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My Dad, Henry Thomas Welch, was raised in the little country town of Te Awamutu in the Waikato area, the mid North Island of New Zealand. He was an only child, and grew up during the Great Depression. His Dad, Thomas Henry Welch, was by all accounts a hard-working man, with a strong Christian sense of duty to his wife and family. In those days everyone had to work, so it was the case that Dad virtually grew up working in the family butcher shop. I have a framed black and white photograph in my boardroom of Dad on horseback in the 1920s outside the butcher shop. Despite gaining his University Entrance exam (UE) at Hamilton Tech, he was unable to afford to go to University in Auckland. By 1940, at the age of 26, I suppose that he was frustrated with a small town existence and wanderlust took over. Dad got away to crew on a 90 ft yacht that was sailing to the then remote Pacific Islands, a young man’s dream. As far as I can determine he had no previous sailing experience. From a short note signed by Mr. Jenkins (the owner of the boat) I gather Dad signed aboard as a paying crew. Very much on “a wing and a prayer” as there was precious little money in the family kitty in 1940.
I recount the story of Dad’s trials and tribulations aboard the ketch he called “Golden Hind”, named obviously for the famous ship that carried Sir Francis Drake on his epic voyage around the world. According to a newspaper clipping (“Auckland Star”) at the time the ship was actually named the “New Golden Hind”, and owned by Mr. H. R. Jenkins. The ship was a 94 ft schooner, although subsequently dimensions are given as 93 ft overall, with a 22 ft beam, and 10 ft draft. The ship in the previous year had made a similar trip, which constituted her maiden voyage. According to the “Star”, “She behaved well in all weather encountered, and the engine which was used much of the time as the winds were light, never gave any trouble.” In addition to Mr. Jenkins, and the crew, the party aboard includes Miss Culford Bell, and Mrs. Harrison, of Auckland, Mr. W. E. Mitchell of Nelson, and Mr. Welch, of Te Awamutu. Dad paid a princely sum of five pounds a week for the trip, as working crew, and in this regard, please see letter in the gallery from Mr. Jenkins.
Dad would, occasionally, reminisce about the trip, and I have some memory of events, though somewhat patchy. At one point he fell overboard from the “Golden Hind” during a night passage, and spent some time in the water in mortal fear of barracuda with razor- sharp teeth, before he was picked up after the ship returned along its course. This event is however not recorded in his notes of the voyage. The initial draft (I too draft things up like Dad did); is written from Uepi, on Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands; a fitting location to record this log of Dad’s voyages. It is now 2012, some 72 years later, and haven’t things changed? Instead of a month’s-long voyage, in one day with jet travel you can be on location at a remote lagoon in the Western Provinces, ready to go scuba diving the next day. As we will see, Dad refers to the looming cataclysm of World War II. Now, 2012, the year of assembling this narrative, the war has come and passed, but its history remains with submerged relics around the islands.
I am reading a now-browning single leaf pad with his diary written in pencil, which thus commences, in about the middle of the story, with a draft letter, as Dad was always particular about getting the words right for his letters, a habit which stood him in good stead in his later years in business. I have added some comments (in brackets) hopefully of interest to the reader, but have left Dad’s account as it was written. If we were to return in time to 1940 who would have believed that his log would eventually be published along with his photographs on the world wide web for all to enjoy. This, for me, is a fitting testament of my admiration for Dad’s sense of adventure.
“July 1, 1940.
Mr. Slokem. (a bank manager)
(I) regret my laxity on not calling upon you before leaving Nuku’alofa. re our recent conversation on finance I have however opened an account and shall correspond from NZ and providing the proposal is still favoured by you we can negotiate from there.
Yours faithfully, Henry Welch.”
(Now, quite what the proposal was we are not told, but this letter is somewhat disjointed, reflecting I think the fact that Dad had been very ill with hepatitis…and I will come back to that, and at some point July, August 1940 he left the yacht and took passage back to New Zealand from Fiji. We have scanned in information about the “Golden Hind” , by all accounts a well found yacht, built of Kauri in New Zealand to a Jack Brooke design, and owned by a Mr. Jenkins, who sounds like an entrepreneur from Auckland. The construction of a similar yacht today, in glass or alloy, would probably cost on the order of $10M, a small fortune by my standards, so even during the depression years, there was some money around in New Zealand).
