Big fanfare for Little Toot at boat show

00:00, Mar 05 2012
Clint Skelton, of Nelson, and his miniature tugboat Little Toot won the Jens Hansen Cup for best overall vessel at the annual New Zealand Antique and Classic Boat Show at Lake Rotoiti at the weekend.
TINY TUG: Clint Skelton, of Nelson, and his miniature tugboat Little Toot won the Jens Hansen Cup for best overall vessel at the annual New Zealand Antique and Classic Boat Show at Lake Rotoiti at the weekend.

Little Toot was a big shot at the 13th annual New Zealand Antique and Classic Boat Show on Lake Rotoiti at the weekend, alarming ducks and drawing expletives from the crowd as it fired its massive cannon.

The 5-metre miniature tug owned by Nelson marine engineer Clint Skelton stole the judges' hearts this year to win the show's Jens Hansen Cup for best vessel overall. The tiny tug complete with a brass cannon powered by shotgun cartridges was recently shipped to Nelson from Spain where it was built in 2007, while Mr Skelton was wintering over with superyacht Adix on which he has crewed for the last 10 years.

He said he was surprised to win the illustrious trophy at an event he imagined was strictly for classic boats.

Judges John Harris and Mick Fone described Little Toot as a "perfectly proportioned tabloid version of a traditional working tug". They said it was very well built with great attention paid to details in design and construction.

When asked why he wanted a small tug that was more decorative than useful, Mr Skelton said, "why not". His father, Kevin, is a tugboat skipper in Nelson.

"No-one else has got one here, but there are heaps in the United States. I use it as my own pleasure boat, and look at the attention it gets," Clint Skelton said.


Little Toot took more than 3020 hours and close to 40,000 (NZ$63,000) to build, and sports a gas stove large enough to make a pot of tea, and a chilly bin large enough for a stash of beer beneath the teak laid aft deck.

A large crowd turned out for the on-lake displays during yesterday's perfect early autumn day, while a smaller crowd braved the snow and freezing temperatures on Saturday to see the boats on display on the shoreline. The exhibition included classic steam boats and replicas, an extensive collection of wooden boats from the Picton Clinker Club, sailing boats of all ages and sizes, two 1940s Chris-Craft racing runabouts, veteran Hamilton jet boats and lovingly crafted cedar kayaks and old dinghies.

Show organiser Pete Rainey said the number of boats was down on previous years, but the quality of entries from around the country was "way up".

Regular stars of the lakefront show, John Malthus, of Wellington, and his loyal Captain (Bruce) Batty of Nelson, were crowd pleasers once again, with Mr Malthus' red and white Chris-Craft racing runabout My Love winning the people's choice award.

In honour of the boat's American pedigree, the pair changed the name of their makeshift boat club from its usual Royal Kerr Bay Motor Boat Club to the more befitting Great Lakes Power Boat Society Inc.

Mr Malthus said My Love was a step up from earlier boats.

"We've progressed through the ranks from being the worst boat in the show, with Camilla Parker Bowles – which like the original has a certain beauty of her own, to having one of the best boats in the show," Mr Malthus said.

Mr Batty said My Love had its inaugural showing on Saturday, followed soon after by an inaugural telling-off from the Tasman District Council harbourmaster. Mr Malthus said they decided to show the boat off to its full potential, and "put the hammer down".

"It was quite a spectacle. The crowd was laughing and waving, but the harbourmaster understood," said Mr Malthus who has attended all but the first show, due to the birth of his son.


Jens Hansen Cup for best overall vessel: Little Toot owned by Clint Skelton, of Nelson.

Best new craft: Double-ended day sailer, owned by Gary Drummond of Motueka.

Port Nelson House Parts award for best rowed craft: Clinker row boat, Maggie owned by John McConway, of Picton.

CWF Hamilton Trophy for the best jet propelled boat: 1963 built Butt, owned by Anthony Connolly, of Christchurch.

Johnson Family Trophy for the best sail powered craft: Mullet-designed Naiad owned by Matthew Kidson, of Nelson.

Best Restoration: Frostbite sailing dinghy Corsair owned by Paul Baragwanath, of Auckland.

Mathieson Jeffcott Trophy for the best motor powered craft: 1953 Albatross, owned by Ross Birchall, of Rotorua.

Eventiac prize for best themed display: Motor-boat Tom Thumb and replica Land Rover built by Ken Slade in the 1960s, owned by Mike Slade, of Auckland.

Ron Culley Trophy for the best steam boat: Steam launch Janice, built by Russell Ward in 2007 and owned by Janice Brent and Lynn Winter, of Murchison.

People's Choice Award, voted by the public: John Malthus' red and white Chris-Craft racing runabout, My Love.

Special mention went to two matching Ian Oughtred sailing dinghies brought up from Wanaka and named after the grandmothers of the family, Granny Jan and Suzie Jo.

The Nelson Mail