The Next Era of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club

In the last issue of Bay View, we described the formation of the yacht club and the building of the boat harbour at Clyde Quay. (This history is abbreviated from the club’s website.)

The standard yacht-racing course in these early years was around Somes and Ward Islands, starting and finishing at the clubhouse at Pipitea Point. On occasion, matches were arranged around a buoy off Pencarrow Lighthouse. Harbour racing was popular, as it is today. Tack-by-tack reports appeared in the local press after each weekend’s racing.

Towards the end of the 1880s reclamation began on the harbour front, and the Club’s headquarters were transferred from Pipitea Point to a site near the old Thorndon Baths. The sport of yachting flourished in the 1890s. A New Zealand championship yacht race was proposed in 1891 and later that year the New Zealand Yachting Association was formed and its sailing rules were adopted by Port Nicholson Yacht Club.

The outbreak of World War I saw many members joining the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and Club affairs slowed. Out of a membership of 130 in 1917, 54 members were away at war. ...... At the end of World War I, the Te Aro Sailing Club (formed in 1906 by a group of young lads with centreboard yachts) and the Te Ruru Yacht Club (a group mainly interested in cruising) amalgamated with the PNYC.

A few records remain from the 1900 to 1930 period, the most significant event being the granting of the Royal Charter to the Club in October 1921. In the following year the Governor-General, Viscount Jellicoe, was selected to represent Wellington at the Sanders Cup in Dunedin. The Port Underwood race of the 1929–30 season was the first to be reported by radio.

In December 1930 the club yacht Windward made a historic passage to the Chatham Islands crewed by experienced Club members — I P Rollings, C A Steele, A H Irwin and D A Graham. Unfortunately, Windward failed to reach Wellington on her return voyage. She was last sighted sailing in heavy conditions in Palliser Bay and was believed to have been lost close to home.

The depression of the 1930s resulted in the curtailment of many social activities and cast gloom over the Club’s 50th anniversary in 1933. World War II affected the Club greatly. In the first year more than 100 members were in the forces and more were joining.

When the American forces arrived in New Zealand in 1942 the Clyde Quay boat harbour was turned over to them, and all craft other than those requisitioned for defence service had to be removed. Throughout World War II the Club operated in temporary premises in Evans Bay and only returned to the old Clubhouse adjacent to the Freyberg Pool when the Americans left at the war’s end.

By 1948 it was apparent that the old Clubhouse was not adequate for the Club’s needs, and a sub-committee was formed to discuss new facilities. It proposed that a new Clubhouse be built on a site near the Clyde Quay Wharf. In view of the Americans having taken over the boat harbour and the old Clubhouse, Commander Coene of the US Marines proposed that the RPNYC be able to take over the premises as the new Clubhouse.

The RPNYC trough a maze of masts

The RPNYC trough a maze of masts

So the Club’s main concern in the early 1950s was to obtain a new Clubhouse, and there was much fundraising activity including the selling of “Special Life Memberships” at £25 each. Tenancy of the Clubhouse was negotiated in 1956 and, after extensive renovations, the building was opened as the new Clubhouse on 1 November 1958. The opening of the Clubhouse marked the beginning of the Club’s current history and a sharp increase in the number of members and new boats.

The club’s centenary in 1983 opened a new era in the club’s history and these recent years will be described in the next Bay View.

— Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018

Take a Moderne Walk in Oriental Bay

Art deco is well-known in New Zealand but its successor — the Moderne style — is less well-known, and we have several distinctive examples in Oriental Bay.

This Moderne style took art deco a bit further. Buildings got bigger and, prompted partly by the experience of the 1931 Napier earthquake and partly as a response to new overseas styles, heavy decoration was shed and sleeker forms favoured.

