Hinemoa. Built 1937 at Carrington Newcastle by Ivar (Chips) Gronfors

This site came about through the search for the history of my yacht Hinemoa.              
Her origins had been lost for over fifty years and after a personal search for fifteen years, here finally is the story of Hinemoa, her designer and builder and her many custodians.
With help from the Gronfors Family I have also included all known boats built by Chips Gronfors.
I am currently searching for any information concerning boats built or designed by Chips Gronfors if you can help, please feel free to contact me   @   colingraz@hotmail.com
The latest research is contained in the Photo Album” Launch Broadbill and Azile.
 Double click on the Links to View the Images.
Launch Broadbill and Azile
Hinemoa Lake Macquarie
1959 – 1969 Leo Reilly. Neville and Graham Littlewood. David Elflick.
Hinemoa Cabbage Tree Creek and Today
Hinemoa.. ( Lady of the Lake ) | New Zealand. Maori Legend .
36 Ft in Length..(11 metres) 9 Ft Beam..6 Ft Drought ..Aprox 9 tons ..1″ New Zealand Kauri on steamed Ribs  Lead Keel.
After 15 Years of searching for Hinemoa’s history I received this Email from Peter Rundle .. of Lake Macquarie.

    Dear Colin .  I know the history of Hinemoa  prior to Middle Harbour as it was owned by father in the early 1950’s 

My heartfelt thanks to Peter for all his help and his generous gift of the wonderful photographs that he has kept for all these years.( See Photo Album )

Not only did Peter supply the origins of Hinemoa but a wealth of information in the form of two books,one of them includes the story of Chips Gronfors and many other boats that he built.

