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.
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.
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
Five days in Victoria and the Murray River, and I have had discussions or inspections involving an amazing variety of craft over a short period, showing once again what a diverse collection of historic craft and related people that we have in Australia. From a basic hand worked colonial log craft to the most luxurious steam yacht in the country, through paddle steamers, barges and corrugated iron dinghies then finally back to where things began in this country, Indigenous bark canoes and a community gathering.
A Maritime Museums of Australia Support Scheme (MMAPSS) funded vessel inspection in Echuca was the initial reason for coming down to the Murray, but the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) came aboard as well, and this combination of resources has yielded some very useful work and contacts over five days from 20 to 24 February.
Driving across from Albury I stopped at Wahgunyah, once one of the busiest inland ports when it was at the top end of the paddle steamer trade along the Murray River. Here, on a private property I was able to inspect closely one of those hidden gems of history, a real curiosity. It was a semi-circular shaped vessel made from part of a red gum log decades ago, perhaps over 100 years ago. It may have just carried a few people or some goods on the local creeks to and from the port. The raked ends were once panelled over and only the remnants of the nails survive, it has cut outs and fastening holes that may have related to its method of use, and a sump for bailing it out. This unusual craft been on the ARHV for two years (HV000509) but it was terrific to see it up close and confirm various details.
Today is the Australian Register of Historic Vessels‘ birthday – it’s seven years old, and growing with confidence each year.
The ARHV was launched in 2007, and the party that morning included a parade of craft just off the museum, which ended up doing more than just one circle as planned, the TV crews asked for more opportunities to film the craft so round they went again, and again. This proved to be a welcome distraction to many workers in the buildings opposite, an office soon contacted the museum thanking them for the parade of boats we had put on and hoping it might happen again in the future. Continue reading
A Seminar on Western Australia’s maritime industries, their craft and their people
Fishing, pearling, sailing and trading … the boats listed on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels from Western Australia have done all of this and more, and on 15th November an ARHV seminar on this theme, held in in Fremantle in association with the Western Australian Museum and the Australian Association for Maritime History will bring the stories onto the stage as people associated with them speak from personal experience.
Meanwhile the vessels can talk too, and the Australian Register of Historic Vessels is one way they can put a voice to their background, along with their related designers, builders and events.
Trixen and Intombi are both pearling luggers, each with two lives to tell. Both were first built in the very early 1900s and served their time up north on the Broome pearling fields. Intombi was there from 1903 through to 1931 and during various changes in ownership it belonged to the well known firm Streeter and Male. Meanwhile Trixen was built for pearling master Penn Blick who had come from South Africa.
Intombi was originally built by Chamberlain and Cooper while Trixen’s first builder is unknown. Both were then built a second time under the guise of being a “repair”, a euphemism by which indentured Japanese shipwrights could build a new vessel. Intombi grew nearly 5 metres during the work, which was carried out using Japanese indentured labour on the Roebuck Bay foreshore at Broome in 1929, and became 15 metres long. Later on in 1940 Trixen’s then owner Louis Goldie commenced a similar ‘repair’ on his vessel. Unfortunately the Japanese entry into World War II saw the Japanese shipwrights interned and the reborn Trixen sat out the war as a part built skeleton on the foreshore of Roebuck Bay. Oral histories suggest that Trixen‘s frames still carry the marks of shrapnel from the Japanese air raid on Broome in February 1942.
After the war the unfinished lugger was bought and completed by the firm of Streeter and Male, making Trixen the penultimate Broome lugger built with locally grown kadjebut frames rather than laminates. In the process the length had grown to over 15m and the registered tonnage almost doubled.
Streeter and Male come up regularly with the story of pearling. George Streeter and Arthur Male formed the firm Streeter and Male Ltd. George Streeter came out to WA as an agent for his father, EW Streeter, a London based jeweller and gem merchant. When he returned to London in 1898 he left Arthur Male to manage the company’s interests and by then they were pastoralists and owned cattle properties including Dampier Downs, and Roebuck Plains as well as working in the pearl shell and fishing.
Streeter’s vessels had been on the west coast since 1884. Streeter’s jetty was built across the tidal mudflats of Dampier Creek in the late 1880s next to the company’s camp and shell shed. This jetty was used by the pearling industry from the 1920s when there were around 400 pearling luggers in Broome until the 1980s when the fleet had dropped to the last dozen or so craft that worked under sail. In 1989 Streeter and Male Pty Ltd was purchased by Paspaley Pearls Pty Ltd.