The curving frontage of Olympus is pure Moderne

The curving frontage of Olympus is pure Moderne

Sunhaven, with some Moderne features

Sunhaven, with some Moderne features

Anscombe Flats, where the architect lived

Anscombe Flats, where the architect lived

It’s surprising that so many buildings were built in Wellington — including in Oriental Bay — in the 1930s, during the Depression. The 1920s had seen an absolute building boom which the Depression largely ended. Building activity never actually ceased, however, as can be seen in our own suburb. To see examples of the Moderne style, take a walk, starting at Olympus, the curving blue and white building at the corner of Grass Street and Oriental Parade. Continue along the Parade towards the city and pass Sunhaven with its five balconies. Our third example is Anscombe Flats near the bottom of Oriental Terrace. Its superb Moderne style includes lovely rounded corners and moulded window hoods.

Olympus and Anscombe Flats were designed by Edmund Anscombe (1873-1948), one of New Zealand’s most distinguished architects. He bought the land in 1933, at the age of 60 when he was widowed. He planned to sell the apartments and live on the top floor of Anscombe. The building was completed in 1937 and Anscombe lived there until his death in 1948. A modern addition has been added to the top floor.

Olympus has an entrance in the side street away from the bay and our most frequent winds. It also avoids taking space on the sea side with its spectacular views. There are no porches jutting out in front of each flat, which add to the streamline effect. Sunhaven, between the two Anscombe buildings, was designed by Victor Smith and built in 1939. It does not use the rounded corners so beloved by the Moderne style but he does use the flat reinforced concrete slab walls, the projecting balconies with curved corners, the rolled steel hand-railing and the flat roof — all hallmarks of the Moderne. Although the original plan was for eleven stories, the Council reduced it to six. Even so, at the time it was built, it was the highest building in Oriental Parade.

— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018

The Oriental Bay Rafts

The rafts are a very popular attraction of Oriental Bay, providing as they do hours of enjoyment for young and not so young swimmers.

They were the brainchild of Virginia Barton-Chapple, who had returned to New Zealand in 1980 after 20 years in London. In 1984 the Oriental Bay Residents Association had just been reformed, under the chairmanship of Henry Ward. It had been in recess for many years, and was resurrected by Roger Newport.

Virginia joined OBRA as a committee member in 1984, and suggested that they work on the idea of rafts for the bay. She had seen rafts in Auckland, and was worried by seeing swimmers going out to the Oriental Bay fountain and climbing onto it. She could see trouble, and she was right — lights were broken and the mechanism of the fountain was affected. The Council put strong wire round the fountain in an effort to deter swimmers from climbing onto it, but then there was the worry that people would hurt themselves on the wire.

The 1984 OBRA Committee, however, was not keen on the idea of spending time and money on rafts — very few of the committee members were swimmers — but in 1985 David Rendel became President, and he progressed the idea. The Wellington City Council backed the project, and it took shape. The arrangement was that OBRA would make the rafts and prepare them for the water (I remember helping to paint them in a small hut in Evans Bay), and the Council agreed to transport them, lower them into the water, and house them through the winter months. OBRA being very new did not have the funds to pay for them, and the Ilott family (Jack Ilott was a resident of Oriental Bay) with their usual generosity provided the necessary funding.

In 2014 the original rafts needed to be replaced, and OBRA approached Joanna and Noel Todd and Pub Charity, who very kindly provided the funding for them. OBRA then gifted them to the Wellington City Council, who now own them. Many Oriental Bay residents will remember the chilly day in November 2014 when the Mayor, Celia Wade Brown, launched the new rafts, and then swam out to one of them.


The rafts have been a huge success, and is an endeavour of which Oriental Bay residents can be proud. They have now been enjoyed for over 30 years. It was disappointing that recently young people tried to upturn one of them. The Regional Council took immediate action, and both sides of the raft have now been strapped to the chain which connects the platform to the seabed. It is to be hoped that they survive many more summers, and become a permanent attraction of Oriental Bay.

— Ann Mallinson, Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018

Catastrophe at Te Aro Baths

Neville Martin now lives in Khandallah, but spent his youth in Oriental Bay, where he regales us with some of his escapades and experiences (taken from his memoir Playing Against the Wind).

