Custom Search
Join Duckworks
Get free newsletter
on this site
 Where the Winds Blow...
by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

 WTWB  January 2013

Keith Griffin's fine schooner Altair on the pond

Keith Snell launches his boat

Raynor Johnston's Thames Sailing Barge Willow Down stern view, model built by Ron Rule of Auckland's Ancient Mariners

In Hamilton, a city in the Waikato prime farming area of New Zealand’s North Island sail The Turtle Lake Shippers, a group currently of six sailers, plus a number of other powered craft, from there and from other surrounding areas who enjoy largely social  and relaxing sailing of lovely looking boats on the pretty lake. They sail boats they either built themselves or bought from others and for the best part all much admired. Harry Duncan is one of them  and came up with these photos.

Bill Fletcher's boat in a steady breeze

They are Keith Griffin, Raynor Johnston, Bill Fletcher, Rob Collette-Moxon, Keith Snell and my good mate Harry Duncan. Doubtless given time there will be additions as strollers and passers-by stop, look and decide that time spent like that is a retirement activity option well worth considering.

Rob Collette-Moxon's tidy looking schooner
Serendipity gathers speed in a puff of wind

Harry Duncan's pirate ship Black Rose early on the lake on a misty morning.

Raynor brings the refreshment trolley along!

Deck detail aboard Keith Griffin's Altair

Pride of the fleet (in my books), the fleet flagship is Keith Griffin’s absolutely lovely model of the Fife schooner Altair which built over eight months from the late Sandy Cousins plans available from Marine Modelling Inernational’s Traplet Plan Service. He’s done a wonderful job indeed and produced a model that attracts attention and plaudits from passers by. Crewed with good figures, it sails really well.

Alex Bartlett's Dhow Bhagla

Alex Bartlett of Auckland, New Zealand is better known in model yacht sailing circles for his fine models of schooners and ketchesbut now and again likes to build something totally different to sail with the Ancient Mariners. His latest is an Arab dhow called Baghla.

In David Howarth’s excellent book `Dhows’ he wrote that `Baggala (or Baghla) means a she mule, so it makes an appropriate name for a cargo-carrying ship. He went on to say `But if it suggests a plain and awkward character it is misleading: the  baggala was the most ornate of all the big Arabians dhows. I say was because I believe it is extinct.

Howarth’s book is extensive and well illustrated     and for anyone wanting to learn in great depth of the history of Dhows, his book and one by the late Clifford Hawkins are both excellent and offer good source facts and reference photos about these boats, how they were constructed, the uses they were put to and the method used to sail them.

Breeze fills Bhagla's sails

I can’t say that I have read Howarth’s book in its entirety. Borrowed from the Auckland library it is too full of history and facts for those wanting just to glean sufficient information in support of a scale model story. The next time you are in a library have a look and judge it for yourself.

For my taste, the most appealing dhow I’ve seen (and I can’t really say that the dhows are stunning lookers!) was one on television in the documentary on the Nile with Joanna Lumley. She (the dhow she was ferried aboard) was almost as stunning as the lady mentioned.

For several centuries, boats sailing on the Indian Ocean were called dhows of which there were many types, but all mostly sailed with a triangular or lateen sail. Largely used by Indians and Arabs the dhow is really an Indian craft and they have a variety of uses. On the sporting side there is a wonderful race that takes place every year for the last 22 years and attracts  almost one hundred dhows, the event starting off the island of Sir Bu Nair off the coast of Iran  and ends in the waters off Dubai.

Alex Bartlett’s RC sailing dhow was built plank on plywood frames, the plans scaled up from a book and is just over a metre in hull length. The sails he made of a synthetic material purchased     and the keel and bulb overall weight is approx 5 lbs. There is not an abundance of detail aboard though I did hear that crew figures are at some stage to be added.

As writer Karl H Marquardy said `even at the end of the twentieth century there are still ships of the Arab world which are a fascinating enigma for many ship modellers.


In happy sailing mood at the Sinton road private lake some years ago. How well I remember that shirt he often wore!

Royston (Roy) Lake originally from England but for a great many years a New Zealander  resident on  Auckland’s north shore, slipped anchor on 6th July last year, a brief notice in the July issue of this column. The fiercely independent man that he was, he chose to slip his own anchor.  He was 84 and his health was failing him.

