Friday, 19 February 2016

Toroa pics by Russ Brown Auckland 2003

These are some low res attempts to capture colour slides by basic home made clip to camera shot.

I spent several days on the water with Russ Brown during his visit to NZ in 2003.

We met entirely by chance, If there is such a thing as chance!.

One day I had packed up Toroa from a great day's sail at Devonport in Auckland. Julie and I were driving with Toroa packed up on his very conspicuous trailer. Driving along the harbour front we passed the Devonport Yacht Club when, to my complete astonishment, I saw Jzerro anchored near the club jetty.

I stopped; quickly parked the car, much to the surprise of of my passenger, ran to the club house and burst in on a meeting in the bar. I asked breathlessly if anyone knew where the owner of the proa was. One bemused member replied, "What's a proa?". I pointed at Jzerro and said "that is" before turning and running back out of the club room and back to the car. As I got back in and began to pull into the traffic again I spotted a figure in the distance, riding towards us on a fold up bicycle, dressed in an old raincoat (it was a clear blue sky day).

As we approached each other the cycle rider pulled up to my open window and asked "are your Harmen Hielkema?" I replied, .."you must be Russ Brown!" I re parked the car, I climbed out of the driver seat and walked up to Russ and we shook hands. "I've been looking forward to meeting you though I never expected a meeting quite like this!"

Russ came to our place for dinner and we found much in common. I was surprised at how much he knew about my work with Mike Toy. I made arrangements for them to meet. It was a very memorable visit for me, I spent time on Jzerro, Russ spent time with me on Toroa. Russ generously took an entire day to photograph Toroa sailing. He selflessly gave me the negatives from his camera without hesitation.

Russ is definitely a brother. It is a pity that our lives are spent so far apart, his work was my work, we were developing our ideas separately from each other at the same time in quite separate hemispheres. It was not until I found the Wooden Boat magazine publication in the early 1980s that I even knew of him. By then we had developed our designs to a remarkably similar outcome. I assume that common influences ( Dick Newick, et al) drove the direction or our development .

Toroa on port tack North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003
Toroa on starboard tack North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack Bastion Point, Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack Rangitoto Island, Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on starboard tack, North Head Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack, Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003

Toroa on port tack Auckland, Waitemata Harbour. Photo by Russ Brown 2003
I'll have these images professionally copied shortly and repost them in all their original clarity, from the lens of one who knows what he is looking at!


  1. I noticed that you tried at least two different ama designs on Taroa. Russ Brown has praised the design pictured here elsewhere on the web and yet it appears that you later switched to a longer, slimmer "wave peircing" design. Could you explain your reasons for the change and the benefits/drawbacks of each design?

  2. Hi Jay,

    I was always experimenting with AMA shapes.

    Looking at museum exhibits and historic images of Kiribati proas I decided to see how their AMA shape would perform. If you don't try you won't know.

    The stitch and tape AMA that Russ was so complimentary about could not be described as semi buoyant, it was a weight bearing AMA which the traditional amas rarely were. Most of the ones I saw were made of hibiscus or breadfruit wood, very light but with little reserve buoyancy. I wanted to try this idea so I strip planked a low profile AMA with American red cedar. It was still hollow but close in mass to the real thing.

    It was surprisingly good, it changed the way I sailed making me much more mindful of being caught aback. It would submerge if I put any weight on it at all. This is a good thing for getting on board from out of the water, pulling a large fish on board, etc.

    This configuration makes you realise that the proa is a monohull with a semi buoyant counterbalance mass to windward, not a true multihull at all. Magellan realised that when he named them "flying bows" (in Portuguese of course)

    I hope this helps.




Toroa by Harmen Hielkema & Mike Toy.

Header Photo: Toroa at Rawene by Julie Holton.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my father Roelof Hielkema who instilled in me the willingness to learn.
These pages are intended to inform and add to the growing body of knowledge concerning the Canoe Culture of the Pacific, past, present & future, from the Tupuna, the Ancestors of the Pacific cultures to the people of the world.

These pages contain Images and text relating to our two proas, Toroa & Takapu, some history relating to our experiments & experiences.

The dissertation that I posted on this blog in April 2008 "Takapu The Proa" was written by me in 1997 in response to an assignment that I was set whilst studying for my design degree. The dissertation covers many issues that a proa enthusiast may benefit from reading about.

Waka define culture as culture defines waka

Waka reflect the individuality and uniqueness of a society which in turn is governed by the geography, geology, topography, climate, location, resources, isolation, origin, flora, fauna, flotsam, jetsam, etc.

Waka are our link to the past, they have shaped our present and define our future.

Waka are the vessels of knowledge, physical and mental development, freedom of bondage to the land, key to our inquisitiveness, expressions of our ingenuity and courage, our love of shape and form, the seat of our power.

Waka are the source of our material culture, from which all processes are derived.

Waka are who and what we are.