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HMAS Enterprise (OK. M.Y. Enterprise)

by John Curnow, Global Editor, Powerboat.World 19 Feb 2023 21:00 UTC
Time for lunch at Howrah, adjacent to Bellerive in Hobart on board Squally Cove © John Curnow

What started out on a driveway, effectively as a one-man band, is now a 50 person strong enterprise. (And there are very good reasons for that!) The occasion was the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, and I was sitting aboard the utterly splendiferous Deal Island 50, Southern Rock, with Mr Wooden Boat (well at least in these here parts anyway), Tim Phillips OAM.

Why had I made such a beeline to be there? That would be the Shearwater 38, Squally Cove, pictured above off the magnificent Bellerive in Hobart. The boat is named after a very stunning bay. To me it was like rocket flares, green dye in the water, and red smoke flares all going off at once. Now more specifically, anytime I get to say the Kent Group, and especially Deal Island, it is like transcendence. This is something that both Tim and I share, and whilst mine are locked away in boyhood memories, Tim makes an effort to go to the stunning island in the middle of Bass Strait every single year.

Phillips first went there in about 1966 as an eight year old, or thereabouts. The academic and historian, Stephen Murray-Smith was down there, and my mother was friends with the Murray-Smith family or an extended part it. “I can remember putting my head out of the hatch and hear all these people who were all nude on the beach. I didn't know which way to look. Some of the girls, who will remain nameless at this point in time, were young, and as a 15-year-old kid, it was, it was just something quite incredible. First thing I did was just jump back down the hatch, and pretend I hadn’t seen anything.”

Back in those days there were Brumbies (wild horses) running all over the island too. They are all gone now, and that too helps to mark a very different era. Now the point is that it was all very much indelible on Phillips, for the 32-footer they took around Australia (much later) was named Murray Pass, and then later another was called, Squally Cove, “A place that's very dear to us”, as Phillips puts it. In the end, the whole of the Wooden Boat Shop’s (WBS) range has names referring to Bass Strait and Victorian icons, which is a reflection of the family’s cruising grounds, and their location in Sorrento, on the Mornington Peninsula.

Style and Substance

So let’s get back to boats, and stay with Southern Rock for a while, which is delightfully executed with the bronzed out look and whitewashed timber with brushed brass accoutrement. Call it beach chic if you will. It must have been a handful in production, with acid washed metal, exposed grain, and just the right amount of whitewash providing the correct patina. Beautiful. Photos do not really do it justice, so if you are lucky enough to get on board this vessel, then do so, and savour. It is very Zen, and shows how much the craft are customisable inside a given set of parameters, for she looks nothing like her older sister, Gina, which is far more traditional.

“The reason we call them Deal Island 50 is that they designed to go cruising down to Deal Island and have a week’s stay with a family, or a couple of families, and then come back in comfort and safety.”

Southern Rock is the second of the series, and has already made her way to Tasmania twice, and all the way up to Lizard Island on the GBR, and she is not even two years of age yet! You’ll notice that she has a line hauler for the cray pots (lobster), and a live fish well to keep said catch, immediately aft of the main saloon doors. Even the bargeboards are stowed up against the bulwark in the cockpit, so you have a magnificent blend of working boat and relaxation tool, wrapped up in a solid, safe, and efficient hull form. And the awning covered cockpit is huge, so the lunch with all those crays, and the chilled Riesling grabbed from the various fridges on board is going to be a long affair around a long table that will take 12 souls – easily. Sign me up now!

So what’s being constructed at the WBS right now? “We've got an order to build at least one Couta Boat to start imminently (original sailing fishing boat of the region), and then two more Deal Island 50s that are evolutions of the model, two Efficient 44s, one 36 foot Tideways displacement launch, and three Kooyong 28 runabout/picnic boats. Pretty much maximum capacity…”

The WBS moved to the Hotham Road Industrial Estate in 1980, and has grown both its footprint and shed space ever since. “Well we certainly didn't set out to do this, but it's been a passion I followed. It wouldn't have happened without the brilliant team we've got together and yes, our three kids are in the business now. Will and Sam (2020 Tokyo Olympians in the 49er) are involved in manufacturing and logistics, respectively, and Emma does the marketing. Our General Manager, Wayne Parr, ties the whole team together.”

