I, Mike Menzies was born in Auckland, NZ in the 1940’s. I was the middle one of five boys and we were all into boating from our early years. In the 1950’s my father built a 14 foot plywood runabout with a large outboard on the back, and was featured in Sea Spray Magazine as having the largest outboard in NZ. My father also featured again in Sea Spray later in the 50’s after building the first outboard cruiser in NZ. These were initially designed to be a boat and a caravan. That is, you slept in the boat in the camp ground at night and then went boating during the day. So, from a very early age our family was into boats.
The first yacht that my two older brothers and I owned was a Z class. Needless to say within one year we all had one each. Too much arguing!!! I progressed through various Zeddies including the transition from the heavy planked Zeddies to the introduction of ply. In my last year in the class I won the right to represent Auckland in the Cornwell Cup, but unfortunately within days of the contest I came down with Hepatitis and so the second skipper from the trials took my boat and my forward hand and promptly won the Cornwell Cup. Them’s the breaks. I progressed from Zeddies to OK dinghies which were being introduced to NZ when I was in my last year with Zeddies. I built several OK’s in my years in this class and represented NZ several times at interdominions, overseas regatta’s and world champs. Of three world champs my best placing was a 10th. In the early 70’s I left OK’s and spent time in various keel boats from 1/4 ton to Admirals Cup. I was on ‘Gerontius’ in NZ’s inaugural challenge in 1975. After the Admirals Cup I carried on in one tonnners, then back to Lasers and eventually many years in wind surfing. These days it is surfing and kayaking that gets me on the water and to get close to the water, radio yachting, although I think I need to be a bit older for this, and when eyesight is mentioned some people think I am too old.
The boat building side of my life started in the 1960’s. I learnt the GRP trade in Canada in the mid sixties. When I got back to NZ I discovered I was way in front with techniques etc for GRP building. I manufactured OK dinghies and Contender sailing dinghies for a while before joining Salthouse Brothers. Over a 10 year period I managed the factory where we made moulds and put into production numerous craft from the Sunburst, Coronet 20 and up to 70 odd foot making both male moulded and female moulded boats. Health problems with the materials and environment meant I had to leave manufacturing and I went into my own business carrying out inspections, specialising in GRP craft and also doing small boat repairs. It was through my inspecting that I saw the start of osmosis problems and they very poor methods of repair. The number of failures that I came across in my inspections prompted me to go back to the resin companies that I used to deal with in my manufacturing days and from here I developed the osmosis system that we use today.
I have now been inspecting for approx 35 years. Initially it was ‘teach myself’. There were nervous early days, but as time progressed we developed an obvious feel for all the NZ built craft and also these days many overseas craft. On the whole New Zealander’s build very good craft and the majority have held up very well. We have seen big changes in laminating techniques, materials and weights. The material development has been significant and when one compares the amount of materials in older boats as against the modern craft, then you could say older ones are actually two boats in one.
The average GRP craft will be around for many many years and will outlive many of us. They are not going to disappear anything like the way the well known timber boats have. There is always the potential for osmosis, especially in older craft, and apart from re-spraying every 10 – 15 years they will go on and on. GRP has certainly put many people on the water which would otherwise not have been the case had it not been developed to the extent it has these days. And of course it is still developing and no doubt will only get easier and more accessible.
My inspections have taken me extensively around NZ. I have obviously met a vast array of people from numerous walks of life and can honestly say, although stressful at times, that it has been marvelous. The stress factor is higher these days than ever. With privacy acts and consumer acts etc. one has to stand up and be counted and be very careful. NZ boats are much easier to survey than overseas boats because they are not so extensively lined and one can get to see the majority of the important features that an inspector looks for. Over the years the inspection business has changed significantly. Several years back I seemed to spend the majority of each week on boats in the 25 – 35 foot range and everyone wanted a boat and had time for boating. These days it seems like the majority of people have less time and more commitments in the rest of their lives and the market has changed. The number of boats I inspect have become less but the craft are larger. On the powerboat side there is a vast array of imports to go with the locally built craft and there is a choice of many more modern boats, whereas on the sail side the majority of craft are old and getting older, and the number of modern yachts, especially in the smaller range, are nearly non existent.