One anecdote which he recounts tells of the morning when a southerly got the best of the old Te Aro baths:

They were one of Wellington’s recreational jewels. Filled with saltwater (which helped the buoyancy), they had several diving boards and sundry other wonders. On the day in question I was gazing out of our front window at the squalls being driven across the harbour by a particularly vindictive southerly when gracefully, almost regally, something clearly not intended for a sea-going career hove into view. It was the baths, torn by the wind from their piles and any other attachments to terra firma and headed in the general direction of Petone. I can report that the good ship Te Aro broke up before reaching shore. There was no loss of life. The custodian, if he was present that morning, had made the eminently sensible decision to abandon ship before the voyage began.

The old baths were eventually replaced by the Freyberg Pool, a building singularly unimpressed by anything in Nature’s armoury — save, one suspects, the Big One. We were raised just out of the Second World War’s clutches — but not of its thrall. As I recall, the green belt behind the Bay teemed with German and Japanese soldiers. We boys mowed them down in pitched battle after pitched battle — and without the loss of a single life on our side. When it wasn’t the armies of the belligerent nations which demanded our attention, it was the losses of Wild West outlaws hiding in the tumbleweed on the empty sections which eventually were to sprout the high-rise apartment buildings of today’s Oriental Bay.

Digital technology enables children living in those apartments now to destroy armies of incoming aliens and carloads of Mafiosi at the press of a thumb. No need to get wet or risk scratches and cuts.

— Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018

Final Chapter of Church Restoration

The little wooden church on the hill has been Oriental Bay’s backdrop for more than a century. The structural part of St Barnabas went through a full-scale restoration in 2007 from strengthening the foundations to replacing the tower, along with a new entrance and heating. But the leaking main roof was left for the next re-paint when scaffolding would be needed for both jobs. So now, ten years on, both have been completed. The Friends of St Barnabas and parishioners have raised $65,000, with another $10,000 needed.

St B’s is a thriving church with a wide-ranging age group including a programme for youngsters during the Sunday service. The music tradition is thriving with Mark Dorrell leading an enthusiastic choir. Archdeacon Stephen King — who arrived in 2006 to lead the parish through the restoration — left last September, and Rev Annette Cater is filling his place until a permanent appointment is made.

— Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018

Photo: Don Bagnall

Photo: Don Bagnall

The Writers Walk

Walkers are spoilt for choice in Oriental Bay. You can take a waterfront walk. You can choose a bush walk through the Town Belt. You can climb to the top of Mt Victoria. But have your spirits been lifted lately by taking the Writers Walk?

The Wellington Writers Walk, launched in 2002, consists of 23 text sculptures — bold concrete plaques and also ‘benchmarks’ with metal text inlaid into wood. They use quotes from authors past and contemporary. The lines chosen celebrate and commemorate the place of Wellington in these writers’ lives. They remind us why we love Wellington.

Start the walk at the Point Jerningham end of Oriental Parade in the little park there. Here Barbara Anderson (1926-2013), who lived in Oriental Parade, is commemorated with a lovely picture of what makes Wellington special:

Everything about it was good. The tugging wind trapped and cornered by buildings, steep short cuts bordered by Garden Escapes, precipitous gullies where throttling green creepers blanketed the trees beneath.

(Taken from ‘The Girls’ in I think we should go into the jungle, Victoria University Press, 1989)

The other Oriental Bay plaque celebrates Dame Fiona Kidman, using a quote from Speaking with my Grandmothers (Victoria University Press, 1999). It is on the sand near the rocky point, just beyond Freyberg Beach. It reads:

this town of ours kind of flattened
across the creases

of an imaginary map

a touch of parchment surrealism here
no wonder the lights
are wavering

all over the place

not a straight town at all

Continue along the waterfront, keeping a lookout for Marilyn Duckworth’s quote which is inscribed along the timber seats overlooking the lagoon. And so it goes on: poets, novelists and playwrights with quotes celebrating their Wellington connections. The last plaque on the Writers Walk is that of Elizabeth Knox, which is near where the Bluebridge ferry departs.

— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 71, May 2018

The Tora Coastal Walk — still going strong

One of the earliest of New Zealand's private farm walks — the Tora Coastal Walk — is still as popular as ever. Only about two hours drive from Wellington, it's a grand combination of sheep-dotted hills, ridge-tops with splendid views, gullies of native bush, a winding river valley and a black­-sand coast.

