Over 500 boats, numerous displays, demonstrations and talks, four seasons of weather plus a rainbow, and not to mention the fine Tasmanian food, it’s always a challenge at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) to cover everything with not much more than three days to see it all. The museum managed to do it by sending a diverse contingent of staff for the festival, which ran from Friday 10th through to Monday 13th February, 2017.
The 2017 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart starts this Friday 10th February, and the Australian National Maritime Museum will be very well represented at the festival over the weekend. A contingent of staff is travelling south to attend and help with various activities.
The museum has a booth in the principal display hall on Princes Wharf and is hosting a cocktail evening on Saturday. It is the sponsor for the AWBF Symposium of speakers which runs over three days, and is a key organiser with Maritime Museum of Tasmania for the Australian Maritime Museums Council’s Conference that proceeds the festival. The Voyage Game will also be a feature at the festival.
Another MMAPSS vessel inspection has just been completed by the museum’s Historic Vessels curator David Payne. Down at Tathra on the NSW south coast of NSW is an early example of a surf craft, and perhaps the first surfboat used by the Tathra Surf Club. David flew down and spent a day going over the craft and delving into its history at the Pig & Whistle Line Museum.
On 2 June 1949 a small advertisement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. It was for the sale of Hegarty’s Ferries, a family-owned service which at that time operated between Circular Quay, McMahons Point and Kirribilli. The whole enterprise was now up for sale, including the ‘diesel-engined boats, its wharves, offices, and equipment’. The owners, the well-known Hegarty family from Drummoyne, were heading south to Victoria.
A surprising purchaser stepped forward to take on the business – three women, headed up by Maud Barber. Maud, although no stranger to the Sydney harbour scene, bought the business along with her daughter and Miss Jean Porter. Maud was married to the boatbuilder and naval architect Arthur Barber, best known for his design of Rani, the first ever winner of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, in 1945.
A generation of a family known for their classic wooden boat building in Australia has now come to an end with the passing of Magnus Halvorsen late in July, a month short of his 97th birthday. He was born in Norway, but migrated to Australia (via South Africa) as a child in 1925 with his mother, four brothers and two sisters. His father, Lars Halvorsen had arrived here in 1924, and established a boat building business in Sydney.
Naval architect Warwick Hood AO passed away at Erina on the NSW Central Coast early in July, shortly before his 83rd birthday. To the general public and the yachting scene in particular he was well recognised and highly respected as the designer of Australia’s second America’s Cup challenger, the International 12-Metre class yacht Dame Pattie. This design was very significant in its own right, but was a part of Hood’s long career in naval architecture that was also filled with remarkably varied work that reflects wide interests along with an ability to manage diverse marine projects.
Oysters – a first choice on the menu for many people, and while enthusiasts have their favourite coastal spot that they swear has the best specimens, remember that someone has to do the hard work of farming them in shallow water. And for this they need a boat.
Every year the museum awards various grants through its Maritime Museums of Australia Support Scheme (MMAPSS). These can take the form of financial assistance or in kind support, for which museum staff travel to the institution involved. This is an excellent outreach opportunity for the museum, and being onsite greatly improves the quality of the work its staff can do. As Curator for Historic Vessels I travelled well out into regional New South Wales to work with two of the successful recipients in the most recent round of grants. I was visiting two very different craft: the 107-year-old paddle steamer PS Ruby and an oyster punt built by Gus Cole, possibly as early as 1918.
Goolwa, South Australia – 30 odd degrees and rising. Six of us from the museum were heading toward this wonderful town, having flown in from Sydney. After a detour to Port Adelaide to see the hull of the composite construction clipper ship City of Adelaide, we drove south.
