75th anniversary of sailing book celebrated

03:52, Aug 08 2014
OCEAN BEAUTY: The restored Ngataki on show at Auckland's Viaduct, originally built by boating identity and Waiheke resident Johnny Wray.

Iconic boatie Johnny Wray may have been a recluse until the day he died but his DIY legacy continues to inspire Aucklanders.

The impact of Wray's adventures was evident this morning as about 100 people attended the relaunch of his 1939 book South Sea Vagabonds at the Viaduct Events Centre.

Well-known Aucklanders and boaties, including Sir Bob Harvey and 80s rocker Andrew Fagan, attended.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of his book being published.

The event coincided with the unveiling of the Ngataki- one of Wray's boats which has been restored by the Tino Rawa Trust over the last four years.

Wray died in 1986 on Waiheke Island, where he had lived with his wife Loti who died in 1977.

The couple never had children.

He was known for his unorthodox boat building skills, which included using tar seal and whale oil as glue and stealing washed up Kauri logs from beaches around the Hauraki Gulf.

Wray sailed around the world and was known for transporting goods, particularly oranges, from the Kermadec Islands - and eating most of them on the way home.

A basket of oranges say atop the Ngataki this morning as a symbol of the cheeky boatie's antics.

Friends and family of crew members of the Ngataki, and Wray's other vessels, attended and got to see the newly-restored boat for the first time.

Waiheke Island resident and journalist Bruce Ansley has written an introduction for the new edition, which details what happened to Wray after his book was initially published.

"I don't know that Johnny would actually recognise the boat because it's been restored so beautifully," Ansley said.

"You can even see the no.8 wire that Johnny put Ngataki together with is still there."

A spokesman for the Tino Rawa Trust said Ngataki had been restored using parts from other boats which reflected Wray's work ethic.

Wray left his entire estate to the Red Cross. The new edition of South Sea Vagabonds is on sale with royalties being split between the Red Cross and the Tino Rawa Trust.

The Ngataki will be on display at the viaduct for the entire weekend.


Waiheke Marketplace