Bingarra is a fast motor launch and reminds us that WA was far enough away from the east coast, with the Nullarbor as a physical barrier that they became self-sufficient rather than relying on outside resources. Bingarra’s designer Len Randell is a great example; his early amateur design work was done in spare time away from his job in the Public Works Department of WA. There was no place he could study to become a naval architect in WA, so he submitted examples of his work and a thesis to the Royal Institution of Naval Architects in London. In 1952, he was accredited, becoming an Associate of the RINA and a qualified professional Naval Architect. Randell became one of WA’s most accomplished designers, developing home-grown designs for new materials and new types of craft. Bingarra was a departure from the planked construction that was normal for motor cruisers in the mid-1950s. The plywood hull is about 10 metres long and the builder was Stewart Ward the father of Steve Ward, builder of the America’s Cup winner Australia II, one of the country’s most recognisable yachts and on display at the Western Australia Maritime Museum.
The original boats of Western Australia are Aboriginal Kalwa double rafts, used for fishing, hunting and transport in the extreme tidal areas of the Kimberley coastline. Western Australia Museum‘s example E3834 was collected by Henry C Prinscep Chief Protector for the Department of Native Affairs in WA in the early 1900s. The raft is a typical fan of seven logs attached to each other with pegs, and probably made from mangrove wood. It is about 3 metres long but only one fan exists, raising the possibility it is in fact an example of the single fan version documented and featured prominently in W Saville-Kent’s book ‘The Naturalist in Australia’ (1897). It is the only raft he describes and the image shows a pen at the wider end, with the raft paddled while standing up. It is understood the museum’s craft came from Yampi Sound on the Kimberley coastline of WA.
All of these craft represent different ages of design and construction along the West Australian coastline, and tell fascinating stories of how they were built and how they were used. Come to the seminar and you will hear more…...
For more information and bookings see HERE
RSVP essential – by Wednesday 13 November
Seminar on Western Australia’s maritime industries
Think of Western Australia and red earth, big skies and endless, timeless landscapes come to mind. That and the monumentalism of the mining boom, its huge trucks, open cut mines and mind boggling economics.
That industry is only as old as living memory. There is another story to tell about the economics of Western Australia and it’s one that looks towards the sea – to the maritime world – to a time before World War II when pearl shell and fish were sought after bounty.
Fishing, pearling, sailing or trading: stories of Western Australia’s seagoers and their craft is a seminar exploring these industries, and the economics and communities which shaped and sustained them.
Who knew that pearl shell, valued by Indigenous people for thousands of years, became such an important commodity in Western Australian and European markets that the major port Broome, on Roebuck Bay, was granted exemption from the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 to maintain its predominantly Asian Japanese labour force?
What about the critical role of Indigenous workers in the pearling and fishing industries? In the early years of commercial diving in the 1860s Aboriginal women along with men free-dived to 15—20 metres. After regulations prohibited women diving, Timorese and Javanese skin divers were brought to the area.
And there are intriguing stories to uncover about Western Australia’s Aboriginal watercraft culture. How did Aboriginal people make and use their craft to sustain their communities? How did they navigate those huge tides and coastal seas for fishing, travelling or trading?
And the broader fishing industry? What are other stories to uncover? From an industry that was largely small in scale, in competition with the massive cattle industry for Australian dinner plates, it was the agency of southern European migrants who fished and created markets for high-value seafood such as scallops and lobster. More personally, what was life like for those working in these industries on fishing craft and pearling luggers?
To be held on 15 November in Fremantle, this event is being held during the visit to Fremantle by the national council of the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV). The ARHV promotes surviving historic craft, viewing them as artefacts created and shaped by the people, communities and their industries and leisure practices. Here historic craft are used to unlock the stories of those communities and industries.
The Australian Register of Historic Vessels is a collaborative program which has a website at its heart (see HERE) but relies on boat-owning communities to evoke their often rich histories. This seminar is an important part of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s strategy to reach communities around Australia and involve them in telling their stories and, like pieces of a jigsaw, how they contribute to the national picture.
This unique seminar journeys back through living history and pairs first-hand accounts from sailors and workers with historical presentations on fishing, pearling, Indigenous coastal culture and sailing – from Bardi rafts to Australia II.
Come along to hear special guest John Longley AM, CitWA, reflect on the thirtieth anniversary of Australia’s historic America’s cup win, and the future of the America’s Cup race. The evening also includes the presentation of the Australian Association for Maritime History Awards, the presentation of certificates to Western Australian owners of historic craft on the Australian Register of Historic vessels and the Vaughan Evans Memorial Lecture, and much more.
Held in association with the Western Australian Museum and the Australian Association for Maritime History.
