Hidden Treasure

By Colin Aburrow

Sunday August 19 at 10.00 hrs saw a group of Gaffers hanging around the Western most car park at Fremantle wharf opposite the entrance to the “A” shed.

The event was the invitation from Bill Leonard to view the museum’s collection of historically significant boats that are not on public display.

It was close to 1030 am with nothing happening when Ted Schmitt said he had seen a couple of people near the submarine display at the South West end of the car park. So he and Jeremy took off to investigate. A few minutes later they hove into view again with Jeremy waving his arms as a distressed sailor might.

We all traipsed towards our intrepid secretary and around a couple of buildings entered the museums workshop where Bill was waiting patiently for us all.

A slight breakdown in communications had occurred as to where we should meet.

Bill wanted us to view the work that is carried out in the workshop so that we might better understand and appreciate the boats in the “A” shed.

In the workshop was a flat bottomed dory that was built in Albany and is the last of the particular fishing boat that is peculiar to the town. What makes this boat re-markable is the stern section. Instead of having a flat boxy transom as is normally seen this vessel had a small wineglass sectioned stern. The design gave the boat a cleaner exit and so less drag for the rowers, and also provided directional stability as a rudder might.

Bill had just completed taking off the lines of the boat and showed us the plans that had been drawn up. These were really beautiful drawings with every particular of the vessel’s build, scantlings and offsets. A very painstaking achievement.

In his little drawing office he also showed us the set of drawings for a Shark Bay Lugger. These were of a pretty looking clipper bowed gaffer that was used for trawling in the Shark Bay. This particular set of draw-ings plans was also his reason for us to start at his workshop before moving to the “A” shed where the ves-sel is kept.

After checking out the rest of the workshop we all moved over to “A” shed.

When Bill opened the door and we trouped in we were confronted by the Shark Bay Lugger. I say “confronted” because that is how it struck me.

In front of us was the ‘remains’ of the lugger. It was in a shocking state. The starboard hull had separated from the stem and was laying almost flat. Likewise the Port hull had lain over in like manner. It was like an opened flower though not as elegant.

It was almost impossible to recognise this wreckage as being the same vessel Bill had drawn. The conservators had pulled the hull carefully together before they had then taken off the lines. After they had all the measurements they then gently let the hull halves separate and lay down again on a specially contoured cradle.

Bill pointed out the unusual reverse sheer of the after deck. This was designed to facilitate the trawl ropes as they came over the stern and reduced chafe.

The “A” shed contains 45 boats and vary from gaffers to speed record breaking hydrofoil power boats. There was a two man rowing shell in cold moulded ply on a light frame. Somewhat different to what we saw at this year’s Olym-pics! There were also a couple of boats offered to anyone who would like to take up the challenge of a rebuild.

The shed is literally bursting at the seams with boats that due to space are unable to be shown to the public. Moving around the vessels at times amounted to squeezing be-tween hulls or even moving something to get through. Some boats were in very good condition, others needing some TLC.

Bill has made an open offer to anyone interested, to drop by the workshop at any time.

After the tour of “A” shed most of us meandered down to the cafe/restaurant in the East end of “E” shed. I pleasant meal with friends and then we dispersed for our various destinations and homes.

It was another successful and interesting social event attended by 18 members.

Thank you, Brian, for arranging the visit.

If I’ve omitted some important aspect, I apologise. Unfortunately at times I was not able to get close enough to Bill when he was explaining some of what we were viewing.