Accommodation is as varied as the scenery — first night in Whakapata Cottage on the Elworthy farm, hosts: Kiri and James Elworthy; second night in purpose-built Stony Bay Lodge on the coast, hosts: Amanda and Simon Bargh; and the third night in converted shearers' quarters, hosts: Jenny and Chris Bargh.

Luggage is transported for you and food is provided — lots of local produce, home-cooked and home-caught if you're lucky, as we were when we did the walk not long after it started in 1995.

There were five of us. Jane Elworthy (it was her brainchild) greeted us on our arrival so I'm delighted to see it's still in the family with her daughter-in-law Kiri now organising the walk. Jane gave us info sheets with background information and only one strict rule — leave gates as you find them!

I remember how fascinated we townies were to see aspects of back­country life, like a horseman and his dogs mustering cattle along a valley, and to explore the almost-ghost town of Tora, with abandoned school and desolate homestead.

I also recall how exhausting I found that first day (to a lesser extent, Day 3) — up and down endless hills, following white markers that could be a splash of paint on fenceposts or gates. We saw the wind turbines at Haunui — newish technology back then. Their German engineers inscribed each with their names — there can't be many windmills in New Zealand called Hermann.

Bush in the gullies gave relief from the heat — especially Tora Bush with its nikau palms, lancewood, kanuka, rangiora and five-flnger.

In between the hilly first and third days was the short flat coastal walk on Day 2. We watched the sea pounding the remains of the coal carrier Opua, wrecked nearly 100 years ago. Surfcasters planted their rods along the beach then lounged in chairs beside them.

Country hospitality and stunning scenery — what a great break from city life!

The website is a comprehensive website with full details of every aspect of the walk, which costs $50S per person.

— Judith Doyle, Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017

Dorothy Spotswood — an inspiring lady

Dorothy, the sportswoman, in 1998

Dorothy, the sportswoman, in 1998

When Mark Dunajtsdlik was asked how his wonderful gift to the Wellington Hospital came about, he said it was during a conversation with his business and life partner, Dorothy Spotswood. These two generous people live in Oriental Bay, and Bay View decided to find out more about Dorothy Spotswood. When asked for an interview, Dorothy immediately said that Mark should be the one to be interviewed. But she eventually agreed to talk about her life, which she said was very mundane.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Dorothy, her brother and sisters did not have wealthy parents, but they had a happy childhood and were taught to be self-sufficient. Dorothy was good at sport, and in her youth represented Wellington at basketball. There was no pampering in those days. When her team was to play Auckland, they all had to travel up in the overnight train, and play competition basketball the next morning.

In her 20s she started travelling. She and Mark have had many travel adventures together, but before she met him she went off to Europe with a few girl friends.
They bought a van and set off to explore Europe. She has cheerful memories of being caught in Berlin when the Wall went up. Their visas had run out, and there was no certainty that they were going to get out of Berlin to Poland in their van. They hung around the Checkpoint, and eventually the border control people got tired of these inconvenient girls, and let them through.

Dorothy has been Mark's business and life partner for nearly fifty years, and together they have built up Mark's business. Dorothy does all the accounting work - no easy task. It is tempting to think that Mark Dunajtschik is head of a large organisation. In fact his organisation consists of himself and Dorothy. They have a lot in common. Both both enjoy a simple life, they both love sport and they both like to help people who are in an unfortunate position, not of their own making.

The list of organisations they have helped is too long to list here. It includes the Life Flight Trust, the Graham Dingle Foundation, Hohepa Homes, Hutt Valley Netball, a house for disabled children in Kelson, and of course their massive gift of a new Wellington Children's Hospital.

Dorothy, painting their house — both are great do-it-yourselfers

Dorothy, painting their house — both are great do-it-yourselfers

As soon as you meet Dorothy you are aware of her zest for life. She joins Mark on his deer hunting expeditions, they go rabbit shooting together, and until recently they went on skiing holidays together. She is a great walker. Only a few years ago she decided to tackle the Rotorua marathon, though she had never done one before. She did it in six and a half hours, to even her own amazement since her only preparation for it was to buy herself a good pair of running shoes.

