On her mooring in the Knysna lagoon, ‘Nkwazi’ shows none of her former glory and famous patronage, having been commissioned by Leighton Hulett, ex fighter pilot and founder of St. Francis Bay resort. Son of the well known Liege Hulett who built his sugar dynasty in Kwazulu-Natal and founded the town of Kearsney, Leighton was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in WWII, serving in the Middle East and Italy in the South African Airforce.

Nkwazi on lagoon
Nkwazi restored

Once St. Francis was well established in the 60’s, then known as Sea Vista, Leighton decided to build an ocean-going yacht from plans by a famous Scottish Yacht designer. His chosen boat builder was Ted Misplan, from Cape Town, who moved to the village for the duration of the build. The build site was a covered, concrete slab near the tennis court. Early on Leighton felt the blueprint was going to produce an unstable boat and together they set about making modifications.

Nkwazi being restored
Nkwazi owners

Photos uncredited from: ‘The monument around us’, a fine book by R.N.Simpson

The yacht took almost two years of hard slog to complete, but was a fine example of craftsmanship with roomy cabins and lovely lines. Leighton christened her ‘Nkwazi’, meaning ‘Fish Eagle’ in his hometown language of Zulu.


Photo uncredited from: ‘The monument around us’, a fine book by R.N.Simpson

Nkwazi on lagoon

With Neville Taylor as business manager and Bob Kershaw VC DSO from Knysna and experienced in dredging to look after the marina, Leighton decided to sail ‘Nkwazi’ up the Eastern coastline as far as the Seychelles accompanied by Ann and his children Peter and Diana. Philippa, a Springbok surfer was at UCT and schoolboy, Neville, joined them en-route. The whole trip took 6 months from the 28th May 1973, when they set sail.


’Nkwazi’ looks to have ended her sailing days, most likely to be broken up. Her Nanni 27hp diesel engine has been serviced by Dorian and is up for sale.


Photo uncredited from: ‘The monument around us’, a fine book by R.N.Simpson

Nkwazi in sail


This is now what remains of ‘Nkwazi’ after having been salvaged by Sea Services, Knysna, based out of the Knysna Yacht Club premises. Her bow, lead and keel are all that remains ‘intact’ as well as her hardware and some of the interior; most of which looks to be meranti and in poor condition.

Nkwazi muranti
Nkwazi muranti remains
Nkwazi muranti

Her Nanni 21hp diesel engine is to be sold off together with the controls, prop shaft and propellor.

Nkwazi Diesel engine for sale
Nkwazi propellor for sale

Her wheel now hangs in David Shelton’s pub, built during lockdown, completing a nautical theme of odds and ends

Nkwazi ships wheel
Nautical theme pub