Monday, 17 February 2014

Fwd: A potted history of the original "Tiare Taporo"

----- Original Message -----
To: "Alec" <>
Cc: "David and Marianna Matzenik" <>, "Dave Baird (Gauntlet "Gemini")" <>, "Classic Yacht Assn" <>, "Charlotte" <>, "Blue Musketeer - John & Val Ph. (04) 08456224" <>, "Amanda Donald" <>, "Auckland Traditional Boatbuilding School" <>
Subject: Fwd: A potted history of the original "Tiare Taporo"
Date: 17 Feb 2014 09:15:18 -0000
From: zmq5985

----- Original Message -----
To: "Alastair Whitelaw" <>
Cc: "Murray & Jo Wilkinson" <>, "Westwind - Chris & Gilli Dicker" <>, "Steven Worsfold" <>, "Sina - Noel and Litara" <>, "Rosemary Morton" <>, "Richard & Pauline McDonald - Ph. (09) 4356259 10 DipRd., Kamo NZ 0112" <>, "Raisen" <>, "Perry" <>, "Kerrin Worsfold" <>, "John & Garry" <>, "Jane & Roy Vaughan" <>, "Heather Lal" <>, "Harold Kidd" <>, "Hamish & Sara" <>, "Dennis Bouverie (" <>, "David and Marianna Matzenik" <>, "Charlotte" <>, "Blue Musketeer - John & Val Ph. (04) 08456224" <>, "Auckland Traditional Boatbuilding School" <>, "Alec" <>, "Amanda Donald" <>
Subject: A potted history of the original "Tiare Taporo"
Date: 17 Feb 2014 09:09:13 -0000
From: zmq5985

