Have You Seen Armanelle?

photo courtesy of Studio Cocopeli

photo courtesy of Studio Cocopeli

The lovely wooden yacht Armanelle survived a cyclone in the Vava’u Islands of Tonga in 1981. Bob played a big part in refloating her afterwards, but has since lost track of her. Do you know where Armanelle is now?

Wrenched from her anchorage in Neiafu Harbour, the seventy-five-foot-long ketch was blown up against the bluffs below the Paradise International Hotel. The water level rose seven or eight feet as the intense low pressure system crossed over the islands. After the storm passed, the water level subsided to leave Armanelle resting in about a foot of water.

514548_25098906 winch

photo courtesy of David Sklenar

It took every available hand in the area to prop up the hull with lengths of coconut tree trunks. Then a bulldozer was used to dig a channel deep enough for her to be able to float back out to the harbour. But like a beached whale, a kedge into deep water wasn’t enough to budge her. It took the windlass combined with the extra oomph of an island freighter pulling at full power to finally nudge her from where she had settled and ease her back into the water.

Seagull outboard motor at the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre

Seagull outboard motor, Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre

The skipper sailed Armanelle on to nearby Fiji for repairs. Without a working motor, Bob had to move her across Suva Harbour with a rubber dinghy and a 3 h.p. Seagull outboard motor! Peter witnessed the event. He says that Bob tied the dinghy alongside, and with the Seagull at full throttle, beat the water into a white froth for quite awhile before the elegant hull started to move. Once she was moving, it glided along willingly to the boatyard, leaving only a trail of bubbles from the wineglass stern.

Fortunately, there was not much damage to the yacht. The copper bottom applied by the original shipwrights had been done with such skill that it looked like a coat of paint. Some of that had been torn off during the cyclone. The workers at Wippy’s Boatyard repaired it, but could not duplicate the artistry, so the repair looked like a copper sheathing dog’s breakfast. They made some repairs to the rudder as well, and after several weeks Armanelle  was back in the water.

photo courtesy of Patrice Dufour

photo courtesy of Patrice Dufour

Bob saw her some years later off the Big Island of Hawaii. She looked like she had fallen on hard times then. That was the last he saw of her. Peter and Bob told Alan of this classic yacht, with its lovely lines and rich history as a sail-training ship and South Pacific adventurer. We have all kept our eyes open for any sign of her over the years, with no luck.

Have you seen Armanelle?

Featured image courtesy of Bern Altman

One thought on “Have You Seen Armanelle?

  1. Mark switzer

    The last time I saw Armanelle was when she was anchored up in Saweni bay Lautoka 1982/3? …I was working on the newly built steel schooner ‘Manutea ‘ ( a Don Brooks design built in NZ) ….Mike ( I can’t recall his full name ) owned both vessels . We were finishing the fit out of Manutea in Fiji , and also had Armanelle to look after when she arrived from Tonga .
    Unfortunately this is the only information I have on this truly beautiful old vessel ….I have been searching the net for information on both of these vessels in the hope of finding out what became of two very special sailing ships from my past .
    I am also very keen to hear from anyone with photo’s or general history of the Schooner ‘Sea Star ‘ …..a beautiful ship built from teak in Singapore in the 70’s for Capt David B McMichael….she was faithfully built to the original design of a east coast pilot schooner (USA)
    I was fortunate to sail on the ‘Sea Star ‘ during her last voyage ….sadly she was wrecked of the coast of Tunisia 1981/2



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