Roy was an was an absolutely brilliant modelmaker, a well-trained and talented craftsman in wood who after years producing RC sail and power boat models turned his hand to producing  accurate and the most detailed of exhibition standard model automobiles and old biplanes that spun their propellers from his garage roof and deck year after year exposed to the vagaries of weather. Many of his models he would bring up for me to photograph for him and for years we lived less than a hundred metres from each other in Trinidad Road where he had largely built his own house and where he spent so much time his garage workshop fashioning his models. My Starlet Bells and Whistles, also my classic ketch Marigold were built there by him, the hull of the latter a fiberglass one I provided.

Roy enjoyed the peace and quiet of a solitary sail

Roy with lightweight freesail model Gundaroo he gave to the writer

The darling-est of his cars, the Baby Austin model

Roy's beautiful schooner Amalfi II

With Flamingo based on a yacht called The Dove

Roy's five foot long coastal sailing barge Ruby

Detail aboard Revive one of his Brixham trawlers

I remember well he and I racing our Starlets day after day at Onepoto in a series that went on for weeks, one at which I was soundly beaten and also our other morning sails, just five us  at a private lake when we made up the `group of old codjers and emulated `The last of the Summer winers’ from the British television
Programme of that name.

Roy gave years of absolutely free volunteer time and effort to the owner of a tourism facility called Monterey Park Model World out at Whenuapai outside of Auckland and was never ever granted a cup of free coffee, nor any petreol grant turning up every day to sail his boats in the pond there and play host to visiting adults and kids and to talk to them.  Some people with businesses are masters of  `using’ others! 

A generous man often generous to a fault  he liked helping people and many people took advantage of his kindness which irritated me. A champion racing cyclist in the UK, several records set by Roy in his heyday were only eclipsed when he was in his early seventies which speaks highly for his calibre.

Roy was not really a racing-minded model yachtsman, instead like me enjoyed a quiet sail in company of a few or often on his own if need be. My photograph of him sailing his fine Brixham trawler shown above illustrates his happiness in a peaceful solitary sail.

A recent photo of Roy by the writer, sitting in his RAV

His quirky and oft humorous quips were many, sometimes repetitive, like when he was explaining what he was about to do on a ship model he’s say “I’ll be asking questions!” and when he had carved out of balsa a semi naked comely girl for one of his boats it might be “all done purely from memory you understand …and shapes may have changed over the years!”  If you asked him what the sailing weather was likely to be tomorrow, Roy would tell you that his late mother was now on the Heaven Weather Committee weather and had confirmed that it would be bright and sunny!

Four master Pride of Monterey he built to sail at
Monterey Park, typical of his extreme generosity

He built so many boats and then suddenly switched to cars all magnificently created out of wood and used to bring each completed model up to our house to be photographed. They were absolutely perfect museum pieces with opening doors and bonnets that displayed the engines, instrumentation and wooden tyres with patiently created threads and he would take the latest down to the Onepoto pond to show the chaps, over to the chemist and the bookshop and postal agency across the field from where he lived. Next door. They were magnificent and I interested the editor of the New Zealand glossy magazine New Zealand Classic Car to do a feature on them which appeared in one issue. And when he finished his model of a Bugatti I sent a photograph and some blurb on it to the editor of Pur Sang,  the classy US Bugatti club magazine which ran an item on it.

Roy Lake was one of a kind and many people turned up to his funeral service from various organizations and hobby groups he had been associated with over the years.  He will be remembered and his boats and cars now in a home museum to which they were gifted will bring delight to those able to see them by appointment. 


Salamis  almost `rail under'
(Photo by Peter Taylor) 

David Edwards is one of those friends of mine never met, who lives in England and sails his painstakingly build square-rigged RC ship models at Setley in the New Forest area with the other members of the Solent Radio Control Model Boat Club. (

I have included pictures of his model of the tea clipper Thermopylae and others before when I did a story on the club awhile back on Duckworks,  now acting upon a `tip off’ I am including herewith a photo of his wonderful model of the Salamis, and through the magic of the modern age we live in, giving readers the opportunity to enjoy a `wet’ cruise of the Setley pond aboard the tea clipper that later became a wool clipper. 

