To understand the magnificent maritime heritage that culminated with Gypsy, you have to learn about the fabled Logan family and their unequalled contribution to both yacht and launch design and construction in both New Zealand and overseas.
We cannot attempt the task of covering that in this forum and there is really no need given the fantastic job done by Harold Kidd and Robin Elliot in their wonderful book “The Logans”, by Ivor Wilkins in his “”Classic” and by other maritime authors with far greater knowledge than ours.
Suffice it to say that Gypsy was the very last keel yacht designed by Arch Logan and in the words of Harold Kidd “Gypsy. Is one of the most significant yachts in New Zealand yachting history and indeed, would be regarded by the ministry of Culture and Heritage as a National Treasure. In terms of intrinsic value, it is my opinion that she cannot be compared in any way to a K Class, but only to her peers amongst the stable of craft designed by Archibald Logan which includes: Rainbow, Thelma, Iorangi, Ariki, Tawera and several others from the 1930’s renaissance in yacht construction.
Harold also says “The other yachts built to the K Class specifications in the post war period were bigger and leaner and far more modern than Gypsy which kept her sweet traditional lines and Logan aesthetics, having been built to no particular formula, but just to be an excellent 34 ft keel yacht of beauty in the Logan tradition”.
Arch Logan passed away shortly after Gypsy was launched .Hopefully he got to see his last and perhaps finest creation sailing.
As one commentator said following Arch’s death:” Take care of her you fortunate owner of a Logan craft, for you are in possession of something very beautiful, very staunch and very fast”.
Gypsy’s origin and inspiration
The man who asked Arch Logan to design Gypsy was Alan Leyland, whose family owned the Leyland -Obrien Timber Company in Auckland as well as owning and operating a number of Scows around the New Zealand coast. Alan in fact crewed on the ill fated Rangi which foundered with the loss of all hands shortly after Alan stopped crewing on her. Alan is understood to have asked Arch to design a fast gaff-rigged topsail cutter in the mould of the Logan Cutters of the turn of the century.
Paradoxically, the original sail plan as drawn up by Arch was for a Bermudian cutter.
It can be seen on the plan, where the alternative gaff rig she was launched with, was overlaid on the original. It was also interesting to learn from early crewman Colin Frankham, that Alan never flew the topsail…
Her specifications were given as: 34 ft LOA, 26 ft LWL, 8ft 6 in. Beam, 5ft 3 in. Draft. (Her current draft is approximately 5 ft. 10 in.( It was suggested by Don Brooke that the difference in designed and actual draft, may have been a result of timber owning clients requesting the builder to use more Kauri in her construction than Arch specified).
Once designed, Gypsy was built by Arnold (Bill) Couldrey at his yard at Northcote in Auckland and launched in October 1939 with the sail number C 46.
When launched, Gypsy had the long low cabin (no doghouse) as shown in the sail plan and had no engine. Inside she was open right through with no head (toilet) very basic cooking
There are a couple of small mysteries regarding both her name and her launch date. According to most written records her name is Gypsy and she was launched in 1939. According to the information shown on her rudder post, her name is Gypsie and she was launched in 1940.
The different launch dates are probably accounted for by the tradition of dating yachts according to the first Anniversary Regatta they competed in. (Which would have been 1940), but the differences in name are less easy to understand.
1939 to 1955
Alan Leyland owned Gypsy from 1939 to 1946 and during this time he both cruised and raced her extensively. She was moored at Westhaven in Auckland and I am told that Alan rode his bike from his home at Herne Bay down to Westhaven when he was about to take her out.
She was hauled out each year at the Richmond Cruising Club facilities at Sloanes Beach at Herne Bay and we believe worked on in the family’s boat shed at 33 Marine Parade. According to Colin Frankham, Alan raised the cabin roof a few inches early on in her life and this provided some extra room inside. Colin also remembers going with Alan, bike, and rifle, to shoot rabbits on Motutapu Island.
In 1947 Hutch Hutchinson bought Gypsy from Alan and very soon set about modifying her to make her a more comfortable cruiser for himself and his wife. A Stuart Turner petrol engine was installed, the current dog house was added and luxuries such as: a toilet, table, galley sink and V Berth installed.
