Thursday, 09 July 2020


Tairua dreamboat gets first dunking

Tairua dreamboat gets first dunking

It was the beginning of a new era for Tairua boat builder, Russell George, as his labour of love, the "Betty G" set out en-route for her first dip in the ocean.

After 13 years on a hard stand outside the family home, the big white boat, named after Mr George’s wife, was carefully loaded onto the back of a semi-trailer. One of Mr George’s good friends suggested a life-sized cardboard cutout be erected on the lawn to soften the glaringly obvious reality the boat is no longer there.

Transportation of the landscape landmark was kept quiet, but the news seeped out and supporters turned away from their morning routines to witness the move. The humble Mr George looked happy the "Betty G" was finally on the move, but all the sudden action had his head in a spin - he couldn’t believe it was happening.

When the semi was ready to pull out for Whitianga, he checked his bronze cargo, the propeller, was carefully secured in the flatbed of the pilot vehicle. "It cost about six grand so I thought I better make sure it didn’t fall off," Mr George said.

As the "Betty G" transitioned Tairua’s Pepe Bridge, locals gathered to acknowledge the man who had realised his dream to build a comfortable boat for his wife, Betty.

With his preference to fix and build things rather than pay someone else to do it, Russell George is an example of a generation of people who did things for themselves - a DIY poster boy in the truest sense.

He had initially predicted he could transform what was little more than an empty hull into a sleek ocean-going vessel within a couple of years, but he was wrong. Pursuing his retirement project with an unrelenting and patient determination kept him toiling away from the sea he loved and tied fast to terra firma.

The retired commercial crayfisherman - and tractor mechanic by trade - designed and crafted nearly every component of the "Betty G" over 13 long and arduous years fraught with difficulties.

With the "Betty G" permanently gone from the front lawn of his Tairua home, the wiry 76-year-old said, "It’s one hell of a load off my system." Now that his girl - a 12 metre long, sedan-style, 15 tonne displacement launch - is temporarily on a hard stand in Whitianga, Mr George mostly feels relieved his wife no longer has to play second fiddle to a boat.

With the clarity of hindsight, Mr George wouldn’t have embarked on the build all those years ago if he had known just how complicated and costly it would be.

The move from Tairua to Whitianga Marina, including the quick dunk in the water and positioning on the hard stand there, took less than three hours. When the straddle truck lowered his dreamboat into the water, she just sat there, perfectly balanced.

There was less than a 5mm difference between the anti-fouling line and the water line. "That was a little plus for me, not that I engineered it," he laughed.

Mr George and his two sons, Rex and Paul, sat down for a sandwich and a celebratory beer at midday, before they took advantage of the fine weather, "to do a little sanding."

Used to working quietly on his own, and often standing around scratching his head about how to fix a problem, having his sons with him sped up the rate in which last minute tasks were completed - and Mr George said his mind struggled to keep up with the pace.

Before the "Betty G" takes her maiden voyage home to Tairua, the George boys have to put the tape up to the correct level, put on the propeller, the exhaust, the radar tower and the vents for the aft heads.

"We’ll take a beetle up and down the harbour to check there are no unexpected problems before we take her home. Then I’d like Betty to smash something on it and bless it, you know, what do they say, "I name this boat Betty G and God bless all who sail on her."


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