Classy Lady arrived at the port of Auckland on May 24, 2008.
Her journey on-board the ship ‘Cap Martin’, which departed the port of Savannah, South Carolina, had taken 22 days.
From Auckland Harbour, she was transported via Boat Haulage to the town of Waiuku.
Here is where she spent the next three years, having a total replank and systems rebuild.
New owner John Crighton, along with a boat builder friend, set to work to bring Classy Lady back to life and restore her to the original name Le Voyageur.
“The fact that she had sat in freshwater, with little or no paint and bad maintenance, meant that she required a total overhaul,” says John.
“The only thing that saved her was the good bones that they hung the planks on.
”The HullLe Voyageur was 80 per cent re-planked from the chine to bulwarks.
During this restoration, 2500 bronze screws that held the original caulked planking were removed.
These were all cleaned and reused.
To buy them new would have cost around $10,000, and according to John the quality of the ‘old’ screws far exceeds the new silicon bronze equivalent.
With the planking removed, a few internal issues such as rib/chine gussets were addressed.
Over 100 were replaced, as fresh water had got through the upper deck after inconsiderate marina handling when the boat was lifted out of the water each year for winter storage.
Spreader bars were not used, straining the bulwarks, crushing the sides in and opening up the decks around the engine inlet and exhaust vents.
To effect a proper repair, the upper rubbing strake had to be removed, which had originally been screwed onto the timber and through the deck beam and rib.
Now the deck, hull and bulwark junction are one structure, bolted to the frames that go down to the chine.
Side decks have been replaced with a single plank, routered to look like original planking.
John says: “Coupled with the 10x2 plank that runs from the stem to the stern, that area of the boat is immensely strong and totally water proof.
“The new Malaysian Kauri planks have been edge glued, screwed and glued to the frames.
The underwater caulking was routered out by a special machine designed and engineered in the workshop.
“The hull is now splined and edge glued, with multiple coats of penetrating preservative, then fared with epoxy resin.
She should be floating around long after you and I have gone.
”The SternDuring the reconstruction of the hull, the stern was removed and internally rebuilt.
The stern post was strengthened, and a towing hitch was included.
The stern door was centred and widened, and a four-foot duck board was attached.
Stainless steel rails were added for safety reasons, and a boarding ladder now slides into a cradle under the duck board.
“This is designed to be deployed if you are in the water, and it’s also out of the way,” says John.
The Engine, shafts and propellersLe Voyageur still runs with the same 2x120 horsepower Ford engines that were installed in 1969.
“When the systems rebuild began, the motors had only done 4500 hours, which was very little considering Le Voyageurs’ age,” says John.
Shafts and propellers have been re-engineered by Gordon Litchfield, including new engine mounts, dripless seals on the shaft logs and strut re-alignment.
Depth and surface area of the rudder blade was increased by 40 per cent, resulting in better control and turning ability.
The new shafts are stainless steel, and the propellers have been reshaped and balanced.
John adds: “The boat now runs so smoothly that a glass of beer sitting on the back deck while cruising won’t spill a drop!” The Portuguese BridgeThis has been rebuilt, also due to the rot that had gotten into the wings and travelled around the curved corners that make the Alaskan very distinctive from all other Grand Banks.
“With large clamps, screws, blocks and perseverance we laminated 3 x 6mm sheets of marine ply around the compound curves of each wing,” says John.
The original mast was then removed, rebuilt and now has the capability to be lowered onto the rear deck.
The distinctive funnel, which appears on all original Grand Banks Alaskans and is only ever used for storage, has also gone.
This has been replaced by solar panels to keep batteries charged during moored times.
The DinghyThe Grand Banks had a Boston Whaler Dinghy that was lifted onto the top deck by a single davit on the starboard side.
John had this removed and replaced with a small folding crane, capable of lifting the new 12ft inflatable out on the port side and into its cradle in the middle of the top deck.
John says: “Having the cradle centred allows for better rear vision from the bridge windows.
” The MishapIn December 2010, John took a fall from the scaffolding around Le Voyageur.
He tripped, did a forward roll in mid-air, and landed feet first on the ground below.
This sent his femur through the pelvis, and tore out the hip socket, causing internal bleeding, heart stoppages due to clots and pulmonary embolisms.
Three months later John arrived home in a wheel chair and it took another three months before he could begin to walk with the aid of a walking frame.
He credits his partner Carol, daughters Sally and Angela (both nurses) and his friend Les Atkinson.
“They were the ones that nursed me back to health, and got me to all my appointments.
It was the middle of June before I could crawl back up the stairs of the boat, and my first job was to paint the engine room!”The Internal workingsThe electric heater and stove have been replaced by a gas califont and gas oven.
Gas bottles are stored under the galley bench top, accessible through the bench top or through the hatch on the external port cabin wall.
The galley also has a double door fridge/freezer that runs from house batteries via an inverter.
The four solar panels on the bridge help to run this, with up to 150-200 amps per day being generated.
“This allows us to sit for three days without the need to run the genset to maintain lighting and refrigeration,” says John.
The vessel has a Lowrance navigation system/fish finder, a separate GPS, back-up depth sounder, auto pilot, 42-mile Raymarine radar and a full complement of charts for the North Island.
She carries 300ft of anchor chain, and a combination deck wash/emergency bilge pump capable of handling 6000 gal p/hr.
She also has three static bilge pumps capable of 2000 gal/hr each.
These are situated at three different levels in the hull, and John receives a text message to his cell phone if the second and third pumps are activatedShe comfortably sleeps eight, with a double bed in the forward cabin, double bunk in second, and a double bed on the bridge, with two singles in the saloon.
There are two toilets with holding tanks and a walk-in shower.
Le Voyageur can carry 1200 litres of water, and 3000 litres of diesel.
5 knots she uses 15 litres of fuel - a range of just over 1700 nautical miles.
Without fuel or water, she weighs 27 tonnes.
The Launch and future of Le VoyageurOn November 25, 2011, Le Voyageur was finally ready for launch.
She was again picked up by Boat Haulage, and delivered to the Te Toro boat ramp, where she entered the Manukau Harbour for the first time.
Since her launch she has made more than 30 double crossings over the Manukau Bar, and eight double crossings of the dangerous Kaipara Harbour bar.
She is currently moored in Helensville, and has a very exciting future awaiting her.
John plans to eventually ship her to Australia, start from Brisbane, head up the east coast and venture to Darwin via the Gulf of Carpentaria and possibly Timor, Papua New Guinea.