Dad’s Log commences:
“Left Auckland, May 4, according to Log. Deep Water Cove the next morning
(One of may favourite sails, Auckland to the Bay of Islands, and it sounds as though they sailed overnight and made a good passage. Deep Water Cove is an excellent anchorage on the port side as Cape Brett is rounded).
May 5th, anchored at Paihia
May 6th, shifted to Russell
May 7th, left Russell for Sunday Island
(Sunday Island, named by James Cook, is in the Kermadec Group, and en route between New Zealand, and the Islands of Tonga, our ship’s destination).
May 10th, sighted Sunday Island. Anchored at 7:30 pm on the Eastern side.
(Dad told me later that they went ashore apparently to hunt wild pigs,or goats, but nearly got themselves lost and separated from the boat in the process, with further mishaps to come as our narrative progresses. They did some fishing there and the grouper were plentiful. The next comment bears evaluation)
May 11th, shifted anchorage to better position in Turtle Bay; went ashore. Mr. Robinson and radio operator came out to yatch (sic). Blowing hard; lost anchor and chain as we were leaving.
(Apparently with a taut rode, as the ship rose there was a bullet-like crack and the chain actually broke as the crew was getting the ship under way. Luckily, no injuries.)
May 12th, seas rough.
May 13th, no wind engine used.
May 14th. Island Eua sighted 5:10pm. Midnight ship hove to awaiting daylight to go into Nuku’alofa.
(So, even with stops along the way they made good time to Tonga, just on a week from New Zealand.)
May 15th. Entered via Eastern Passage. Moored at buoy at Nuku’alofa. Ship cleared and passed (Customs and Immigration–friendly in those days!) All went ashore there after.
May 16th. Fine day.
May 17th. Fine day. Enjoying ourself (sic) ashore.
May 18th Left Nuku’alofa.
May 19th Anchored at Nomuka 1.15 pm.
May 20th 10 am. Left Nomuka 2.30 pm Anchored off Nanukukahaki Island in 3 fathoms
May 21th 9.30 am, left no wind used engine all way to Lifuka arrived and anchored at 12.15pm noon. Septic tank giving trouble.
May 22nd. Still at Lifuka still working on septic tank.
(The inference here is that the ship was equipped with holding tank, for pumping out at sea; most yachts of that generation simply discharged directly over the side, and this practice was maintained in New Zealand yachts well into the 1970s when we had our yacht “Beyond II”. The next entry, May 23rd, is laconic, even for Dad)
May 23rd Still on tank.
(However, all seems to have been fixed, as on the next entry, they were again putting to sea)
May 24th. 6.20 am left Lifuka fine and clear. Rained later on in the day.
May 25th. 1:15 am arrived Vava’u made fast to buoy.
May 26th Fine day. Took about 30 people for sail down harbour returned 5 pm, left at 2 pm.
May 27th Vava’u.
May 28th Showery.
May 29th. Launch trip to Tofua with Mr. Geis.
May 30th. 60 passengers and left Vava’u 2:45 pm. Heavy seas and wind.
(I don’t think Dad was all that enamored of these sight seeing trips, hard work for the crew, and where did they put all those people? Not clear why they took so many passengers, nor the role Mr. Jenkins played in this. Reading between the lines the passengers were probably paying. I doubt the septic tank withstood the collective efforts of all these people. With some sixty passengers on board it is no wonder there was difficulty with the septic on the yacht; this may have contributed to Dad’s subsequent illness).
May 31st. Rainy; visibility bad. Entered Western Passage; tied to wharf 2 pm.
June 1st-4th, Nuku’alofa.
June 5th, alongside wharf took on provisions and water. 4:45 left Nuku’alofa.
June 6th. 8:30 am. Hove to at Lifuka sent mail ashore. Anchored at Pukutala 10 am; left again 3:15 pm.
June 7th. 9:40 am arrived at Vava’u after night outside. Very heavy seas and rain.
(At this point he shifts back to different date, May. I can only assume that he was not well and confused the dates. I show the actual date. Lifuka is an island located within the Ha’apai Group in the centre of the country, to the nor’east of Nuku’alofa. Nomuka is a small island in the southern part of the Ha’apai group; part of the Nomuka group of islands, also call the ‘Otu Mu’omu’a).
