Inside a corrugated iron shed deep in Tamahere, a 132-year-old kauri lady sits cradled by a boat stand.
Tamahere is not the oddest place this 45ft yacht has lived.
Thirty years ago, she was moored next to a Christchurch tavern before being sabotaged and sunk, reports Jennie-Louise Kendrick on Stuff.
Cousins John Erkkila and Chris Kendrick have dedicated the last three years to getting their great-great-grandfather’s yacht, Pastime, shipshape ahead of the next America’s Cup.
The Pastime, a gaff-rigged topsail yacht built by Malcolm Miller in 1886, will be launched in 2021 to celebrate the return of the regatta to Auckland.
The pair, with the craftsmanship of 8th generation boatbuilder Craig Wild, also plan to reunite Pastime with the 1894 gaff-rigged cutter Waitangi, after over a century.
“This project is about conserving the family heritage of the boat, and the relationship between John and Chris in the Waikato to the Miller family in Lyttelton,” explained Wild.
Second cousins through their mothers, the pair both developed a love for boats while sailing on the lakes around the Waikato.
Erkkila, a Hamilton-based businessman, was quick to point out that Wild’s boat building skills are the linchpin in the Pastime project.
“As important as a couple of dyslexic cousins who want to do cool things and restore some family heritage, it’s also about Craig and his family.”
Wild has passed his expertise onto his son Ryan, with a family lineage of shipwrights and boat builders tracing back to the 1860s, and the father and son work full-time together on the Pastime in a shed behind John and wife Christine’s Tamahere home.
He has worked for Erkkila for 25 years, leading the Tamahere-based construction of 18m catamarans Te Ngakau A Kupe and Te Okupu, designed by Ron Given.
“We have worked together since 1994, and built some really cool boats, but to actually, at the pinnacle of our relationship, be able to do this classic boat – that’s amazing,” said Erkkila.
The Pastime was driven up the country from Lyttelton to the boatshed in May 2016, her width just narrow enough to avoid having a pilot vehicle accompanying the transportation.
“She got up here overnight – even beat me to Wellington!” said Wild.
Erkkila and Kendrick grew passionate about returning the Pastime to the family, with the vessel not having been owned by a descendant of Malcolm Miller since 1963.
“It’s always been talked about within the family,” said Erkkila.
“My mum Geraldine and Chris’ mother Betty talked about going on Pastime as kids.
“We thought she had been restored and was going, so to hear that it was languishing in Stark’s yard for 22 years, being protected by old man Stark, we were on it.”
Wild said that a lot of time and work had gone into using as much of the original structure of the boat as possible, including splicing old timber framing like that boasting the original registration number, the “significant fabric”, with new wood.
The team sourced kauri from Kerikeri, including some timber they believe to have been milled around the yacht’s launch in 1886.
“So many of those old yachts have been chopped up, and the Pastime has not been touched,” said Wild.
They are working off a conservation plan in 1997 commissioned for the trust which acted as custodian before the cousins’ acquisition.
The document is largely based on historical research by Ruth Kendall, who owned the boat with her husband Graeme from 1985-1989, and Rema Maynard, daughter of the last Miller to own Pastime, along with her husband Ken.
The final step of the project is to transport Pastime to Tauranga Harbour, where she will be outfitted with rig and sails, and start her journey north for the America’s Cup celebrations.
Read more about the yacht and its restoration here.