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Posted by steve mahoney | Mar 26, 2021 @ 04:26 PM | 9,427 Views
Last century the Colonial Sugar Refinery Co produced sugar in Australia and Fiji and shipped it all over the British Empire. CSR is no more but in its heyday it was a huge monopoly, owning vast areas of Queensland and Fiji, had its own refineries, railways, harbours and a dozen cargo ships, plus tugs.

The Maro was a 50ft, wooden, diesel tug built at the company’s Auckland Chelsea Refinery yard in late 1945-6 by the CSR’s own in-house shipwright – talk about vertical market integration.

It had a Gardner 8LW engine, single screw and was built to handle the company’s ships and barges that called at the refinery on Auckland harbour’s North Shore.

Seems strange that they built a tug at that time as just down the road at Devonport Naval Base the NZ and US Navies were decommissioning and disposing of a lot of surplus wartime equipment. A fleet of mothballed boats was in Auckland harbour until completely disposed of in the late ‘40s. A lot of USN stuff like YTLs, Sea Mules and workboats went up to the smaller Pacific islands, the surplus RNZN tugs were distributed around the country’s smaller ports. Wellington, my home town, ended up with 2 former Royal Navy Envoy Class tugs. Some of the USN workboats went up to Hong Kong as police boats.

The Maro does look a little like the USN workboats that had been made across the harbour and its silhouette is more similar to a traditional US tug than to any British design of the era – low superstructure over the engine-room, square...Continue Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Feb 07, 2021 @ 12:12 AM | 8,866 Views
In its day this little tug was a design, engineering and manufacturing stroke of genius – just like the Jeep and the Marston Mat.

They had two huge 6 cylinder engines, two 700 gallon gas tanks and a crew of three 20 year olds. They didn't have an easy life. This particular one (YTL611) was built in Auckland, New Zealand in 1943. Over 8000 were produced but only a handful survive now. They were used by the USN and Army Transportation Corps, and were integral to the US war effort, especially in the Pacific. Unsung, unlovely and unremembered.

For a bit/lot more info check out my build log: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Sep 26, 2020 @ 09:34 PM | 9,651 Views
Circumstances have combined to keep me away from the workbench for a few months and my list of tug models waiting to be made has ground to a halt.

Apathy and lethargy have also played a big part – I need to get back in the saddle.

In the meantime, I have been part of a maritime art exhibition in my hometown. I had a series of prints of local boats, lighthouses and beacons/buoys.

The show was a reasonable success and the few prints I managed to sell just about covered the costs. I think that next time round I'll be a picture framer – they charges twice the price of the artwork just to frame it!

Attached is a selection of the prints I had on show. They are all quite large. The buoy print is 1240 x 920mm, The lighthouse: 900 x 600mm, the Liners: 1250 x 600mm, and the tugs: 600 x 400mm.

The liners are the (New Zealand) Union Company's Maunganui at different stages of its life – a troopship in 1915, a liner in 1935, and a hospital ship in 1945. In 1948 it was sold to a Greek company, renamed the Cyrenia, and took immigrants from Greece to Australia for 10 years before being scrapped. The Cyrenia had a black hull and looks a bit dull so those prints didn't make it into the exhibition.

The tugs are one of the current Wellington tugs (Tiaki, a Damen 2411) and the tug it replaced 7 years ago, the Kupe (NZ built in 1971).

The buoy is Moaning Minnie, the one that marks the reef at the entrance to the harbour, and the Pencarrow lighthouse is opposite it on the other side of the harbour entrance.
Posted by steve mahoney | Nov 18, 2019 @ 09:37 PM | 7,932 Views
Tika is another small (16.7m) tug from the WECO yard in Whangarei. They produced some pretty good vessels in the 70s-80s.