Hinemoa, designed and built by Ivar (Chips) Gronfors at Carrington in Newcastle for the Newcastle Optometrist Major Clement Robert Walsh MC and launched on Sunday 11th July 1937.
August Ivar Gronfors was a Finnish shipwright that jumped ship in the Port of Newcastle in May 1910
Born August Ivar Gronfors 3rd of September 1885, Finno Island, Finland.
Ivar was the son of a Master Mariner and Navigator, Matheus August Gronfors.
His skill with the adze and use of hand tools and the large amount of wood chips he created led to his nickname “Chips”
Chips was an accomplished boat builder, building many boats including large Ferries ,Launches, Power Boats and Yachts.
Chips started his apprenticeship as a shipwright at the Abo Shipyards in Finland in 1903 at the age of 18
He furthered his skills by attending evening classes and studying boat design and building.
He also was a skilled navigator and spent his summer holidays as a navigator on yachts sailing around the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia and the Gulf of Finland.
During this time Finland was under the control of Russia and Czar Nicholas II .
The Czar had embarked on a program for the Russification of Finland which made life very difficult for the Finns.
Promising to send for her when he was settled, Chips left his new wife and baby for Cardiff Wales where he  signed aboard the iron hulled fully rigged ship “Thomasina MacLellan” in March 1909 bound for Australia.
The story of Chips is told in Fred Thomas’s book Boat Builders of Lake Macquarie.
Craig Gronfors, Chips’s Grandson was researching his Grandfathers history before he died. His research is the basis for Fred Thomas’s book on Chips.
In the meantime here is a list of known boats built by Chips Gronfors.   Lord knows how he had time to have two wives and six children.
Azile: Ferry, Launched 1911. Built for Messrs Herbert and Rinkers. At Mosquito Island .Hunter River.
Length 66ft .Beam 14ft.  Gross Tonnage 30.95 British Ships Register No 128782
Two 20 HP Atlas Oil Engines turning two screws propelled her at 9 knots.
Carried 225 Passengers.
Used on Sydney Harbour on the Erskine Street to Bald Rock run until 1942 when she was taken out of service and presumable broken up.
 ( Album 4.. Newspaper and Photos )
More on her time with Agar Bros and Lake Macquarie to be found here.
Crescent 1: Launched 1913..Motor Launch . At Tea Gardens for Messrs J.F Flanaghan And S.S  Smithe ..
Length 67 ft .14 ft Beam. 40 tons gross tonnage
Said to be the largest Semi Diesel installation in NSW to date
 Destroyed by fire at Nords Wharf, Swansea,, Lake Macquarie.. March 1st 1916..British Ships Register No 128784   ( Album 4 )
John Darling: Launched 1914. Motor Cruiser.  Built for Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) Now B.H.P Billiton.
Named after the John Darling the first Chairman of B.H.P.
Mr Ron Haug a Stockton Shipwright did major repairs to The John Darling in the 1960’s and remembers some time later the launch was sold by B.H.P to fishermen who removed her engine and then destroyed the hull.
Ironically John Darling died in March 1914 ( Album 4 )
Kingfisher and Recruit: Ferries built for Hugh Thurlow.
IIma Jean 1918 Motor Launch  Owned by Reg Hyde ” Reg said she had the most delightful lines. Unfortunately she had gone to rack and ruin and was too far gone to be rebuilt in about 1940″( Album 4)
 The Brothers : Launched 1918. 26ft Motor Cruiser. Built for the Korsman Family
Repone: Ferry, Launched 1918
Tourist: Ferry Launched 1919
Spindrift/ Spumedrift. Yacht 45ft in length 12.49 tons  11ft beam.   Built 1924 in Hobart at the Charles Lucas Yard for E.H Webster.. Said to be the finest yacht built-in Tasmania in 1925
 Most probably designed by Chips .Registered Spumedrift in 1926 by Webster before attempting to sell her. Was obviously unsuccessful and she was sailed to Sydney and re advertised in Sydney.
Was not sold until December 1929 to Reginald Holmes a Sydney Boat Builder.  (Album 4)
Sold to John Jira 10th April 1930  disappeared 1945 until 1962 when she was owned by Neil and Toni O’Brien of Bulimba QLD>
Spumedrift article Australian Women’s Weekly 1962 
Newspaper reports stated that the completion of Spindrift held up the construction of Tassie.      
Tassie.   Restricted 21 ft Racing Yacht:
Tassie’s keel was laid in Dec 1924 at the Charles Lucas Yard. Battery Point Hobart.
Built in just 4 weeks for the  Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania as a challenger for the Forster cup.
The Forster cup was presented by Lord Forster, the serving Governor General  in 1922 to stimulate interstate competition between the 21-foot, restricted class yachts, the cup was to become one of Australia’s premier yachting trophies.
Tassie won her inaugural Forster Cup in Hobart, 1925 and then won again in 1926, 1927 and 1929..
See Album 4 Newspaper Article and magazine article about the building of Moani. More research in progress.
More information on 21ft Restricted Class below.
Tassie Too: Restricted 21ft Racing Yacht. 1927
Still considered the most successful Australian racing yacht.
Tassie Too, with the help of Tassie also won her inaugural outing in 1928, and went onto win the Forster Cup eight more times.  The last being in 1952 on the Derwent River Hobart.
Moani: Launched 1925.  35 ft Motor Cruiser.  Hull built-in Hobart and shipped to Newcastle on the SS Kanna for completion. Built for Mark Christian Reid  and John Christian Reid of John Reid Shipping Agency of Newcastle.
Currently in Pittwater at  McCarr’s Creek. Owner. Andrew Jackson.
Ship Register Number 128796 ( Album 4 and 5 )
Bebie a.k.a Nancy / Affas: Motor Cruiser. Built. Hobart Tasmania  Launched 1928.  35ft. . Currently Owned by Belmont 16 ft Skiff Club. Sold in 1014 to unknown owners ( Album 4)
The Hastings: Pilot  Motor Launch March 1932.   Lost in 1937 while crossing the bar at Port Macquarie, her Captain L.G Liley was lost overboard and drowned.
  “Yacht race to Tasmania: It is expected that an ocean yacht race may take place from Sydney to Hobart, probably starting on December 26, 1945. Yachtsmen desirous of competing should contact Vice-President Mr. P Luke, 62 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, for information. Entries close December 1, 1945.”
 Launched 1937. Yacht Cutter. Built for Edna Merle Grey McGhie of 115 Victoria Road Bellevue Hill Sydney.. Register states she was a women of independent means .
Purchased by John Robert Colquhoun on 9th December 1944.   Placed 2nd in the First Sydney To Hobart yacht race January 1945
Sold in January 1947 to Cecil P Johnson a Grazier of 444 Edgecliff Road  Edgecliff  NSW.
Purchased on the 27th November 1951 by the last registered owner Cameron Sutcliffe Rowntree.  ..Radiologist ..91 Chapel Road Bankstown NSW.
Ship Register No 128800  (See News Paper Articles and Ships Register. Album 4 and 5)
Ambermerle was wrecked on the Sow and Pigs Reef at the entrance to Sydney Harbour. It is believed that the young son of the owner at the time was on the helm. The date of the loss is at this time not known.
Ambermerle’s mast is still in use as a flag pole at a Lane Cove Scouts Hall.     
Hinemoa: Launched Sunday the 11th  July 1937. Yacht. Currently owned by Colin Grazules  Sandringham Yacht Club Melbourne
Broadbill: Launched 1940. 37 ft Motor Cruiser. Built for DR A.B.K Watkins .   Ship Register No 315284… Currently owned by Kyle Paterson North Wyong, NSW (see photo album 4 and 5)
Speedboat No 1 Launched 1915 Built for Frank Motum . ( Album 4 )
Speedboat No 2  Launched 1917 Built for Alfred Ward . ( Album 4 )
Miss Auto: Speed Boat.. Built for Stan Heaney Newcastle Auto Exchange.
Miss Judith: Speed Boat..Built for Stan Heaney. Won the E.C. Grifith Cup 1937 ( Album 4 )
Lady Betty: Speed Boat.. Built for Stan Heaney
Here’s Tooee: Speed Boat..  Built for Stan Heaney
Miss Otua.. 1946 28ft Motor Cruiser. licenced to carry 21 Passengers.
Unknown Motor Cruiser. 1946.  28ft . Sistership to Miss Otua both built at the rear of Newcastle Auto Exchange Workshops.
Miss Kangaroo. 1947 Speed Boat. Built for Stan Heaney. Said to be used to take people for joy rides at Speers Point.
This is all  the vessels that have been found to date.
Hopefully more will be found in time.

