Balaena Bay is a small bay on the western side of Evans Bay in Wellington Harbour. Its shape creates a semi-sheltered cove which provides some protection from the prevailing northwest and southerly winds which blow along the north-south line of the hills which form Evans Bay.
Slipways were laid at Balaena Bay around the 1890s and possibly earlier. Judging by the photos available from that time, there may have been some boatbuilding activity there before James Bringins set up his operation. The first documented boat building activity at Balaena Bay was initiated by James Bringins about 1905. Sometime around 1907 Ted Bailey from Auckland joined Bringins and they worked as a partnership known as ‘Bringins and Bailey.’ They built several vessels and provided maintenance facilities and services for fishing boats and other craft. They operated one of the larger slipways for yachts and fishing boats in Wellington at that time. Bailey left the partnership around mid-1909 to run his own boatbuilding operation at Shed 49, Clyde Quay.
By 1914 Balaena Bay was one of more active boatbuilding areas in Wellington. Bringins boatshed was enlarged and upgraded slipways on either side were installed around 1910-1914. James Bringins ran the slipways and boatbuilding operations until around 1918 when he contracted flu during the major epidemic of that year. He died in 1920.
In early 1919 Joe Jukes bought the boatshed and slipway licence previously held by James Bringins. Joe Jukes was the most successful of the Balaena Bay builders of boats. In the 1920s he built many of the Island Bay fishing fleet, including the vessels Norna (1922) and the River Nile. Launches he built included Nereides (1925), Vagabond (1926) and Wild Duck (1937). He established a reputation for sound craftsmanship with some outstanding yachts. Around 1936 Joe Jukes moved more into designing. By 1937 his apprentice Rex Rix was doing most of the construction. In 1939 Rex Rix took over the boatbuilding yard. During 1940-1944 Both Rex Rix and Joe Jukes went to Auckland to aid the war boatbuilding effort.
In September 1944 Athol Burns purchased the lease and boatshed previously owned by Joe Jukes. Craft Construction Ltd was officially established in January 1945 by Norman Thomas and Athol Burns who were the joint directors. Athol Burns was the resident designer from 1945 until 1947 when he sold his share in the company. Norman Thomas operated Craft Construction until he sold the company in June 1950 to Gilbert Stevens. Barney Daniels bought Craft Construction in July 1952. He put the company into voluntary liquidation in January 1954.
At the end of WW2, conflicts which had been evident since the early 1900s surfaced again. The need for boat building and servicing facilities clashed with the wishes of local residents for a clean, uncluttered bathing beach. Since the early days of Bringins Boatyard, there had been continuing conflict between the local residents around Balaena Bay and the various owners of the boatbuilding and servicing facilities. Eventually the residents won and the boatshed owned by Craft Construction was demolished in 1954.
An 18-page version of the history is available as a pdf here.