Triple F

It is quite an amazing thing, overall, for something over 95% of production remains local, which helps with the maintenance side of things. Evidently, there would be no appearance of it slowing up, either, for a new 55 is in the wings, and has been developed to allow for a twin cabin/dual head arrangement down below, instead of the ‘all-in’ style of the 50, me hearties…

Apart from the added five feet, there is a bit more beam on offer too (say 0.5m), with this completely new hull form from their warped plane style. Naturally it will not be a massive departure in terms of wither style or running surface, because if it ain’t broke... The 55 will have the same 1000hp single Volvo running the massive five-bladed wheel down below. In the 50, this can send her to 30 knots, depending on load and screw, but the real place is the 8-12 knot cruising range where she is so utterly miserly, and with double alternators she does not have to carry a genset, aiding to low overall mass, a greener footprint, and of course, no noise at anchor. Bring it on!

Given that 55 is about the largest they can make in the current site, it could end up being called the Big Deal, or even the Kent 55. Maybe, just maybe, it might be Furneaux 55. We’ll see. Tight lipped is all I can say… They have been approached for vessels up to 65 feet, but the twin screw nature and limited shed space places this a bit outside the operational sphere for now.

Philips has always been astute, so it is no surprise to hear him say, “It's going pretty well. We're sort of mindful of a soft landing, or we hope it's going to be a soft landing, rather than a hard landing, but yes, we're mindful not to overextend ourselves. We’re we're very confident. We have a great product, and rock solid manufacturing process and systems that we put in the boats that will hold us in good stead for what we're planning for the future.”

Being Vigilant

So going all the way back up to the top once more, this was all possible because the Tasmanian Police, and specifically Scott Williams and Ashley Kent, allowed me to join them on Vigilant for the Parade of Sail at the 2023 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart. Built in Tasmania in 1971, she has seen continued service ever since, all the way from Bicheno to Port Davey, and until recently, did so with the same atmo Cummins V8s she has had from the start.

The Port one developed a crack in the block a while back, and has now been swapped out with another they found not too far away. Like what are the chances? Apart from slightly fresher paint she looks exactly the same as her sister sitting off to the right. Police work and Fishing Patrols are joined in Tassie, and Vigilant can do weeks away. She has towed so many vessels, and taken greenies up and over the traditional flying bridge so many times. All the while slugging it out at 20lph. That’s efficient.

She tows a RIB that does the fast work, and acts as the Mother Ship a lot these days. She is pleasant, clean and delightful. She too does not use her genset much anymore, which occupies a big chunk of the aft deck, relying on her battery array to take care of it all. The only thing you really have to be careful with is your head as you exit the galley/mess. Otherwise, it is all happy days.

Reflecting on her brilliant state of repair, Williams said, “Well, it's a bit of an ongoing project. We try and stay on top of things as we see them. Between Ash and I we've got a pretty good split of skills. Ash is very good with the painting and woodwork side of things. I come from a mechanical background, so I'll get right into maintaining the engines and that sort of stuff, but we also have to give a fair bit of credit to local contractors.”

It is a lovely story of hard work, dedication, and passion. If you get to be on her, you’re either going to be terribly thankful for digging you out of a hole, or just marvel at miles under her keel, the weather she has seen, and the time capsule appearance that transports you immediately. Nice. Better than nice. Round of applause, please! She has earned it, and the souls that have looked after her all these years will be chuffed.

OK. Today you will find that the site has an abundance of material from right across the globe, and if you cannot find something, just try the search button right up the top of the landing page, above our logo. If you cannot find what you want or wish to want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

Finally. Please look after yourselves.

John Curnow
Global Editor, Powerboat.World

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