More of Hinemoa’s Story.

Found this Military Record for Major Clement Walsh
Major Clement Robert Walsh MC
Original Unit: 4th Infantry Brigade Train, 7th Company, Army Service Corps
Rank at enlistment: 2nd Lieutenant
Age at enlistment: 25
Occupation: Chemist
Marital Status: Single
Address: 25 Union Street, Newcastle
NOK and Address: M Walsh, Father, 25 Union Street, Newcastle
Enlisted: 09-09-14
Embarked Sydney aboard A39, Port Macquarie on 21-12-14
Final Unit: 3rd Division Train.
Awards: Military Cross.
Thanks Diggerdave,Great to hear from you,
That helps fill a few more gaps in my info.
After the war Clem Walsh opened an Optometrist Practice in Newcastle.
Then an amazing letter from John Hogg of Newcastle.
Re “HINEMOA” Lady of The Lake.   Afloat Magazine 2009   
I read this article with interest.
My uncle Clem Walsh owned and skippered a yacht by this name. As a 16-year-old I sailed with my father as crew on many occasions in the 1940/41/42.
As far as I can remember every month my job was to dive in about 12ft of water and inspect the mooring chain, shackle and concrete block.
I also spent many hours sanding with wet and dry. Great Days.
Clem was a member of the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, Belmont near Newcastle.
Clem was an optician and optometrist in Hunter Street Newcastle for many years.
What happened to the boat I don’t know.
This information may be of interest to you 
Regards John Hogg.                 
After the war Clem sold Hinemoa to Major Ivens
Around 1950 Nelson Rundle purchased her from Major Ivens..
Nelson owned Rundle Tailoring in Hunter Street Newcastle.  Clem Walsh’s business was also in Hunter Street.    http://www.rundletailoring.com.au
Nelson sailed Hinemoa from the Lake Macquarie Yacht Club
May 1954 Nelson Advertised Hinemoa for 2000 Pounds in the Sydney Morning Herald. (Album 1)
Nelson went on to win the 1961 Sydney to Hobart in his Yacht Rival. Rival was built by Les Steel builder of Doris/Rani
1955 Nelson sold Hinemoa to Leo. V. Reilly of Middle Harbour Yacht Club for 1,200 Pounds
Leo raced Hinemoa out of Middle Harbour and won many races.
Robert Mann Leo’s son in Law wrote.

“I sailed on Hinemoa for about 5yrs with Leo Reilly who was my father in law All.I can remember was that I believe the mast was lowered by 6ft on the advice of Alan Payne a naval architect, as she was a bit wild down hill and in the time .When I sailed on her every brass fitting gave way and the mast broke.   We won a few races with her. Leo sold it to a Neville Litlewood who sailed out of Middle Harbour for a season.”