In 1951 or thereabouts her rig was converted to K Class specifications and, after much debate, she became part of the K Class fleet. (She was K 4) Being significantly smaller than the other K’s, she struggled to be competitive in light airs, but apparently excelled in fresher conditions.
With the sale to Bert Tyer, Gypsy entered 46 years of ownership within the same family.
Starting with Bert who had her until 1992 and then carrying on with his Grandson Mark Blazey who owned her until 2001.
We don’t have much information of her history over this period although we understand that both Bert and Mark raced and cruised her extensively with considerable success. It appears that her K Class rig was removed in 1969 and an aluminium mast and boom installed. Her sail number changed to 89 at this time.
She was purchased in 2007 by John Pryor.
2007 to 2012
In 2007 we bought Gypsy up to Kawau Island. At that time she was in a fairly sorry state with peeling paintwork, blistered varnish, near rotten cordage and generally looking bedraggled and unloved. However, beneath all that, her lovely lines and Logan heritage shone through.
After extracting her from Orakie Marina, we motored slowly out into Auckland Harbour preparatory to raising sail to sail back to Kawau. Three minutes after clearing the marina, it suddenly became apparent that we had lost all forward motion through the water. The engine was still going, the shaft was still turning, but Gypsy was going nowhere. The decision to raise sail was not a hard one, so up went the Genoa (The mainsheet was unusable) and Gypsy immediately showed her heritage by picking up her heels and surging away at 3-4 knots.
That was the moment that I knew that I had made the right decision in buying her.
We made our way under Genoa into Islington Bay and anchored to give ourselves time to sort out what was happening. What had in fact happened was that the body of the bronze folding prop had split in half with the shaft revolving uselessly inside the remains. That afternoon, we cobbled together a makeshift main sheet and prepared to sail back to Kawau the next day.
Next morning dawned fine, but with absolutely no wind. We pulled up our anchor and drifted slowly out of the bay, thinking that we would be stuck there for an extended period. Fortunately, the wind filled in and we enjoyed a delightful sail back home ending in a near perfect sail on to the home mooring.
Gypsy was home!
Five minutes after we picked up the mooring, Lin & Larry Pardey rowed out with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the new addition to the Cove. After telling me off roundly for buying a new vessel without Larry checking it out first, they allowed that she “had a very sweet sheer” and might, in time, meet with their approval. The first priority, was of course, to find out why she was going nowhere under power. The Pardeys offered the use of their grid, so next morning we took her in on the tide, secured her alongside and waited for the water level to go down.
What we didn’t expect was that Gypsy’s bow also decided to go down!
She canted forward about 30 degrees while we rushed around trying to block up the bow with bits of wood that floated away as fast as we put them in place. Eventually, she settled in a very embarrassing nose down position which however, did allow easy access to the shaft and prop.Our initial diagnosis was confirmed with a new prop being the only sensible cure to the problem. At high tide, we put her back on the mooring and ordered a replacement prop. While she was on the hard and later, back in the water, Larry and Lin, very kindly, carried out a comprehensive survey and pronounced her to be as sound as a bell apart from the obvious cosmetic issues.
Great sighs of relief all round.
Thus began a five year process of pulling Gypsy out each winter, and gradually carrying out the restoration program that we estimated could take up to ten years.
We were determined to keep sailing and racing her during this process and this was achieved. Apart from work done by ourselves, we had major work carried out by: Lees boat Builders, Shipwright Colin Brown, artisan Jacques De Kervor and a number of other talented people.
Over this five years we campaigned Gypsy in as many Classic Yacht Association races as we could, (despite her scruffy state to start with), in each and every Mahurangi Cruising Club regattas that were held, in every Auckland Anniversary Regatta over that period, in the Kawau Island Anniversary Regatta and, raced regularly with our local Sandspit Yacht Club.
During that period, we got to know and appreciate Gypsy better; to learn how to get the most out of her and, most importantly, to enjoy to the utmost, the absolute pleasure of sailing a perfectly balanced vessel which felt as though she was designed for nothing other than pure sailing pleasure. In other words one of the finest Logans ever designed and built.
Unfortunately, that all came to an end at around 12:15 p.m on January 30 2012 on Auckland Harbour.