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The Lion roars back on to Lake Wakatipu: New owner Peter Williams, left, with boat restorer Graham Card after the launch arrived at the Frankton marina on Tuesday

By PHILIP CHANDLER

After 18 years in Fiordland, a boat built for Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu in 1912 is gracing
her home waters again.

A classic wooden launch, The Lion was officially relaunched in Kingston last Saturday by local mayor Jim Boult.

Then on Tuesday she retraced her original voyage to Queenstown, and is now moored at the new Frankton marina.

She was bought in 2018 by Queenstowner Peter Williams, who commissioned Invercargill
boat builder Graham Caird to restore her to her former glory, while also adding some creature comforts.

When Williams first saw The Lion, she was languishing in a hay barn near Lake Manapouri.

‘‘I thought, ‘how many boats do you know that are 100 years old that were built for Wakatipu?’

‘‘‘There should really only be one place [for it].’’’

Coincidentally, she entered the lake the same year as Queenstown’s famous Earnslaw
steamship — and the same year the ill-fated Titanic was launched.

‘‘We believe she’s a little bit earlier on the lake than the Earnslaw,’’ Williams says.

‘‘The trick is around the fact the Earnslaw got to Kingston in the February of 1912, but was in parts and had to be assembled, and did its maiden voyage in October, whereas The Lion was brought up complete, put into the water in Kingston and delivered to [Walter Peak
Station owner] Hugh Mackenzie earlier than that.’’

 

The Lion remained in station ownership till the ‘70s, then had a number of other local owners.

In 2002, after spotting an ad in Mountain Scene, local lawyer Tom Pryde bid on behalf of
American financier, the late Frank Cabot, who’d bought a station by Lake Manapouri and
wanted a heritage boat to use during summer visits.

Pryde, who’d felt regret at the boat leaving Lake Wakatipu, says it’s ‘‘fantastic’’ she’s back.

Thanks to boat builder Caird, who’s now worked on The Lion for three owners, going back to the ‘90s, she’s also looking better than ever.

He’s reribbed some of her, put in a new interior and top cabin, repainted her, put in new
bulkheads to strengthen her and replaced about a dozen kauri planks — ‘‘fresh water’s a great killer of kauri timber’’.

Some of the kauri’s from an old church in Dargaville, in Northland.

In an email to Boult, Williams notes many of The Lions’ guardians, going back to Mackenzie, ‘‘overcame great adversity to triumph with prosperity’’.

‘‘We trust she will become a symbol of the resilience of our special community in these
trying times to also overcome current difficulties and emerge even more energised.’’

Asked what he’ll do with The Lion, Williams, who was raised in Greymouth and who calls
himself ‘‘a bit of a boating tragic’’ — he has another boat in the marina — says ‘‘I’m not sure it needs to go out’’.

‘‘I’ll probably come down and just sit in her.’’

He adds: ‘‘Without this marina it would have been difficult to have completed The Lion
project.

‘‘There’s very few places to berth a boat of this type.

‘‘So we hope the marina will be like the movie, Field of Dreams.”

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