Built for Ports of Auckland in 1971 she served in the main Auckland port (Waitemata) until moving across to light duties on the Manakau in 2001. She had a relatively stress free working life other than one really bad afternoon in 1982. She was assisting the 1433 ton freighter Shereen from her berth to the mid-harbour position, and was about to release the line when the Shereen started to pick up speed. The Tika’s emergency tow release failed to function and the tug was pulled over and capsized. The deckhand made it but Tika’s skipper, since she had been launched in 1971, was trapped in the wheelhouse, and drowned.

A couple of years ago the cement company got a bigger boat that couldn’t use the Manakau facilities and Tika was put out to pasture. Last year while it was waiting for sale I was able to get onboard and take lots of photos. POA were very helpful and also gave me hull lines and GAs. Much more friendly and helpful than some of the much smaller provincial port companies.

The model construction was fairly straightforward. For more info on the Tika, and a full build log, visit: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | May 07, 2019 @ 03:31 PM | 8,093 Views
This subject certainly is unique in NZ – it’s the Tumeke – the only pusher tug in the country. For a kick-off, it’s tiny, only 9m long (27ft). That’s smaller than a small truck. It could go on the New York ATB as deck cargo.

And it’s not pretty – some might even say ugly. It certainly is ‘challenged’ in the looks department.

It was built in 1995 by Northeastern for Benson Brothers (to a Chris Benson design) and is now based out of the major port of Tauranga. It spends most of its time pushing a harbour works barge and dredge around the small provincial ports on the Coromandel Peninsular, making and repairing marinas.

Tumeke means ‘startled’ and I’m sure you would be, in a high sea. It doesn’t look as if it would be very stable without a barge attached.

Construction was pretty straightforward, I started by drawing up some plans based on several photos I found online, and then the process followed my usual methods. As the model is so small the build didn't take too long or present many problems.

A complete build log is at: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Nov 01, 2018 @ 03:47 AM | 9,387 Views
I have been making a model of the Gisborne tug Hikurangi on and off for about 2 years – more off than on at the moment. I keep interrupting its progress by finding other tugs to build instead. That's how the Kumea slipped in ahead of the Hikurangi.

The Kumea was built in Britain around 1925 and was 80ft LOA. She initially worked in Auckland before moving south down the country to Wanganui and then eventually further south to Greymouth.

There is only one existing photo of her – it shows her steaming down the Wanganui River in the mid 30s. Not much to go on, so many of the details such as deck equipment, etc are all guesswork. Even the colour is a stab in the dark. I based the colour on the colour of the silt along the edge of the Wanganui River as it passes through the port.

I'm happy with how it all turned out – the hull has some nice lines and the big funnel and ventilators, and small teak wheelhouse give it some character. It's long and lean, very unlike the squat tugs of today.

The hull is plank on frame and came together easier and better than I had expected. The simulated plate lines worked out OK too. The rope fenders were very time consuming and tedious but after only a couple of weeks I've almost forgotten how much of a hassle they were to make.

There is a full build log over at http://www.

The poor old Hikurangi is still sitting in a cupboard 99% finished while I start work on a new tug. I'll get there...Continue Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Mar 16, 2018 @ 05:23 PM | 9,090 Views
This next tug is also 1/50 and also from New Zealand. I enjoy finding NZ boats to build and have discovered plenty of interesting subjects, all with a little bit of unique character. This one was the first tug of a 1960s fleet built to service the then new oil refinery in northern NZ. Parahaki and a twin sister ship Haumanga were designed to handle large tankers and for any open sea rescue work. After many years service in Whangarei both tugs moved up to the Cook Islands in the late 80s and are now stationed in the Marshall Islands.

Parahaki is not exactly attractive or even classic looking – some might say ugly but it does look powerful and business like.

The build was standard plank on frame/plywood superstructure and went surprisingly smoothly – apart from a hiccup with the railings due to me not being able to tell the difference between 2 and 3. But that's another story.

A full build log is on this forum and at: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Mar 16, 2018 @ 05:13 PM | 9,573 Views
During the Pacific war 30 YTL tugs were built for the US Navy by various yards in Auckland, New Zealand. They were a 75’ YTLs and 41’ YTL Sea Mules. Most saw service around the Pacific. 17 were built by Steel Ships Ltd in Mechanics’ Bay, Auckland and 3 YTLs were under construction when the US Navy cancelled the contracts towards the end of the war. All 3 were already stamped with their YTL numbers on the bow.

