After a nearly two year restoration my 14’6’’ 1898 Hobsons Bay Flattie “Larrigai” was re-launched at the 2018 Paynesville Wooden Boat Show.
It also appeared the following week at the Geelong Wooden Boat Festival sitting on its trailer. This is the “Larrigai” saga.
Back in the late 1890’s there was an economic downturn and Port Philip was a source of low cost food for many of the people of Melbourne. The areas around the top end of the Bay, from the shallows off shore from the holiday resort of St Kilda around the Eastern Shores of Hobsons Bay to the Port Melbourne Lagoon and Station Pier, were prolific fishing grounds. These shallows were easily accessible with small rowing dingy and a cottage industry grew up on the beaches of the new suburbs of Albert Park and Middle Park building small rowing boats to access this fishery. One of the early builders was a Middle Park resident, one John Joseph Savage. He used good timbers and had a distinctive stem shape with a old style reverse sheer. Around the end of the 1890’s he moved his boat building operation to a riverside shed at Richmond near were the Punt Road bridge now stands.
To fish these waters the boats needed to be relatively flat bottomed for a shallow draft and stability with low freeboard to make them easy to row. In the shallows, the fishermen used small throw nets fishing for flathead, flounder and garfish. The boats also had to be strong, durable and seaworthy to cope with the sudden bad weather that the Bay is notorious for.
They were of simple clinker construction and had quite a different lines to the later boats which were built with a wine glass transom for fishing in deeper water and required less drag for better rowing efficiency.
Savage knew his trade and used clear New Zealand Kauri Pine single piece planks, spotted Gum ribs. and bronze fittings with copper clinched nails.
Sometime just before the first world war it is believed the owner of the boat joined Australia’s oldest fishing club, the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club and the boat was moved into the club shed (built in 1909) at the end of Kerford Rd. It has been in the club as long as any one can remember. It is the storage in the shed out of the weather that probably led to its survival into the modern era.
In the early 1920’s lightweight marine engines such as the ubiquitous Chapman Pup appeared. And in 1931 the then owner altered the boat by fitting engine beds and a deadwood to support the shaft and propeller and installing a 1931 Chapman “Super Pup”. The deadwood was bolted on with steel bolts which corroded over the years causing the biggest restoration problem.
The Chapman had serious internal waterway corrosion and as “Super Pup” pots were no longer available, I decided to re-engine with a modern 2cyl NANI 10 hp diesel.
The restoration took 18 months and required 18 sister ribs to be installed and the deadwood replaced. All planking was perfect and none required removing. Thwarts required replacement and are from recycled Mahogany. The centre rowing thwart having been roughly hacked into to fit the original motor.
Rudder and tiller were recoverable and with bronze fittings probably date back to the conversion to power bin 1931.
Finished only two days before, it was launched at the Paynesville Wooden Boat Rally last month but unfortunately after several hours fettling had to be hauled out with gremlins in the fuel system.
It was also entered at Geelong but with only two days in between both shows in Melbourne we had to settle for display on the trailer at Geelong.
As it was displayed right at the entrance to the main Marina Arm it had quite a few admirers.
Meanwhile back in the shed I am sorting out the fuel system.
Note: for young players, never put the fuel return from an injected diesel back into the fuel filter.
Always return it to the tank!