The Huon Valley has a long tradition of boat building
Since returning to community ownership last year the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin has been busy with a number of projects. One of these is the restoration of a Montagu Whaler.
Built in Brisbane in 1953 this Montagu Whaler is one of a class of boats that were standard equipment on all Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy vessels from the 1890s to the 1960s. Although built in the style of a whaleboat, they were a multi-purpose ship’s boat, able to be rowed or sailed for rescue and general utility purposes.
After the decommissioning of their ships, the Montagu Whalers were often donated to Naval Cadet units and this particular boat was no exception. After service on the TSS Mersey, the whaler was given to the Devonport Naval Cadets who used her for training exercises.
Recently the Montagu Whaler was donated to the Wooden Boat Centre and with the help of volunteers a major restoration is now underway. Generous private donations made it possible to hire professional boat builder Cody Horgan to oversee the project. Cody studied at the Wooden Boat School in 1999-2000 and has gone on to establish a successful career as a shipwright with the Australian National Maritime Museum where he has been working on the James Craig. He has taken a month’s leave to work on the restoration project.
The Franklin Working Waterfront has teamed up with Tasmanian charity Colony 47, to provide some disadvantaged Tasmanians with an opportunity to engage in meaningful work and training, and to take pride in their achievements. UTAS student Tom Burdick is on placement at Colony 47 as part of his Master’s degree in Social Work and has taken on the task of organising and transporting volunteers from Colony 47’s Eureka Clubhouse in Hobart. Tom, who grew up in Franklin, jumped at the chance to coordinate this partnership as he was already familiar with the work of the Wooden Boat Centre and their commitment to community development as well as practical, employable skills. He sees it as an exciting opportunity to expand the work skills development program at Eureka Clubhouse.
The Montagu Whaler was in a very sorry state when she arrived at the Wooden Boat Centre. Originally built from Kauri pine, the hull was seriously damaged in a collision when she broke free from her mooring in a storm, and areas of rot had set in. Work over the past few weeks has seen sizeable sections of the hull planking removed and replaced with Huon pine fixed in place with traditional copper rivets.
The Montagu Whaler has ten rowing stations and arrived complete with oars, which are in need of refurbishment. She also comes with a mast and gaff-cutter rig including the sails. When finished and back on the water she will be used by schools and community groups for rowing, sail training and general adventuring. A small but significant part of Tasmanian maritime heritage will be proudly back in service.
For more information call the Wooden Boat Centre on 6266 3586.