A warning! Though it is a nice relatively sunny day at Setley,  the wind will result in extensive spray, so if you are going to stay on deck, wear a lifejacket and be prepared to hang on tightly. Peter Taylor of the club did the filming and production, David Edwards was in command of the ship. Use the website link here and have a look at the wonderful models sailed by the Solent Club members. It is a website always worth re-visiting to see new models from members. 


Tom’s Catboat

Catboats have a charm of their own and Tom Cat has been beautifully built and aptly named by Auckland  Ancient Mariner Tom Simpson.  Goes well too and is nice addition to the fleet that sail the waters of Onepoto just over te Harbour Bridge on the North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand.


Methinks we are venturing into a dangerous age whereby space agencies and the so called quest for knowledge, plus uncontrolled curiosity are leading this planet into territories best left for what they were intended.  Mars and all the other planets, plus the moon have already been `invaded’ by man and the other planets and the stars should be left bloody well alone. I believe that man’s evident determination to advance in those directions is going to cause a calamity of catastrophic and monumental proportions. Perhaps we are not the `smart asses’ we perceive ourselves to be!  Perhaps we have also have been so far lucky  and best we remember the old adage that `what goes up will ultimately come down and there is already enough space crud waiting to find an earth  place to drop upon.

Human kind has in many areas already made a genuine thorough mess of Planet Earth where greed and  attitudinal maladies abound. We have to all intents and purposes lost respect for each other, are intent on domination and financial gain, and find it easier to simply bump people off rather than make a determined effort to happily co-exist. People are breeding like flies and many are starving while nations selfishly spend billions in exploration and on armament for the purpose of world domination. There are new health problems making themselves known and we already are unable to solve many of the problems facing us.

Authorities question the very existence of God, and Bibles as well as Religious doctrine teaching have been removed from schools other than Catholic ones , we are killing sea life, willy-nilly, polluting the oceans and rivers, we have loused up the ozone layer with all the pollutants we pump into the air and quite simply  are showing our ignorance `big time’ while heading to the point of obliteration of the planet and total extinction of all mankind.


Doong’ Gorinski  who hails from `Fah Place’, a small village on the upper reaches of Guyana’s Mazaruni river. since coming to New Zealand is using a dish washing soap as a body soap because the label claims to dissolve fat that is otherwise difficult to remove. He says he is now losing weight and spends hours reading all product labels sitting on the floor in supermarket aisles where he has become a sort of `guru celebrity’ giving out free `finds’ discovered on labels to shoppers.  He no longer uses a hair shampoo that says `for extra body and volume’ because it runs down his body! (Doong’s book `Don’t let the shampoo make you fat’ comes out next year but I doubt that he Supermarkets will stock it!)  One day (maybe) I will tell you more about Doong, a  fascinating man.

A big and beautiful Rainbow

(Jan Kraak’s new J Boat)   

Jan Kraak of Den Helder in the Netherlands has built an absolutely magnificent 2 meter model of the J Class boat Rainbow that I am looking forward to seeing on the water. He has an excellent website from which you can follow the building of the boat step by step, particularly those warming to the idea of creating such a model. 


Met this guy recently who was going on about `how he `twats’ quite often’  – (I think you mean `tweet’ (since the conversation was on Twitter) I suggested “or are you twitting – is that what you mean?”  Then I added (since there were three  ladies in earshot) “I think you’ll find that word you used has indecent connotations!”

To which he replied! “Oh `Connotations!’ big words, I say! I am sticking to what I said, that I have a twat quite often (he said) adding “you are obviously not up with the ` tech speako’ in today’s twatting world ”.

“Okay you are a twitter (I told him) ” to which he slunk off smoothing his bum and flicking back his hair trying unsuccessfully to look like Greta Garbo and headed for the powder room.  Which idiot factory makes these guys?

For those who think backwards

Walking backwards race

I’m waiting on the Olympic Games authorities to tell me whether ‘Pick up sticks’ and Chinese Checkers are going to be  added as events for the next games in Rio as I could be a starter for both, also a five thousand metre race walking backwards I think I’d stand a good chance of winning the Gold (being a `backward’ kind of guy!)

It has been done that, and only three fell over backwards, split their skulls open and died! Not bad considering that there were  one  hundred and twenty-seven competitors (according to the National Symposium Newsletter for Backward Thinking Athletes!)  Well, you can’t expect an Olympic Games without any dangers can you?


Click Here for a List of Articles and Columns by Mark Steele