Type: Motor Yacht
Displacement: 26.40 tons
Engine: 2 x BMC Commodore Diesels
Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Builder: James Silver, Rosneath
Fred Shoesmith of Glasgow had Wairakei II built at James A. Silver's famous yard in Rosneath, on the river Clyde in Scotland. It was 1932 and the Great Depression was at its height. One in four of all workers in Britain and the United States were out of work and in Germany the Weimar Republic had come to an end and Hitler's Nazi party began to assume power. Yet, strangely, this was a time when popular yachting and the building of small motor cruisers flourished and helped to provide new employment in Britain. Greater need for jobs can help to improve competitiveness and quality.
Wairakei II, designed by John Bain, was certainly a superbly built yacht and an improvement even on the owner's earlier ship, Brown Owl. She was ketch-rigged and able to sail in a fair wind, but her main power came from her two Gleniffer petrol engines, which were in 1959 replaced by twin BMC Commodore diesels.
With accommodation for seven (in three double and one single cabin), and ample deck space, the Ministry of War Transport requisitioned her early in the war and she was commanded by a Lieut. Leyland. She had a machine-gun mounted on her foredeck and rifle racks all round her decks. David Divine includes her in his list of Little Ships used at Dunkirk and she is said to have saved 150 soldiers there. Lloyd's Register of Yachts shows her owner at the time as Mr. F.G. Cox.
After the war she had 8 owners, some of whom used her for holiday charter work.
This vessel is one featured individually on a series of stamps called 'Little Ships of Dunkirk'. These were issued in Palau in 2015 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Op. Dynamo.
Today Wairakei can be found moored eloquently on the River Thames in London, a shining reminder of the beauty that vintage crafts offer. She is maintained by Dennett Boat Builders, and back in 2014 had a complete refit to her forward end, which had become a mismatch of unusable awkward spaces. The forward section was ripped out and an open plan galley dining area was created with clean lines and useable for modern entertainment without losing her period charm. She continues to be a regular at many ADLS organised events, including all recent returns.