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South Sea Vagabonds to be reprinted on its 75th anniversary

South Sea Vagabonds, the book that inspired generations of New Zealand sailors, is about to be reprinted on its 75th anniversary

When unemployed Aucklander Johnny Wray wrote and published South Sea Vagabonds in 1939 he probably had no idea of the effect his story would have on generations of New Zealand back-yard sailors.

The book charted his building of the 35 foot yacht Ngataki in his backyard from materials scavenged throughout the city, his cruises around the Hauraki Gulf and subsequently with crews of young New Zealanders, his adventures in the South Pacific, cruising the Islands, racing, trading, even hunting for treasure.

Johnny died on Waiheke Island in 1986 but the legend he created for New Zealand sailors lives on: with spirit and determination they can do anything. The Ngataki survived, number eight wire and all, and has been restored by the Tino Rawa Trust.

Johnny’s tale of those adventures, South Sea Vagabonds, is funny and unafraid. Not surprisingly, it was an instant success. Four editions and seventy five years later the book is fondly remembered and often sought.
When writer Bruce Ansley cited South Sea Vagabonds as his favourite book on the TVNZ 7 series The Good Word, his fellow-writer and broadcaster Finlay Macdonald produced an episode on South Sea Vagabonds the programme.

When he became head of the publishing for HarperCollins New Zealand, Macdonald decided to do something about it, and in August this year HarperCollins will be publishing a handsome new edition of South Sea Vagabonds. This will feature an introduction covering Johnny’s later life, what became of the Ngataki, and the fascinating publishing history of the book itsef, written by Bruce Ansley, who now lives on Waiheke, not far from Wray’s old home.

A call for information:
Bruce Ansley is asking the public for their memories, stories or any information about Johnny Wray and his wife Loti, to contact him via HarperCollins Publishers,

Publication Date – 1 August 2014 | HarperCollins NZ


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