For more information and bookings see HERE
RSVP essential – by Wednesday 13 November
On 15 October 1904, a ‘young skipper’ with a ‘bright future’ brimming with promise was born. Alexis François Albert took to sailing as if it was in his blood. In conjunction with the success his father Frank enjoyed with Rawhiti, Alexis skippered the 21-foot yacht Boomerang. However, it was with the eight-metre yacht Norn that he truly shone. Combined with his success on the water, J Albert and Son also flourished as he assumed the mantle of managing director in 1931, aged 27. As J Albert and Son progressed and Alexis pursued his passion for sailing, the advent of television in 1956 and the rock n’ roll era of the 1960s and 70s changed the face of the entertainment industry. One man stepped forward with the creative vision that would harvest a string of chart-topping hits and dramatically shape Australia’s cultural landscape for years to come. This is the next instalment of the Albert family story. Continue reading
It was a clear and crisp autumn afternoon in 1925 when ‘one of Sydney’s show yachts’ sailed up to the Man-o’-war steps in Farm Cove, Sydney. Father and son, Frank and Alexis Albert, were about to host an afternoon with the Governor and his daughter on board their 54-foot cutter, Rawhiti. This was a long way from 41 years previously when, again in Farm Cove, Frank was just 10 years old and first set foot on Sydney’s unfamiliar shores. This tale started for me when one of our Flickr Commons investigators recognised Frank and Alexis in a Samuel J Hood photograph. As I delved deeper into the Albert family history, I became more and more fascinated by their remarkable story. It tells of a journey to the unknown, of new beginnings and innovation. In many ways, the Alberts sailed through Australia’s “golden years”, not just on Sydney Harbour but through that other “golden age” – of rock n’ roll. This is part one of their story. Continue reading
Every week I come across new discoveries being made on our Flickr Commons stream. One of my aims in writing about the historic watercraft that graced Australian waters is to try and find the people behind the vessels. I want to discover the families who made these vessels their own and developed a close connection with them. One such story yet again sprung out of a Samuel J Hood photograph from our collection, depicting a bearded man in front of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron headquarters in Kirribilli, Sydney. One of our Flickr followers suggested a name and once I had that name, a connection was formed and then, a story was born. Continue reading
She is the last of her class. Understated. Elegant. The soft glow of the midday sun bounces off her marine green and cream exterior. Worn surfaces are patched over and painted to look as good as new. You wouldn’t believe she’s 100. She is the Lady Denman Ferry and we are on an adult learning program to the charming heritage complex in Jervis Bay built to house this historic vessel.
It’s a perfect April day for enjoying the gardens and museum at the Lady Denman Heritage Complex. We are given a warm welcome and tour by President of the Board Dr Morgan Sant and Bridget Sant. In our company we also have our very own David Payne who curates the Australian Register of Historic Vessels. There is a wealth of knowledge between these three and we soak it up with enthusiasm.
The Heritage Complex is an exemplary story of the potential of volunteer initiated museums. There are over 200 dedicated volunteers here contributing over 3000 hours of work per month and just a few paid staff. Fortunately for us they also have a very generous team of volunteer caterers who do a beautiful lunch for us, a feast of salads, cold meats, bread, tea, coffee, delicious buttery homemade slices and fruit. All enjoyed dining on lace tablecloth covered settings overlooking the ferry of course.
The galleries are modest in scale but rich in content, beautifully presented and play host to a number of fascinating collections. The Halloran collection is my favourite, assembled by a local businessman it includes early navigational instruments, scrimshaw, Dresden-style porcelain figurines of famous captains, cutlasses and a curious collection of commissioned paintings of local history. Perhaps even more intriguing are some of the touches that have been introduced by the galleries’ volunteers like these engraved beer bottles that adorn the tops of display cases.
The feature attraction, the Lady Denman Ferry is housed in a purpose built wing. It took 200 volunteers, a flooded area and a tractor to tow her into here where she rests on steel cradles. Although most historic vessel curators would argue in favour of displaying vessels in water rather than housing in a building, it is actually quite a treat to be able to view the underside of the ferry in such detail. It tells the story of the incidents that marked this ferry’s colourful working life and the dramatic journey back to Huskisson through odd lengths of timber patching up broken sections of the hull, rusted corners and knocked edges.
When retired from service in Sydney in 1979 Lady Denman was destined to be scrapped until an enthusiastic community lead by local business owner Dick Young petitioned a government minister for this Huskisson-built ferry to return home. It wasn’t until 1988 that the museum had its first buildings, in 2001 the current gallery to house Lady Denman was constructed and in December 2011 the museum celebrated the centenary of this rather lovely and historic Lady-class ferry.