It’s another afternoon of chaotic, stormy weather as I put these words together. It reminds me of a simple thing the late Trygve Halvorsen said to me not long ago about the Sydney to Hobart race: ‘You have to finish to win it’. He was stressing what seems an obvious point, but his message was that you have to carry with you in the good weather the weight of that extra material and strength that are needed to survive the bad stuff. There is no point in being a fair-weather boat only, or to sail south in one that could not cope when things turned for the worse. Continue reading
Going through the museum’s archives I came across an old photo album featuring a yacht and two men photographed during the 1930s – nothing unexpected for a maritime museum’s collection. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the boat’s story.It all started in 1932 when George and William (Willy) Clark (the ‘Lucky Clarks’ as they became known), two brothers from Sydney who were also wealthy foresters, decided to build the 9 metre gaff-rigged cutter Maluka of Kermandie following the design in Huon pine by Cliff Gale.
In 1933, the brothers took Maluka on a five month cruise off Far North Queensland, followed by a trip to Lord Howe Island the following year. The album documents these trips with numerous photos of Maluka at sea and the adventurous, care-free life of the brothers, fishing, going for picnics in remote places and mixing with the locals, reinforcing the romantic ideas of escape and private travel that have fascinated people and contributed to the characterisation of cruising sailors as bohemians and eccentrics. Continue reading
A life in boats shaping and crafting their construction from timber, a life on the water working with the waves, currents and wind – this was Carl Halvorsen’s remarkable century that came to a peaceful close just over a week ago. From birth he was instilled with a passion for the sea from his maternal ancestors who had been captains, seafaring from their Norwegian homeland, while boatbuilding was a trade and skill passed from his father. Carl and the Halvorsen family continued this trade not just because it was the tradition, but because this was where they were comfortable and capable – working with boats and the sea.
The Halvorsen story is well known and recorded, and the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (administered by the museum) captures their beginnings in Norway and their passage to Cape Town and then later to Sydney in the 1920s, and follows the rise of the family business to its eventual pre-eminence in Australian boatbuilding. The register hosts pages about their individual vessels, from the well-known luxury cruisers, through to the hire boats and wartime craft. Their yachts are represented as well, including Maud, built in Sydney in 1927 and raced by Harold and Carl to success at the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club. Continue reading
Late March and with the rain coming down in Sydney, the luxurious SY Ena played host to descendants of its original owner from 1900, Sir Thomas Dibbs. Fourteen relatives gathered in the museum foyer and then went down to see their patriarch’s pride and joy, fresh from a trial steaming on the Friday and eager to get out again. Also on board were two engineers from Melbourne familiarizing themselves with the engine, and everyone including the owner were, in one way or another, discovering more about the yacht.
The family members attending spanned many generations, headed by 96 year old Elizabeth Cadden who came with an embroidered table cloth from the boat while her son Andrew held a plate embossed with Ena and RSYS, for the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, small mementos from what had once been in their family. Scurrying around and playing make believe games were the youngest generation, Olivia, Imogen and Ella, free to make much more noise than was probably the case for their age when great, great grandfather was in charge. It was also a wonderful social get together for the families, catching up on news as they sat and talked together or roamed around the decks and cabins, taking in the splendid restoration. Continue reading
Four days over April in south-east Queensland on behalf of the museum and in a similar manner to my recent travel along the Murray River in Victoria, I have had discussions or inspections involving a diverse variety of craft over a short period. It began with a review of vessel and maritime scene watercolours in Brisbane, went on to an inspection of two historic vessels out of the water being restored, moved to one still in use, and finished with a lively exchange of experiences with Indigenous bark canoe construction.
The watercolours are still under consideration so I am unable to reveal too much detail, but they come from an Australian who travelled widely in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and recorded his observations by hand as illustrations. The family is considering the long term location for this material so I took the opportunity to review it and note how it could be registered, conserved and eventually made available to the public if the collection came to us. These delightful maritime related images capture significant detail of vessels, people and scenes.
For years it’s been under covers, almost out of sight, and seemed untouchable on the rare occasions it was out on the water – but now the harbour’s princess SY Ena has begun to shed her mystique- and the museum is lucky enough to provide a venue for her coming out.
The classic lines, clipper bow and counter stern, raked spars and funnel, an intricate, beautifully engineered steam engine in immaculate condition, and an unbelievable varnish finish, SY Ena stops everyone in their tracks, and has them lost for words when they go aboard.