Terrific times in Tasmania at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

Monday morning at the festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Monday morning at the festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

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.

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Ready for Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

At the 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

At the 2015 Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

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.

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Waves of history: Inspecting a historic surf craft in Tathra

The historic surf craft is housed on a heritage wharf at Tathra. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

Inspecting a historic surf craft housed on a heritage wharf at Tathra. Image: David Payne / ANMM.

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.

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‘Good housekeeping, you know. Economy, common-sense.’

View of McMahons Point, from 1937, showing the boat building yards including Holmes yard on the far left. Image: ANMM Collection 00037893.

View of McMahons Point, from 1937, showing the boat building yards including Holmes yard on the far left. Image: ANMM Collection 00037893.

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.

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The End of a Watermark: Changes to our Permanent Gallery

Watermarks exhibition gallery, when it opened. Image: ANMM.

Watermarks exhibition gallery, when it opened. Image: ANMM.

The museum is undergoing an exciting change to its permanent galleries. After more than 15 years, on 29 February the Watermarks Gallery set its sails for the last time (pardon the pun). The gallery first opened in 2001 and told the story of how water and the ocean plays a vital role in the lives of all Australians and how the coast has inspired our recreational lives.

Our new permanent gallery exhibition, ULTIMATE DEPTH: James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge, will open in late 2016. Continue reading

Oysters and their punts

The Clyde River oyster punt

The Clyde River oyster punt, 1970. Australian Register of Historic Vessels, HV000558

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.

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Making connections in Goolwa

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.

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Carl Halvorsen, 1912-2014

Carl Halvorsen (left) at the museum with niece Randi Svensen, his sister Elnor Bruem, and brothers  Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen

Carl Halvorsen (left) at the museum with niece Randi Svensen, his sister Elnor Bruem, and brothers Trygve and Magnus Halvorsen
Photo: Jeffrey Mellefont

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

SY ENA : steaming towards the next chapter

SY Ena, the museum’s glamorous guest and visiting vessel from February to June this year has moved on, and without too much fuss has arrived on Port Phillip in Victoria. 20 years on from the book ‘SY Ena: Aurore, HMAS Sleuth’ by Alan Deans, a new chapter is now ready to write – and the prologue is how it got there.

SY ENA coasts into Docklands, Melbourne. Photo by Jeff Malley

SY ENA coasts into Docklands, Melbourne. Photo by Jeff Malley

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ENA and the Dibbs family

Ena on Sydney Harbour

Ena on Sydney Harbour
Photo: Andrew Frolows, ANMM

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 Dibbs family aboard Ena

The Dibbs family aboard Ena
Photo: David Payne, ANMM

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

Queensland Outreach

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.

Krawarree at Pimpana near Southport. David Payne

Krawarree at Pimpana near Southport. David Payne

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Meetings on the Murray

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.

The red gum log boat at Wahgunyah. Image by David Payne

The red gum log boat at Wahgunyah. Image by David Payne


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Happy Birthday ARHV!

birthday card ARHV

Happy 7th Birthday ARHV! Illustrated by David Payne, ANMM

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

Western Australian vessels tell their stories

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 off Cable Beach 2009

Intombi off Cable Beach 2009

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 in the 1950s

Bingarra in the 1950s

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.

Kalwa raft WAM

Kalwa raft WAM

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

Before the mast… before the boom

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?

Luggers on the beach at Roebuck Bay, Western Australia 1950s

Luggers on the beach at Roebuck Bay, Western Australia 1950s
Reproduced courtesy National Film and Sound Archive

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?

Before the boom - photograph taken during a 1929 expedition by the Australian Iron and Steel Company, off the Kimberley coastline in north-western Australia.  ANMM Collection reproduced courtesy of the Dambimangari and Mayala people

Before the boom – photograph taken during a 1929 expedition by the Australian Iron and Steel Company, off the Kimberley coastline in north-western Australia.
ANMM Collection reproduced courtesy of the Dambimangari and Mayala people

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?

Seminar presenter former fisherman John Fitzhardinge with Wayne ‘Nugget’ Bailey on Blue Marlin off the Abrolhos Islands, April 1965 Photo courtesy John Fitzhardinge

Seminar presenter former fisherman John Fitzhardinge with Wayne ‘Nugget’ Bailey on Blue Marlin off the Abrolhos Islands, April 1965 Photo courtesy John Fitzhardinge

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.

MV Kiewa, during restoration. This Perth-built motor launch was built for the Commodore of the Royal Perth Yacht Club and this year celebrated its one hundredth birthday. Photos courtesy Ron Lindsay

MV Kiewa, during restoration. This Perth-built motor launch was built for the Commodore of the Royal Perth Yacht Club and this year celebrated its one hundredth birthday. Photos courtesy Ron Lindsay

MV Kiewa, after restoration. Photos courtesy Ron Lindsay

MV Kiewa, after restoration. Photos courtesy Ron Lindsay

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