Dorothy and Mark have always enjoyed tennis, and when at the end of the 1970s they decided to buy a house together, their prime requirement was a tennis court. Every weekend they would go to a different suburb and walk round the streets, looking for a house with a tennis court. If they found one, they would knock on the door and ask if the people wanted to sell. The answer was invariably No! Then one day they walked round Oriental Bay, and here they spotted two rather dilapidated houses up a hill. They climbed the hill and investigated them, and realised that if they pulled the larger one down, which had been badly damaged by a slip, and renovated the smaller one, they could have their tennis court.

They have been happy residents of Oriental Bay since then and love it, not least because they can walk just about anywhere they want to go.

Dorothy Spotswood is an inspiring lady.

— Ann Mallinson, Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017

Coene’s Bar and Eatery

Pictures on the wall tell the history of the building

Pictures on the wall tell the history of the building

A happy recent addition to the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club building is Coene's Café and Bar on the first floor. The name of this establishment pays homage to the history of the venue, as can be seen in the wonderful photos on the walls which bring a special flavour to the Bar and Eatery.

Commander Edgar J Coene led American naval troops based in Wellington at this site during World War II. His job was to direct troops in the South Pacific. The neighbouring boat sheds are also named for him.

The tribute in the restaurant reads "Lt Commander Edgar J Coene, USNR, now stationed in a South Pacific Base, has been made a full Commander. He is the officer in charge of the Amphibious Boat Pool, US Advanced Naval Base. 
While stationed in Wellington, New Zealand, he had a wonderful success in the organization of the boat pools in that base and received the following citation in orders from Admiral Halsey: 'Having personal knowledge of the difficulties and obstacles involved in this undertaking, it is considered that special credit is due to the officer in charge, Lt Commander Edgar J Coene, for his industry, initiative, and creative ability.' Mr and Mrs Coene made their home in High Street.

Bar stools are said to have been adapted from metal US Navy chairs, so shorties like me have to dangle their legs. And the fact that this is a yachting cafe is emphasised by an orange line painted through the room. This marks where the starting line for races runs out into the harbour.

As part of the club's campaign to emphasise that yachting is not an elitist sport, this cafe offers a wide range of dishes at varying prices, including sharing-style plates. It replaces the high-end restaurant run here for 13 years by award-winning chef, Martin Bosley.

— Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017

The beginnings of the RPNYC

The Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club as it is today

The Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club as it is today

The Oriental Bay Residents' Association has often held our public meetings in the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club premises. So we thought our members would interested to hear some history of the yacht club — America's Cup year seemed just the right time do so. Here is the first section abbreviated from the yacht club's website.

In 1883 a group of Wellington sailors called a meeting in the Pier Hotel to discuss the formation of a yacht club. The result was the Port Nicholson Yacht Club. Subsequent meetings determined the Club's flag and rules.

The first general meeting was held at the Pier Hotel on 3 October 1883 when the Governor of the day Sir William Jervois, consented to take the office of Commodore. The membership had reached 80 and at the conclusion of the meeting the chairman suggested that the newly formed club occupy the shed which had been arranged at Pipitea Point as its clubroom. Sir William retained the office of Commodore until 1887, then W H Levin was elected to the position. In 1896, through the efforts of the Governor, the Earl of Glasgow, the Club obtained the Admiralty Warrant to fly the Blue Ensign.

The effect of the reclamation made the mooring sites more exposed so in 1902 a contract was let to build the boat harbour at Clyde Quay. The first yachts moved in in 1905 and the Clyde Quay boat harbour became the city's yachting centre.

There were between 30 and 40 yachts and sailing boats associated with the Club in its early years ... Most of them were moored in an area between Pipitea Point and the Railway Wharf (now Waterloo Quay). Others moored in what was known as the Te Aro Bight (corresponding to the Victoria street of today).

The early 1900s saw many new boats brought to Wellington, mostly from Auckland.

This seemed a natural place to pause in this account of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club. We will continue the RPNYC's history in a subsequent story.

— Bay View newsletter 70, November 2017