owned by Harry Lamb, were kept in Neville Paterson’s garden at the bottom of Awanui St.

“The club was very strong for the first few years, sailing mainly IAs, and then 12 footers (Q class), racing sometimes at Birkenhead but often at the Tamaki Yacht Club. Spot Riley called the Q class “bloody whitebait” , in reference to their slender beam of which he disapproved.”

12 Footers that Dave recalls include: Q5, ‘Red Riding Hood’ owned by Johnny Ross, Q8 ‘Pathetic ( Buster Dibble), Q 33 ‘Zigzag’,  Q34 ‘Gazelle’ ( Steve Donahoe) and  Q35 ‘Fluff’ ( Bill Herald). The last 3 were off the same mould.

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“I remember, too:

  • Bill Herald’s ‘Ajax’ which he built himself and skippered with Noel (Buster) Dibble, Owen Stewart and me as crew. Saturdays, racing the 12 footers, Sunday at Orakei Wharf racing the 18 footer with its crew of 6, Steve Donahoe and George Jones.
  • Alex McNaughton had a  14 foot Jack Logan skimmer (very similar to ‘Komutu’) which he named ‘Idunno’.  In the early 1950s, four of us sailed  ‘Idunno’ up to and around Kawau Island via Waiwera ( to get more beer) and Mahurangi Harbour. In hindsight, it was a very daring adventure for 16 year olds! I remember gybing the very large spinnaker in the Tiri Passage with two of the guys on wires.”
  • Brian Wilkins owned ‘Nudger’ a clinker built 14, T 1.
  • John and David Peoples owned a hard chine 14 skimmer, ‘Genesta’.
  • Owen Stewart sailed ‘Pamela’, a pretty clinker Q class that was very hard to sail!
  • He then sold her and  built ‘Moby Dick’
  • Bob Harkin built ‘Party Doll’ . Both off the same mould, designed by Bill Herald.

“Dave Patten and John Shelley sometimes raced their Cherubs with us also.”

“Some generous guys such as Captain Jenkins, chair of the Harbour Board, donated trophies.  The Ladies Rose-bowl trophy  was awarded to the winning boat with a lady aboard – and one year this was my wife.   I borrowed John Shelley’s Cherub and won, easily beating the Qs.

“We had prize givings at the Richmond Yacht Club and the Westhaven Cabaret, and, before the Auckland Harbour Bridge was opened in 1959, we used to charter a Blue Boat to get us  there and back. I won’t forget Gary Tait misjudging the distance between the wharf and the gunwale and stepping into the tide. A sobering experience!”

“ I was the Club Captain for a year or two but by 1961, the Birkenhead Boating Club had folded. I remember this date clearly  as it was the year I got married.  David Cooper was the last secretary – he asked me  what to do with the trophies – I told him to give them to the NBYC.” 

Many of the trophies are sitting in the trophy cabinet 50 plus years later at the new Northcote and Birkenhead Yacht Club clubhouse.

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Dave’s Boating Life after the Birkenhead Boating Club

“Once the BBC folded,  I got interested in sailing large multihulls which meant that I didn’t take too much notice about what was happening to small boat sailing round the Northcote or Birkenhead area.” 

“ I do remember some discussion among locals about opposition to putting a clubhouse on top of the dinghy lockers at the top of Birkenhead  Beach near the wharf. Others wanted a shed on the Shingle Wharf next to the beach and I remember a small 8’ by 8’ shed there, later replaced by a Skyline garage closer to the main Birkenhead Wharf.”

“ In the 1970s, I joined the crew of ‘ Krisis’ a Lock Crowther trimaran, possibly the fastest sailboat in Auckland at that time. Malcolm Davies built it  and was the first owner, then later Duncan and Andy Stuart took over as skippers.”

“ She flipped over once.  Sailing close in to the wharf area in the central city  she was hit by a gust. At the enquiry, an architect presented evidence that it was possibly a downdraft from the Air NZ Building, that flipped it.”

  Between 1974 to 1982 I was Multihull Chairman of the New Zealand Yachting Federation, then Chairman of the National Challenge Committee. During this time I worked hard to persuade the more conservative members of the worth of multihulls  and of the need to accept that they were here to stay.”

I sailed with Dave Barker on his catamarans ‘Sundancer’ and ‘Sundreamer’. 

“ From 1972 – 1974, I owned ‘Manutahi’ a Piver ( 32’6”)  and then built a Malcolm Tennant 36 footer ‘Mahu-nui’ on our front lawn in Huka Road, finally launching her  in 1984. She took six years to build using the mould off ‘Vorpal Blade’. I owned her for 2 years.

 Since then I have built and sailed a number of radio controlled yachts.”

Dave Moore, as told to Ted Berry and Keith Salmon, December, 2018.

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