August 2021 has been a big month for the waterfront, with the 10th anniversary of both Wynyard Quarter’s urban regeneration and the celebration of the Percy Vos Boat Shed restoration. The latter is a significant maritime treasure and an important piece of Wynyard Quarter’s history, with decades of wooden boatbuilding and design legacy housed within its walls.
Eke Panuku worked to restore the shed back to its original condition, with the New Zealand Maritime Museum taking over the lease to eventually open it to the public. As a result, current and future generations of Tāmaki Makaurau will experience first-hand one of the only traditional working boat yards in the world.
“The refurbished Percy Vos Boat Shed will deliver a working boatshed, one where people can smell and touch the wood, and see how boats were built,” says museum director Vincent Lipanovich.
An important part of this project was maintaining the original integrity of the building. This included retaining and reusing as much original material as possible throughout the restoration. And although the structure has been reassembled, the spirit of Percy Vos and his passion still lives in the kauri frames of the boat shed.
Vos was a remarkable man, as Baden Pascoe, author of Launching dreams: Percy Vos, the Boats and His Boys, explains:
“Looking back over the wooden boatbuilding era, Percy Vos has to be remembered as one of the greats in our marine industry.
“I say this because so many men have built equally as great boats but have continually struggled to make a living from their passion. Percy Vos was not only an outstanding tradesman; he was an accomplished businessman.”
Percy’s passion, honesty and quest for excellence resulted in some of the finest wooden boats ever built. But his family members, who helped him to lay the foundations for Aotearoa’s success in modern boatbuilding, also deserve some of the recognition.
One of those people is Jocelyn Skinner, Percy’s last living daughter.
Jocelyn, who is now 90 years old, joined Mark Winder (Jocelyn’s son) and Brent Condon from Eke Panuku for a quiet tour of the refurbished boat yard. Here, she reconnected with the space and reminisced about past vintage boating adventures, especially those shared with her father.
“My earliest memories of going to the boat yard as a young child was on Sunday mornings with my father. The yard cat would be waiting for us at the front door, so after giving it some milk, I would then sweep up the sawdust and play with the curls of wood.
“I would collect the offcuts of wood to take home for firewood, and Dad would show me the difference between kauri, rimu and totara timbers. Some of my happiest memories of childhood were at the boat yard, and Dad would be very proud to see it restored and in use again.”
Like her father, Jocelyn is a champion of the craftmanship and pioneering spirit for which the romantic age of wooden boatbuilding is known.
Watch on to find out more about Percy Vos and his legacy: