On 26 October 2022 the club had an official handover of the almost restored 1942 Naval Montague Whaler. It’s now located in the workshop with the bulk of the work being carried out by club member Alan Gandy, who coincidentally was born the same year as the whaler. Peter Jerabek has also donated many hours of his fine skills to work on the boat. Our members have donated around $4000 dollars to this project so far with a recent anonymous $1000 sent to the treasurer. Further donations will be much appreciated.
Once completed the whaler will be one of only three operational in Australia and the plan is to offer the community a chance to get to know the club and the joys of watercraft either as a rower, sailor or just to improve boat handling skills. These boats were carried on most Commonwealth warships as sea boats for over 100 years. They were used to train sailors in boat handling until the 1980’s when rigid inflatable boats replaced them. Osbourne House in Rippleside, Australia’s first Naval College, which opened in 1913, would have also used whalers to train young midshipmen prior to some of them almost certainly steering them in and out of the beaches of Gallipoli carrying soldiers and supplies.
Christine Cousins, the State Member of Parliament for Geelong, attended the handover and was impressed by the efforts of the club to bring to life an example of Geelong’s history and offered her support to get donations to finish the restoration. Our clubhouse, which opened in 1879 at Eastern Beach, was the home of the Corio Bay Rowing club before they, and the clubhouse was moved, by steam engine, over the hill to the Barwon River, and then brought back to Corio Bay some years later. Our workshop is also an important part of Geelong’s boat building history, constructed in the early 1900’s as the base for one of the famous Blunt family of boat builders.
The St Ayles Skiff, now at the club, has been loaned to the WBBC by the Royal Geelong Yacht Club and will also be used to encourage community and club members to hone their rowing skills and possibly compete with RGYC crews in friendly races.
The skiff is one of three built by refugees and members of RGYC and supporters at the Fyansford Paper Mills. The St Ayles Skiff has its origins in Scotland where in 2009 the Scottish Fisheries Museum launched a project to re-connect its community with coastal rowing which was popular on Firth of Forth early in the 20th century.
The renowned Australian traditional boat designer Iain Oughtred was retained to design a clinker ply version of the Fair Isle Skiff that could be built by amateurs. The first was launched in 2009 and the concept proved so popular that upwards of 300 have been built in UK, America, Canada, The Netherlands and Australia by yacht clubs and rowing clubs.
The St Ayles Skiff is a very stable and proven sea boat. She takes the waves from any quarter with minimum water coming over her bows. The skiffs are built to a standard International one design kit consisting of laser cut marine ply components plus locally sourced timber for thwarts, gunnels, knees and oars.
You will be able to see the whaler and have a row in the St Ayles skiff at the open day this Saturday, in addition to having a taste of naval rum in the traditional rum ceremony and participating in other activities on the day. And don’t forget to bring a friend or two so they can see what WBBC has to offer.
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