Only one of these fine little vessels (YTL625) lives on.

In 1946 YTL625 was launched and passed on the RNZN, renamed Kawatiri and then handed over to the Marine Department for distribution to one of the smaller regional ports – the coal town of Westport on the west coast of the South Island. Kawatiri (deep and swift) is the original Maori name for the Buller River which flows through Westport.

Just prior to the tug’s arrival in Westport, the Minister of Transport, the Right Honourable James ‘Briney’ O’Brien (miner, engine driver and social reformer), who had organised the deal, and was also the local member of parliament for Westport, died. YTL625/HMNZS Kawatiri was renamed in his honour.

This is how the JO'B looked on delivery from the Marine Dept. She stayed in Westport for many years as a harbour tug and pilot boat, and is now a private launch in Picton. I've been onboard and she's as solid as a rock, the original Atlas engine goes like a charm.

A full build log is on the scale boats forum and also at:

...Continue Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Mar 16, 2018 @ 05:04 PM | 9,116 Views
The 1970s and '80s were a bit of a hey day for tug building in New Zealand.

Rangi and her sister ship Karetai were build in Dunedin for the town's Harbour Board. The hydroconic hull was designed in Sydney, Australia. At the time it was cutting edge technology. These boats have very pleasing lines and led a pampered life. After 30 years in Otago they are now working across the ditch (Tasman Sea), in Australia.

Fine tuned a few new techniques and processes on this model: drawing up hulls, brass photo-etching, laser cutting and 3D printing.

I like this little tug – the lines, colour scheme and big brass logo on the funnel make it look unique.

A more comprehensive build log is on this forum and also at: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Mar 16, 2018 @ 04:59 PM | 9,128 Views
After those two American boats I realised that there were some 'interesting and unique' looking tugs right under my nose, here in New Zealand.
Not many people are making models of our local tugs so I thought that I'd give it a go.

The first one on the bench was rebuild of a tug I had made as a toy for my young son 20 years earlier. For this one I was able to get onboard to get a load of reference photos and even got some hull lines and GAs from the original shipyard. This boat is a very hard working little tug, only 21m long. It's currently based in Auckland, pulling cement barges up and down the coast but has worked in many ports around the country. We first saw it in Picton while on holiday, many years ago and my son drew a picture of it , so I thought I'd make a toy one for him. He called it the Sea Monkey.

I'm quite happy with this one as well.

There's a build log on this forum and also at: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Mar 16, 2018 @ 04:52 PM | 8,894 Views
This one is a ship docking module (mark 1), also 1/50. The original and several sister ships operate out of Florida.
It's RC, but quite difficult to handle. Spins in its own length and crab walks but very hard to get it to go in a straight line. The hull had to be deepened to accomodate the drives, motors and electronics.

Just after completion I managed to accidentally destroy the superstructure. It needed a complete rebuild. Alcohol related incident – the less said about that the better.

A full build is on: Reading
Posted by steve mahoney | Feb 08, 2018 @ 11:48 PM | 10,638 Views
I'm interested in model tugs. My first attempt at a model boat was an Artisan Latina 'Amsterdam'. As soon as it was finished I thought "I could do that, myself", and I started scratch building in 1/50 scale.

I like interesting and unique tugs – the type of boats that you don't find as kit sets.

Attached are a few that I've build over the last 10 years.

This project entailed making two identical ATB (articulated tug barge) tugs – one display only, for the owners in NYC, and the other RC, for me. I started in 2008 and it took 4 years to complete them both. Making two identical models at once has both advantages and disadvantages. After making something for one boat I'd usually find a quicker, better way to make the second but it was very repetitive. I lost steam several times although I'm happy with how they eventually turned out.

I have a full build log over at if your interested to see how it's possible to spin a build out for that long. Reading