A beautiful wooden yacht built in Balmain, Sydney, in 1920 has been relaunched in the Eurobodalla.
Narooma shipwright Rick Wood and his son Jackson relaunched the Waitangi on Tuesday.
It’s been a labour of love for Rick, who has worked to fully refurbish the yacht on and off since he acquired her 18 years ago, in between his other boat building jobs at his Balmain boat yard.
Most recently he moved her down to his property at Corunna Lake, Narooma, to get her shipshape for relaunching.
The 30-foot yacht was original built and launched by famous Balmain boat builder, skiff racer and rugby league player ‘Wee’ Georgie Robinson, who built and raced 18 footers.
“He played footy in the winter and sailed like mad in the summer,” said Rick, noting that Georgie campaigned his own 18 footer ‘Brittania’ from 1919 to 1949.
The story goes that ‘Wee’ Georgie built the ‘Waitangi’ for a Mr Clark out of full-length Kauri pine planks from New Zealand, most likely from the Waitangi region, hence the name. It was then sold to a Dr Wearne, who owned it until the 1980s, when it was offered for sale.
A friend of Rick’s asked him to look at it one day and he immediately recognised its qualities, saying “If you don’t buy it, I will”. He even took it up for a two-week trip up the Hawkesbury to test it out.
The friend did buy the yacht but it ended up being too much for him, so Rick took over ownership a short time later, after testing her out on a two-week sail up the Hawkesbury.
One of the first jobs was refastening the copper nails on the yacht. The initial work to replace all the steam-bent wooden frames with new spotted gum timber took place at Rick’s Balmain boat yard with the help of his apprentices.
He then moved the yacht by road down to his Corunna property at Narooma where the work, including a complete refit of the cabin and cockpit, continued with the help of his son.
“We replaced or refurbished everything from the inside out with a lot of help from my son Jackson and support of my wife Chrissy,” Rick said.
The same expert boat transporter who brought her down the coast all those years ago, shipped her to the Narooma Bridge on Tuesday where she was lifted into the inlet by Narooma Cranes.
Members of the Narooma Centre for Wooden Boats, including legendary Narooma boat builder Jimmy Taylor, have checked out the yacht and had a great appreciation for her design and curved lines.
“She has a nice shape, nice lines,” Mr Taylor said. “She has a nice shear in her too.”
The yacht with its straight stem bow, like a harbour skiff, is 30-foot long at the water line and is 11.6-foot wide. The external trim is strong-weathering teak, while down below she’s made up of South Coast cedar and a bit of original Queensland maple and rosewood. She draws 3.5 foot of water, but with the dagger board down that extends to 6 foot.
There is still work to do. Rick and Jackson are working on the mast for the yacht, which will be collapsible allowing her to go under bridges and up inlets.
The family plan sail the yacht back up to Balmain early next year so they can use her, while Rick finishes up his career as a shipwright, but when he retires back to Narooma, the yacht should be based on Wagonga Inlet, other than possible trips as far away as the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania.
The yacht back last century did sail as far north as Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef, where she weathered a 70-knot cyclone thanks to the skill of its then yacht master, Seppee Stevens, who was a legend in his own right, having lost both his legs due to polio.