DISCOVER Magazine #7

Damen supports the Australian “museum that goes to sea”

Published in category: Countries

Damen Shipyards Group is very happy to be helping the Sydney Heritage Fleet, a volunteer organisation which restores heritage ships, as a gesture of thanks to the Australian maritime industry for the support it has shown Damen over the years.

Sydney Heritage Fleet, with its roots dating back to 1965, began when a small group of volunteers started restoring a NSW State Government VIP launch, the Lady Hopetoun, which was built in 1902. Now there are 1,100 volunteers and the Lady Hopetoun sails around Sydney harbour 110 years after she was built! Currently, Sydney Heritage Fleet has a 10-strong historical fleet, five of which are over 100 years old. One of its iconic ships, James Craig, is a stunning square rigger, which has 21 sails, representing 1,100 m2. Built in 1874 in Sunderland in the UK, the rigger was beached in Tasmania in 1932 and abandoned for the next 40 years.

Volunteers worked tirelessly on this beautiful vessel for 28 years, which eventually included restoring 19.5 km of rigging and installing 50,000 rivets! Fully operational, the vessel is the only 19th century tall ship in the world sailing regularly. Other vessels in the fleet include one the oldest coal burning steam tugs, ‘Waratah’. Following a visit to this extraordinary fleet in early 2012, Damen Chairman, Kommer Damen decided to make a donation to the volunteer organisation.

Damen’s donation has been used to replace the steel hull plates of the John Oxley, which was built in 1927 by Bow McLachlan of Paisley, Scotland. She was built for the Queensland Harbours and Rivers Board and steamed under her own power as a pilot vessel in Moreton Bay and as a buoy and lighthouse tender along the Queensland coast.

History in action

John Oxley was built in riveted steel with teak decks. She is a typical coastal steamship with raised forecastle, well deck, machinery and navigation midships and accommodation aft. Just recently, the last steel plate was replaced. The group has worked on the vessel for 10 years.

Ross Muir, General Manager of the Sydney Heritage Fleet, says: “Not only is the organisation a great social meeting point for all of our volunteers, it also helps preserve long-forgotten shipbuilding skills such as steam engineering and riveting.”

The Sydney Heritage Fleet is hoping that the next project, depending on whether it can raise the funding, will be a 100-year-old doubled-ended harbour ferry, “Kanangra”.

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