With Roberts help here is some more of Leo’s History.

He sailed on on a 12ft as a lad in the Greenwich Squadron then to 18 footers when they had 18 crew.

He also played rugby league in the first grade as hooker for the North Sydney Bears.
Hinemoa was his first Yacht,he then had Dumalee built by Ron Swanson in which he did the Sydney Hobart.
He did that race 11 times and from memory came 2nd twice,He was in the 1st Admirals Cup on Camille which was Built by Ron Swanson With Freya and Caprice of Huan they came 2nd.He represented Australia In the 1 ton Cup Sailed in Denmark.He did the Auckland to Nuomea Race.
Du-ma-lee was built by Ron Swanson at Leo’s transport yard at Annandale and launched at Blackwattle Bay.She was from English design called Gazelle but extended to 36ft and given nicer lines the original being stubby bow and stern also the beam was increased by about 6ins. Leo sailed the other 10 Hobart race on different boats mostly Ron Swanson designs Such as Carmen Camille etc. 
There are two Skite Plates still on the Mast below decks .
Middle Harbour Yacht Club provided the following information about them in 2006
Thanks To John Hurley MHYC Racing.    “The Skite Plate was issued to all yachts competing in the MHYC Annual Point score, in those days.
So the yacht would have won the Point score Race in Division 2 on 8/10/1960.
It would also have placed second in the Picnic Race on 14/1/1961 (or Rendezvous), which is a Trophy Race.
The Owner was Leo Reilly, a long time Member at MHYC, he joined in 1959 & died in 2004 aged 89.
This must have been Leo’s first yacht, I do not have any detail on the design.
Shortly after, around 1964 Leo built a new boat called Du-Ma-Lee, which was a gun No 1 Division Yacht at MHYC for many years, a sister ship to Kaleena which was owned by Horrie Godden, both boats were built by Ron Swanson”
Du-Ma-Lee and Kaleena competed in the 1964 Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race.
Both completed the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race Kaleena the 1959 through to1968 and Du-Ma-Lee in 1962.”
Received this from Graham Littlewood.
 “Dear Colin,I know Hinemoa all to well and am so pleased she is still going.
My father bought her from Leo and I spent all my childhood ears on her.
I have many stories/memories to fill in, in between the years approx 1959 to 1968.
If I can be of any help please let me know.
Graham Littlewood.”
Graham’s father Neville Littlewood brought Hinemoa from Leo around 1961 and owned her until 1969
Ron Swanson built for Leo the current square mast, the original was round. He also splined the hull and replaced many of the ribs. All still sound to this day.She had a bowsprit and an open dog box in which Graham said he spent many hour huddled under.Graham recounts that Hinemoa was then sold to a Mr David Elfick .
“The person who bought Hinemoa from my father was a David Elfick and at the time he was earning money from a pop magazine called “GO SET”.  
But his friend or business associate was Russel Morris who came out a few times as I was showing David how to use and sort of sail the yacht.
The hit song at the time from Russel was “The Real Thing” a very long song. 
David always turned up with good-looking women in tow so it was a problem for me to help him. 
Who David sold Hinemoa to I don’t know, he was a Melbournian I’m sure, and could still be there ?”
Many thanks to Graham .. Hopefully he has more tales to tell ..
At this time the history after David Elfick is still lost ..Hopefully some one may come forward to fill in the gaps.
Hinemoa underwent a major refit in Queensland in Cabbage Tree Creek at Hutchinson’s Slipway around 1972
 (see Album 3) and was later sold to Mr Peter Bertino of Paynesville Victoria.
Australian Wooden Boat Show Feb 2011.
Sandy Bauer from Bauer Boat Building of Moffat Beach QLD was walking along the jetty and spotted Hinemoa, “I did the rebuild on her in 1972 at Cabbage Tree Creek”.
Thanks to Sandy one of the last piece of Hinemoa history has been found.
I have spoken to Jean Robertson nee Wollcott, Jean and her husband Barry had purchased Hinemoa in a run down condition in Brisbane, Jean said that the first night they slept on her, she almost sank.
Jean and Barry after having her rebuilt, sailed Hinemoa north to Townsville and Cairns where eventually they sold her.
 Mr Bill Barton and myself  purchased Hinemoa in 1989 in Painsville from Peter Bertino.
After a recent major rebuild Hinemoa sailed across Bass Strait to Hobart for the 2007 Wooden Boat Festival and is now moored at Sandringham Yacht club in Melbourne Aust ..
Hinemoa attended the Wooden Boat Festival Geelong March 2008.
Hinemoa attended the first Melbourne Wooden Boat Festival. Victoria Dock 20th February 2010 and the again the Wooden Boat Festival in Geelong March 2010 .
In 2011 Hinemoa sailed across Bass Strait to attend the 2011 Australian Wooden Boat Show in Hobart.
Thanks to Mori Flapan , Bob from The Coastal Passage ,Andrew from Anchorline Yacht Brokers,  Tony from the Queensland Plant Identification and Advisory Service.
Ivan Holm from the Classic Yacht Association,
Albert Jeays of Deagon and Peter Kerr from Deagon Slipway for helping me find Cabbage Tree Creek from a few old photos.
March 2008
“She loves a reach but her forte is downwind.”
In 2008  when returning from the  Geelong Wooden Boat Festival, the boat was running before the wind. 
As the breeze was light at first  all the sails were aloft., during the day the wind had built steadily to around  40 knots.
Hinemoa was surfing down the backs of  waves at speeds in excess of 14 knots, well that’s where the log had hit its stop..
I kept thinking this is madness in such an old boat, and hoping like hell that the rig would stay up.
The crew, all racing nuts were enjoying the ride so much and  could not believe that the old girl was capable of such speeds, and besides the boat was revelling in the conditions.

