Sunday, 09 August 2020


Dennis Jones - ticking along at his own pace

Whitianga resident, Dennis Jones, has a great outlook on life.

It’s all based around knowing his limitations, staying active and moving onto new achievable projects rather than staying caught up in an environment where the best years have passed him by. 

A keen ocean racer and skipper in his younger days, Dennis participated in several large regattas around the globe, including sailing in the Pam Am Clipper Cup series in Hawaii as a private entry in the early 1980s. He has also taken part in several high-profile ocean races held in the South Pacific during his nearly 20 years on the high seas.    

Great memories are what are now left of those experiences, as are Dennis’s days as a post-primary school teacher, engineer, business owner and past commodore of the Rotorua Yacht and Power Boat Club among other things.  And while being on the water is where he spent most of his adrenalin-fueled time, there was also a six-year spell as president of the Rotorua Gliding Club. “Sailors often gravitate to gliding with the wind being one of the obvious common denominators,” says Dennis.   

These days Dennis, who is in mid-80s, likes to call himself a “projects man,” it’s just a matter of him picking and managing the size of the project. The house he and wife Helen call home is generously fitted out with some of his homemade handiwork, including a dining room table, lounge furniture and various wall cabinets.

But it’s hard to pull him away completely from his love of anything connected with boating. His current hands-on interest is in restoring old and often rotting dinghies. “It’s a hobby for me more than anything,” says Dennis. “I get huge satisfaction from bringing these boats back to life and then moving them onto a new home. There’s a reasonable demand for old dinghies in good condition, especially those made from either kauri or macrocapa, but I’m certainly not in it for the money. It’s the complete opposite in that regard if the truth was known.”

The seemingly small size of these old dinghies can often catch would-be restorers out according to Dennis. “Many start with the best intentions to restore these boats without realising the amount of work involved with marine borer being one of the biggest issues to tackle,” he says. “While the dinghies are only around 4m in length, the amount of work involved can be quite daunting. Sadly, many are left to simply rot away or in some cases used as fire wood. I consider myself very fortunate that I have the knowledge, the time and the tools to bring some of them back to life.” 

What also helps is the fact that Dennis has been involved in small boats since he was seven years old when he sailed a ‘P’ Class dinghy, so the passion for the sport has never died, he has just found another way to be part of it.

Dennis has also offered to do minor repairs for the Mercury Bay Yacht Club. Once again it’s all about knowing one’s limitations. “I’m very happy to lend a hand, but don’t get involved in major repairs,” says Dennis. “My own projects take long enough, but it’s the way I like it with no pressure and just ticking along at my own pace.”

It’s a good life lesson for many as the years roll on. Stay connected with the things you like, work at a slower but manageable pace and put the tools down occasionally and walk away. “What’s the hurry,” asks Dennis. “There are no firm deadlines to meet anymore plus I’m involved with the local rifle club and enjoy a game of cards at the Whitianga Town Hall once a week, so I spread myself around a bit.” 

Looking at pictures of his dingy restoration work, it’s pretty clear that while Dennis may have slowed down a little, his workmanship remains top shelf.

Pictured: Whitianga resident, Dennis Jones, at one of the dinghies he’s busy restoring.


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