June 8th. Better day though heavy winds. 5:15 pm “Matua” arrived from Nuku’alofa. Shifted from buoy and anchored. 8 pm “Matua” left.
June 9th. More passengers. 9:45 pm left Vava’u.
June 10th. Hove to at Pukubla, left for Lifuka; at jetty 8:45 am. 1:15 left Lifuka. 40 more passengers; anchored at Nomuka, 8 pm.
(At this point he swaps to July, but we will assume an error and continue with June, as the chronology fits).
June 11th. 12:30 pm keft Binyja started engine; beating about all day. 6 pm berthed at Nuku’alof’a.
(Beating about is a term to describe tacking. They probably had the engine going to increase their speed over bottom, and probably assisting the ship to point somewhat higher into the wind).
June 12th (Wednesday). Henry left ship for spell on shore, also Tom.
June 13th-15th, (on shore, and mention of a stroll).
June 16th, Sunday. “Golden Hind” arrived from Vava’u.
June 17th, Monday; took ill; into bed.
June 18th. Doctor called in; very bad.
June 19th. Still very ill.
June 20th. Still very ill. Doctor called in again; no one from ship to visit me.
June 21st. Friday. “Golden Hind” still in Nuku’alofa. No one seemed to know when it was leaving.
June 22nd. Dr. Brown called in; condition not improved, in fact a little worse.
June 23rd. Still in bed.
June 24th. “Golden Hind” went out to Bagaimotu Island.
(At this point the dates get back on track, perhaps as his health improved. It transpired later that he suffered hepatitis, although at this time it is possible he had malaria, or dengue fever. One could speculate that the work on the septic tank has had something to do with contracting hepatitis.)
June 25th. Tuesday. Still very ill though improving.
June 26th-27th. In bed.
June 28th. “Golden Hind” left with 120 passengers; 2 ladies and Jenkins stayed behind; this learned next day from the ledgers.
June 29th. Learned about the departure of “Golden Hind”; still unable to get up, no food for 3 days now.
(I don’t think Dad was all that impressed by how he had been abandoned by the ship and its owner. He was able to eat something by the next day. He may also have been disappointed that the owner was consorting with not one but two ladies while Dad lay at “Death’s Door”).
June 30th, Sunday, few visitors, and (someone) brought jelly etc. and malted milk.
July 1st, Monday. Got up for the first time; very weak; developed jaundice.
(It was on this day that he wrote the slightly incoherent letter to the Bank Manager, as above. At this point in the log there is a 6 day gap as Dad was presumably very ill. The account resumes on the July 7, 1940).
July 7th. “Golden Hind” arrived back from Vava’u.
July8th. (No entry)
July9th. Left for Vava’u last load of passengers.
July 10th. 10:35 arrived Vava’u landed some of the passengers.
July 11th. Still Vava’u; Norwegian Copra Steamer arrived.
(In those days it was a big event when a ship arrived, bearing loved ones, cargo, and importantly for the expats, the mail.It would appear by this time that he is back aboard the”Golden Hind” and recovering further from his illness. They were soon to be at sea)
July 12th, left for Fiji 12:30 noon.
July 13th, not much wind, sailing 4 knots, all well.
July 14th. Becalmed; started motor on 2 cylinders aver(aged) 1 1/2 knots for day; crew did quite a lot of odd jobs; all well sunny, delightful day; wind sprang at 9:30 pm.
July 15th. Fair wind; good time 7 knots; passed 2 islands Lau Group, 5:15 and 6:30 respectively.
(On the July 13th, he drafted a letter home to his parents which summarizes his thoughts at the time:)
Dear Jo and Dad, July 13th, 1940. Saturday.
Left Vava’u yesterday Friday at 1:30 pm approx.. In the morning the McGeis took us out to see 2 caves after travelling about 3 miles in a lorry we reached the coast. A rough road we took. Shook up jaundiced liver.
The caves were quite interesting one of them contained human bones which we dug up out of the sand (quite “Tambu”, Ed.). This cave was used years ago to put old people to die that were considered a nuisance or useless to the community.
