While George Dibbern died in June 1962, nothing could be done with Te Rapunga until his will was probated. It was October before the ketch was put up for auction with a reserve bid of £1300. When she didn’t fetch that amount Te Rapunga was offered to the highest bidder who by then had changed his mind. It took a few more tries until a buyer was found.
Names associated with the purchase and changing of hands of the ketch during this period are: Mr. Taylor of Christchurch; M. R. Bellamy, a Canadian—both of whom appear to have bid on her at the auction in October 1962. Mr. Keith Robert Watson next owned her till he sold her to Cyril James Dunlop.
Stephen Dunlop (son of Cyril) maintains his family bought Te Rapunga in about May 1968 and were “responsible for a terrible light green colour the boat was painted as well.” According to Ken Moss, she was found in sad condition sitting under some trees at Bayswater Wharf when he bought her for NZ$800 in ~1971. He refurbished Te Rapunga and enjoyed her with his family for a few years before selling to Mr. John? Hay who in turn sold her to Bob and Rosemary Clarkson, 1974.
The Clarksons sailed Te Rapunga for ten years till they sold her before moving to the South Island in 1984. Barry Cawson was the next owner and the ketch became a familiar sight on his front lawn while for years, as time and money permitted, he worked on her.
In 2002 Te Rapunga was bought by Gary McCarthy in Auckland. He expressed every intention of sailing her after a refit. Unfortunately in real life intention does not always result in execution. For 15 years Te Rapunga languished and appeared hopelessly abandoned. Still I clung to the hope and seemingly unrealistic vision of a full restoration of this historical yacht.
Late in 2017, in one of those “out-of-the-blue” moments that have characterized my George Dibbern odyssey, I received an e-mail, not an ordinary one by any means. This was to advise me that Bruny Island Coastal Retreats, an ecotourism enterprise, along with a group of wooden boat and local history enthusiasts, had purchased Te Rapunga. Captured by George Dibbern’s life story, feeling that his views and actions are timely and deserve to be brought to a broader public, they decided the perfect way to do this would be to restore the boat that symbolizes what Dibbern stood for. Surreal and amazing as it still seems to me, my long-held vision will actually be realized!
In early 2018, Te Rapunga was transported via freighter (she was in no condition to sail) to Hobart, Tasmania – a home-coming of sorts. I invite you to visit the Restoration page to follow this exciting project.