A glimpse of some traditional boats: Fifty-six days in Sulawesi, Indonesia, 2015
This visit began in Manado at the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and included a ferry journey from Gorontalo to Ampana via the Togean Islands, a week’s stay in Tentena on the shores of Lake Poso, three weeks in the Toraja highlands, a few days in Makassar and four days at Bira Beach on the southern tip of Sulawesi.
Throughout much of the journey I rendered many drawings directly from life and they include a number of studies of traditional boats. It’s these images that I wish to share along with these notes, visuals and maps about boatbuilding in Sulawesi, and its wider context.
Every two years, HMB Endeavour goes to dry dock for regular maintenance—part of the requirements to maintain its survey status. On 4 June, the crew took the ship through the Glebe Island Bridge and onto the synchrolift at the shipyard. With high tide well after sunset, the evolution was conducted safely and well after dark.
‘Graeme’s caravel’, by journalist Jon Fairall. From Signals 102 (March-May 2013).
Between the 12th and the 17th centuries the caravel was a ship of choice for long, dangerous voyages, at least among the Iberian nations – Portugal and Spain – that led the Age of Discovery. By the standards of the time, they were speedy, manoeuvrable, weatherly ships. But one particular caravel, Notorious, is the result of a purely local, Australian dreaming. Specifically, she is Graeme Wylie’s dream. Graeme and his wife Felicite designed and built her over a 10-year period in their backyard in Port Fairy, just to the east of Warrnambool, Victoria, using stockpiles of local timber.
Graeme and his wife Felicite
In 2000, Graeme was a furniture maker in Port Fairy, a pleasant fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road on the long lee shore of western Victoria that’s called The Shipwreck Coast. He was fascinated by the local legend of The Mahogany Ship, which dates back to an 1847 article in the Portland newspaper about the uncovering of a wreck on the beach in Armstrong Bay, just west of Warrnambool, that was made of some exotic, dark timber. A ship hidden beneath the sands has been part of the area’s folklore ever since, along with the notion that it was made of mahogany.
I’m Sydney University Museum Studies student Dimity Kasz, and with Courtney, I am completing an internship here at the Maritime Museum. We’re registering the Lake Collection of shipwrights’ tools. Registering a collection includes accessioning, cataloguing, cleaning, and photographing the objects so they can live happily inside the museum with a full catalogue record to their name.
A selection of the Lake shipwright tools. ANMM Collection
As a novice to the art of boatbuilding, I was recently lucky enough to get a lesson from one of the masters.
Bob McLeod is taking part in a project to build a replica of the champion 18 foot skiff MYRA TOO, and he was kind enough to show me the ropes and patiently answer my questions when I visited his workshop several weeks ago.
MYRA TOO emblem displayed on the wall of Bob McLeod’s workshop. Photo Penny Hyde 2013
The project is supported by the Australian Open Skiff Trust which aims to build replicas of significant boats from the period up to and including 1950. MYRA TOO was built at the cusp, in 1950, and raced in 1951 where the vessel was the State, National and World Champion 18 footer. MYRA TOO was designed, built and raced by legendary boat builder Billy Barnett, from Berrys Bay, Sydney.
Bob is building the replica with the assistance of Australian National Maritime Museum curator David Payne who supplied advice and drew up the initial plans in his spare time, as the originals were lost in a fire. I wrote about the beginnings of this project in an earlier blog.
Copy of the MYRA TOO replica’s plans signed by ANMM Curator David Payne and the vessel’s original designer Billy Barnett. Photo by Penny Hyde 2013
Bob showed me around the workshop he has built specifically for the project and talked me through the process of the build. (I hope my notes are correct – forgive me Bob if not!) Using David’s plans and then a wooden half-model based on those lines, Bob drew the outline for the wooden pieces that will make the ‘mould’ around which he will build the boat. He traced the mould outlines onto mylar and cut to plan the pieces of wood for each mould frame. When I visited Bob had already placed the silver ash keel across the base and was preparing to add the silver ash stringers, and finally the frames which he will steam bend before attaching. He will then be able to glue on three thin layers or ‘skins’ to the frames to complete the hull, the second of plywood and the first and third (the outer layer) of Queensland red cedar which will make for a beautiful finish. Continue reading →