There was a good following wind when we left Vava’u. I being at the helm brought her down the channel and out into open sea. Made a good 5 knots the ship is rolling a good deal usually does with a following wind and following sea. We have one extra passenger to Fiji, a Mrs. Cameron a Tongan 1/2 caste. I should say she is laying very low though not sick yet. The weather is cloudy and overcast and not all that hot, quite mild. Its now 12 o’clock mid day (Saturday) 13th.
I’m just thinking of you trying to clean up, scrape the (butchers’) block, clean the windows, cash up, wages to fix up, and tons of other jobs to do though the weather is cold over there and the meat would not be such a bother. How are you managing with the cartage of the Beef (which was one of Dad’s jobs). Bet it caused a little bother at times. The old Bedford, can they work her alright? And, has Cecil stripped any more gears off the V8 van. Oh! there’s lots of things I can imagine that have gone wrong. Joyce, you will be busy with the books again today; hope you are managing alright. You’ll be able to say you’r a fully fledged book-keeper by now. I am sorry I have put so much on to you both but you see it was impossible for me to move with the fever. Then the yatch being becalmed upset the whole thing so hope that you can manage just the same for a while longer. Anyhow, if the war goes on much longer which I think it will you’ll have to manage without me altogether.
(Dad was always sage in his prognostications, and was indeed very correct for this one; the war was going to last another five years. He was unaware of his own destiny for in the not to distant future the Japanese, already on the march in China, and emboldened by their easy victories, were to attack Pearl Harbor and bring the United States into the War; he was to volunteer for the New Zealand army, was made gunnery instructor, and posted to the Pacific Theatre. Unlike many of his age, he did survive to return to New Zealand. I do recall during the ’60s his prediction about Indochina, simply saying that the Americans would never win what the French had lost…but I digress, and now back to the log)
Sunday, July 14th. Becalmed, just rolled around on the swell of the ocean eventually started up our crippled engine on 2 cylinders; did 1 1/2 knots average for the day; wind sprang up later on into night; by morning (Monday) we were making a fair pace 7 knots; passed the island of (left blank) at 5:15 am then (left blank) at 6:30 am; fair wind very dull overcast seas very angry; by midday Monday had sailed to within 60 miles of Suva; but cannot make it before dark wo will have to sail up and down outside till morning; seas still very rough; good wind. I have done nothing on the yatch except sleep and head a little too weak to help sail or anything; hope I pink up in Suva before I leave for home. Reached Lighthouse 27 miles from Suva at 3:30 pm but cannot make entrance to Suva before dark so we shall have to spend the night sailing up and down ; we’ve 20 miles of clear water so its pretty safe. We didn’t like to risk going into Suva in the dark in case they took a shot at us which mightn’t prove too pleasant; for the first time we had a radio in working order and we listened to Suva and managed to get the news also its now ten past ten Suva time and the wrestling match between Lofty Bloomfield and Caton in the Town Hall is coming in very clearly so all hands are listening in. The wind is very good just when we don’t need it; we just have to sail along and roll about till daylight; we have only 3 sails set and we are keeping a very good watch for other ships; not very pleasant to collide with the “Monterey” or the “Mariposa”?. The Suva wireless announced that the Pan American clipper would pass over Suva tomorrow so we will probably see it. I am getting quite excited looking forward to getting some mail tomorrow. It’s a long long time to go without word from you people. I have been wondering and worrying lots of time especially when I was laid up with fever however I am picking up now and it could have been worse it seems to have left me with a bit of a stutter but I will probably over come that as I pick up. Hope so, anyhow. Landed at Suva; 10:15 and made straight for BNZ (the Bank of New Zealand).
(Dad’s final entry in this narrative is an odd poem–perhaps he did have cerebral malaria after all? He was soon to return to Te Awamutu by passenger liner back to Auckland, having sailed many miles at sea on an eventful cruise of the “Golden Hind”.
Young man never mock the stranger or the poor
The black ox has not trod on your foot yet
You know not what lands you may travel in
or what clothes you may wear before you die
Vanity makes fools of the wisest.
These cryptic words have a haunting ring today as they did in 1940 when he sailed as crew on the “Golden Hind” to the islands of Tonga, South Pacific.