This article is reproduced, with permission, from the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust website.

By Larry Paul, Chair of the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust

The Classic Yacht Frances was designed by Arch Logan and built by Logan Brothers in 1906 at St Mary's Bay. It was designed as a snapper fishing boat with a broad beam and open hold for that purpose. For the first two years it was owned by an Auckland storekeeper and sold to Robert Shakespear of Whangaparāoa in 1908 who used it as a 'farm to market' transporter. The Shakespeare family owned it until 1991. Anson Shakespear, Robert's son, said they could get nine bales of wool below decks and as much as four tonnes of cement. At the height of the season Frances would carry up to 600 large watermelons from the family farm to the market in Auckland and hence became known as the 'Watermelon' boat.

Construction is three skins of kauri, two opposing diagonal over longitudinal stringers and the outer skin laid fore and aft. The vessel displaces seven tonnes and combines a fixed keel and internal lead ballast. Robert Shakespeare's son, also Robert but known as Bob, was an apprentice with Logan Brothers in the mid 1900's and worked on Frances when it was being built. Bob skippered Frances until 1975 when it was passed to his son Anson. 

Marine surveyor John Harrison, reporting on Frances for Mrs Verna Shakespear in September 1991, said in a covering letter: "I found her to be in good condition, without significant defects. Indeed she is exceptional for her age and it was particularly pleasing to be asked to express an opinion of a vessel of her type which has obviously been well looked after and has not been subjected to all manner of ill-advised modifications as is so often the case. I hope that if she is to be sold the purchaser will be selected with great care as she is unique and irreplaceable."

In 1991 Frances moved to the care of Auckland brothers Paul and Adam Cato and was moored in the Weiti river. They proved to be just the kind of owners John Harrison had in mind for Frances. They carried out a major refurbishment of the yacht late in 1999, including refastening the topsides and giving the vessel a new deck and deck beams. Frances regularly took part in heritage and classic regattas and cruised the Hauraki Gulf and the Bay of Islands.

In 2004 the Cato Family gifted Frances to the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust. Their generous action means that the yacht will continue to generate the sort of public profile its heritage deserves.

Maintenance programmes

Considering its age, Frances' fundamental condition is good and it is maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers. In 2012 its spars underwent restoration in Neil Forrester's shed in Cockle Bay. The mast was restored, with new rigging attached and revarnished in the Percy Vos shed in Hamer Street Wynyard Quarter. The mast was restepped on the 22nd January 2013 at the Viaduct Harbour.

From May to June 2022 Frances underwent a compehensive maintenance programme by Wayne Olsen at Horizon Boats Ltd in Stillwater. Works comprised largely of reparing hull damage and rudder repairs involving; some planking replacement due to teredo worm damage; splining and fairing portions of the hull; fitting additional strengthening floors on the interior; removing and repairing the rudder timbers. The engine was removed, refurbished and painted; rot repaired around shaft log; copper shaft tube replaced with fibreglass and the engine bay cleaned sanded and repainted. A small team of volunteers led by Derek Knight assisted with the works and varnishing of the mast and spars and Iain Valentine and team carried out the de-rigging, re-rigging.

Where to view Frances

Frances is currently berthed at the New Zealand Maritime Museum as an active on-water display for public viewing and regularly competes with the steadily growing fleet of gaff rigged boats on the Waitematā and Tīkapa Moana/Hauraki Gulf.

Frances is a protected New Zealand antique under the Protected Objects Act 1975.

  • Click here to view the Frances photo gallery.
  • Click here to view the original article on the Classic Yacht Charitable Trust website.


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