During our rationalisation of our storage unit while in NZ recently we came across a copy of a book entitled "Out of Auckland" by Clifford Hawkins and published in 1960. The foreword is by Dr. R.A. Falla who was at that time Director of the Dominion Museum in Wellington. The book covers early European maritime history in New Zealand with details of many boats built in New Zealand up to the early 1900's. There is an extensive passage devoted to the "Tiare Taporo" and I thought it may be of interest. It covers pages 140-145 of the book and I am reproducing it here (with appropriate additions as appropriate):
Even with the coming of steam and auxiliary power, schooners continued to be popular with Island Merchants and Traders right up to the early 1900's. None of the old timers survive today but, out of Papeete, there still sails a schooner that immediately attracts one's attention. She is the "Tiare Taporo" which was designed and built by Charles Bailey Jnr. in 1913 for the islands trading firm of Messrs. A.B. Donald Ltd. Her first Master, Capt. J. Winchester was originally a 50% shareholder until his shares were bought at a later time by A.B. Donald - Jim's great grandfather.
Of 173 tons gross and with a length of 89.6 feet, beam 23.4 feet and depth 9.8 feet, she certainly made a fine addition to the fleet of South Pacific traders. Apart from the "Strathcona", which was lost on the North Minerva Reef on her maiden voyage in 1915, the "Tiare Taporo" was the last schooner to be built specially for the islands trade. "Strathcona" was built for the Pacific Cable Board as a supply vessel and was not intended for trading purposes. Bailey always expressed the opinion that she was his finest craft, and much has been said of her sailing qualities, but actually she was not afloat long enough to warrant all that has been said of her speed.
The "Tiare Taporo" got her name over the Donald's dining table, when a discussion arose over what their new vessel was to be called. It was jocularly suggested that as the firm received revenue from the trade in lime juice, the schooner should be named after the lime! From that suggestion came the lovely Tahitian words "Tiare Taporo" - the flower of the lime - as fine a name that could be bestowed upon any ship.
On fitting out, the "Tiare Taporo" loaded general cargo at the now non-existent Hobson St. Wharf, Auckland and after a trial run in the Hauraki Gulf, sailed for Papeete on 3rd. July 1913. Her master was a part owner and well-known identity, Capt. J. Winchester, and the mate, Capt. E. Lucas who some years later became the chief harbour pilot at Papeete. The schooner made a fine run of 11 and a half days to Tahiti from where she traded under the French flag, mainly among the Society, Marquesas and Tuamotu Groups.
During World War I the "Tiare Taporo" was fortunate in keeping out of the track of the German raider "Seeadler" and not being captured, as was the "Lutece", formerly the Auckland built "Gauloise". The "Tiare Taporo" did come into this episode though, when she sailed for Mopelia to pick up the marooned Allied sailors whose ships had been sunk by von Lucknow and left there when that raider and his crew made their escape. Von Lucknow had departed in one of the "Seeadler's" boats before the capture of the "Lutece" and was eventually caught up with on Wakaya Is. in the Fijis.
In 1918 the "Tiare Taporo" went up to San Francisco and loaded case oil for Auckland where she arrived on 8th. January 1919, 58 days out. After an overhaul at Auckland, during which the main mast was shifted six feet further aft, the schooner cleared port on 16th. February, to take over the Cook Islands services of Messrs. A.B. Donald. Being clear of trading in French territorial waters, the port of registry was changed from Papeete to Auckland. The "Tiare Taporo" had already become well known during her voyages out of the French port,but now much of the colour of the South Seas was to be woven into her career with Viggo Rasmussen as her master.
Born in Denmark, Viggo went to sea at an early age and arrived in Tahiti in 1896. He spent 10 years in French Oceania at various callings and came to know the islands and their people through his numerous trading schooner voyages and his pearling ventures in the Tuamotus. As with so many others who drifted down to that corner of the Pacific, Viggo found the life very much to his liking, and in Tahiti romance with a Mitiaro girl ended in matrimony. Taking his wife back to Mitiaro in the Cook Group, he set up as a trader there. But the call of the sea proved to be too strong for him and away he sailed in the schooner "Vaite". Trading in the Cook Islands, home was never far away, and the experience gained was invaluable to Viggo when he was appointed Master of the "Tiare Taporo" which replaced the "Vaite" because that vessel had been having difficulty in handling all of the work that was offering.
Known to Polynesians and Europeans alike as "Papa" Viggo, Rasmussen and his schooner became popular with all those whose business meant travel among the islands, and Viggo maintained his contact with Tahiti with occasional calls to Papeete for refitting, generally during the hurricane season.
In 1922, after picking up 104 tons of copra in the Northern Cook Group, the "Tiare Taporo" left Penrhyn for Auckland on 28th. January. Fine weather prevailed until 20th. February when an easterly gale was encountered. Auckland was made on the 22nd. and, after discharge a lengthy overhaul was undertaken so that it was not until 29th. April that port was cleared for Rarotonga and Papeete under Captain Ruth, Viggo Rasmussen not going back with the schooner.
Outside the Hauraki Gulf another easterly blew up, and when a leak developed 160 miles out, it was decided to turn back for Auckland rather than run the risk of damaging the cargo which consisted mainly of provisions. Auckland was made on 2nd. May where the leak, which had been located above the waterline, was repaired and the Waitemata was finally cleared for Rarotonga on 7th. May.
No doubt all on board were glad to be clear of the stormy New Zealand waters. Perhaps Viggo knew a thing or two when he remained ashore. He later rejoined the "Tiare Taporo" in the Islands and remained with her until 1936 when the veteran master left her and the sea to become Resident Agent on Penrhyn Island until 1945, when ill health took him to Rarotonga. Feeling that his end was near, he sailed in his old schooner to spend his last days with his family on Penrhyn. There, in 1947, he passed away, within sound of the mighty Pacific rollers that had been so familiar to him with their incessant pounding on the reefs.
After the death of Viggo Rasmussen, Capt. Benson had the "Tiare Taporo" and in 1948 Capt. Cambridge took command. In December that year a violent storm struck the Cook Islands and much anxiety was felt for the safety of the "Tiare Taporo" which had left Mangaia for Mauku, 100 miles distant. Nothing was heard of the schooner for four and a half days and, as can be imagined, the passengers on board thought more than once that their end had come. Perhaps some had reached the stage where they did not even care and would have been only too glad to have had their misery put to an end. Anyway, it so happened that the good ship weathered the storm and the passage was soon a thing to be forgotten.
In 1949 the "Tiare Taporo" under Andy Thomson, was again in Auckland for overhaul, arriving from Rarotonga and later returning to the Cook Group until she herself was replaced by the M.V. "Charlotte Donald". She then took a labour gang to the phosphate island of Makatea and from there sailed for Papeete where she was handed over to the Etablissements Donald-Tahiti.
Capt. Andy Thomson, then in the "Charlotte Donald", seeing the "Tiare Taporo" in Papeete after a voyage to the Marquesas for copra, wrote: "The Tiare looked well, all dolled and painted up. They always keep the vessels at Papeete in tip-top order. I don't believe you'll see such nicely kept ships in any place in the world as you do in Papeete, Tahiti."
The author, Robert Gibbings, travelled through the Cook Islands and to Tahiti aboard the "Tiare Taporo" while gathering material for his beautiful book on life in the South Seas, appropriately called "Over the Reefs".
The loss by fire of the ketch "Artemise" in February 1953 at Raroia in the Tuamotus left the "Tiare Taporo" as the only remaining Auckland built fore and after sailing in French Oceania. In 1960, however she was once again in the Cook Group with Andy Thomson at the helm.
As elsewhere, Tahitian craft now rely on diesels so that today there is little to remind us of the days when a great fleet of glistening white schooners tied up under the Flamboyants of Papeete's waterfront.
Addendum: The "Tiare Taporo" was sold in 1964 and sadly soon after that she was a total loss when she dragged her mooring in a storm at Anyeitum Is. in Vanuatu.
Andy Thomson was a great seaman. He had the enviable record of never losing a ship or a man overboard during a time when none of the electronic navigation aids we take for granted today existed. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and came to the South Pacific via Alaska as a young man. Jim has a letter from Andy in which he describes meeting A.B. Donald in Tahiti in 1908. He described ABD as "an up and coming fellow"!!! Jim came to know Andy quite well during a voyage on the Company's steel motor ship "Akatere" from Auckland to Rarotonga in 1968. Andy taught him how to navigate with a sextant during that passage which took 2 weeks - longer than the Tiare's original passage to Tahiti in 1913. Jim heard many wonderful stories of the old South Seas from Andy during Sunday afternoon visits to Andy's house at Arorangi - near where the Rarotongan Hotel now stands. These visits always involved a bottle of Scotch Whisky!
These were fascinating days of the early South Pacific with events and characters who will never be seen again.
We are hoping to keep at least some memory of those days with our present voyaging on our 39' Gauntlet cutter, "Tiare Taporo III". She is built in timber in the same manner (Carvel planked) as the old schooner. At least the name is still out there cruising the seas - although far removed geographically from the original Tiare's cruising grounds.
Hope you have enjoyed this snippet of New Zealand's maritime history.
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Danga Bay
Johor Bahru
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