Such was the strength of the wind,  when we tried to motor back into the marina the engine was unable to push against the combined wind and waves.  Therefore  we had to wait for the wind to abate before returning to her pen.
A sail not to be forgotten..


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8 Responses to Hinemoa. Built 1937 at Carrington Newcastle by Ivar (Chips) Gronfors

  1. Jenny green says:

    Hi, my grandfather owned hinemoa, major Ivins. Is it still around. My mum is 89 and I would love her to see it. Regards
    Jenny green

  2. Pat Walsh says:

    Hi, My Grandfather was P.B.Walsh Australian Dual International (1904 Rugby Union and1908-09 Rugby League). His Brother was Major Clem Robert Walsh the 1st owner of Hinemoa. My Grandfather came back from the First World War without the full use of His legs.My Dad said that Clem would often take Him and His Father sailing in the Hinemoa which they both enjoyed thoroughly. Here is a link to the Newcastle Morning Herald 1st June 1938 which shows the Hinemoa in Dry Dock and My Dad applying antifouling mixture to the hull http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/10034223?zoomLevel=1
    Pat Walsh

  3. Voltaire says:

    Neville Littlewood passed away around early 1990’s I believe.

    More tragically, his son Graham, who decided to spend some time working on a cruise liner in the Mediterranean, disappeared over the side.

    Very sad.

  4. Voltaire says:

    I too sailed on her. At that time Littlewoods had a home inside the Spit Bridge. A sail and a barbeque was the order of the day and timing the opening of the bridge was the trick.

  5. My great great grandfather Clement Robert Walsh from his great great grandson wrote this.

  6. Vivienne Benson says:

    Hi, It was very interesting to read about ‘Spumedrift’ which was owned by my grandfather, John Jira until it vanished from it’s mooring when he died – would love to know where it was during those missing years 1945- 1962.

    • colingraz says:

      Hi Vivienne.
      Thank you for your comment.
      Unfortunately SPUMEDRIFT has disappeared and I’ve been unable to find any trace of her after 1962. What happened after your grandfather died is also is a mystery! The information about your Grandfather’s death is however another small piece in the jigsaw puzzle and hopefully eventually we can put all the pieces together! 😊

    • colingraz says:

      Hi Vivienne.
      Thank you for your comment.
      Unfortunately SPUMEDRIFT has disappeared and I’ve been unable to find any trace of her after 1962. What happened after your grandfather died is also is a mystery! The information about your Grandfather’s death is however another small piece in the jigsaw puzzle and hopefully eventually we can put all the pieces together! 😊
      Update! SPUMEDRIFT owned by Harold Esmond Rudd in 1948.

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