Sixties pleasure boat leads parade

A genuine 1960s Chris Craft pleasure launch will be among those attracting attention on Lake Rotoiti next weekend.

For those with a fondness for older, classic powerboats, the annual pilgrimage to Rotorua's Lake Rotoiti is one of the highlights of the year.

Every Waitangi Saturday, the Lake Rotoiti Parade of Wooden and Classic Boats attracts enthusiasts from all over New Zealand. And every year, the organisers somehow manage to unearth yet another newly restored classic gem to "headline" their parade.

This year's "newcomer" is El Capitan, a true 1960s classic Chris Craft, built here and refurbished just in time for the parade.

According to Kathryn Wells, granddaughter of El Capitan's original owner and builder, Robert Tanner, the Chris Craft was built in a large barn on the family property over several years in the 1960s.

Tanner, a cropping and sheep farmer from the Kairanga in the Manawatu, used a mahogany wooden frame with cross-laminated sheathing, resorcinol glue and monel metal fixing.

He then fibreglassed the hull using two-pot epoxy and powered the boat with twin Chrysler Marine 6-cylinder petrol inboards. Measuring 7.62m (25ft) and with a 3.65m (12ft) beam, El Capitan boasted six berths, a galley, toilet and shower.

Wells says that, upon completion in 1963, El Capitan was towed on a purpose-built trailer (complete with a full braking system) and launched on Lake Taupo.

It was subsequently berthed at the Lake Taupo Marina and, in December 1967, played host to Tanner's son and daughter-in-law, David and Robyn Tanner, who spent their honeymoon on board.

El Capitan also spent a number of summers during the 1970s across Cook Strait in the Marlborough Sounds.

Wells recalls that David and Robyn Tanner and their family would cruise the bays and coves of what she describes as "this idyllic part of New Zealand".

"The Sounds were a perfect place for her as she easily accommodated the family and meals consisted of freshly caught fish and shellfish," she remembers. "Days were spent ashore, accessed by row boat, and nights we moored at buoys and rafted up with other boaties.

"El Capitan was then sailed back across Cook Strait to Mana Cruising Club, where she was moored during the winter months."

In the early 1980s, El Capitan returned to the Tanners' farm for maintenance and a refit. This included the addition of a radar system and an electric winch for the anchor.

However, although it was due to be launched again in the mid-1980s, this did not eventuate. Instead, it spent nearly 20 years "mothballed" and undercover, back in the barn in which it had been built.

El Capitan's fortunes took a turn for the better in 2003 when it was bought by Lake Rotoiti resident and boatbuilder, Tony Mitchell. Mitchell has spent the last eight years lovingly restoring the classic Chris Craft and will unveil it for the first time in the boat parade next Saturday.

El Capitan will have pride of place as it leads the classic 70-strong fleet out of Lake Rotoiti's Okere Arm (alongside State Highway 33) and across the lake.

As always, the parade will be sent on its way by the firing of an old cannon and will be led out of the Okere Arm by a brace of magnificent Arawa waka - followed closely this year by the beautifully restored, Kiwi-built Chris Craft, El Capitan.

Where and when

What: Lake Rotoiti Classic and Wooden Boat Parade

Where: Okere Arm; Lake Rotoiti

When: Saturday, February 5

Start: 10am

More info: www.woodenboatparade.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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