Chaparral under sail. image Ina Manthorpe
When we first saw Peter Manthorpe's newly purchased 39' cray boat, Chaparral, at the 2015 Woode Boat Festival in Hobart, she was pretty basic, and it was hard to image the image of the sailing family cruiser Peter had in his mind ever eventuating.
Yet a visit to see her at Kings Pier in Hobart the other day was akin to watching a beautiful butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Though still a work in progress, Chaparral now resembles a comfortable motor-sailer with her recently hand crafted 40' laminated Tassie Oak mast standing tall and rigged for sailing, and her accommodation now offering a welcoming and comfortable saloon for a quiet meal and a cuppa while Peter told us something of her progress to this point.
Launched in 1972, this 9-ton Huon pine cray boat has seaworthy, comfortable and appealing lines, with her 39’ overall length, not including the bowsprit, a workable 10’ 6” beam and drawing 5’ 6”. She had a small mast and carried a small leg’o’mutton main and staysail for better sea keeping abilities and was, in every respect, a sensible hard-working vessel, ideal for her trade. Originally, she was licensed to carry 25 pots, but this was later extended to carry 30 on deck, so she was also a good money earner.
Chaparral under sail in front of Hobart Royal Botanical Gardens. image Mick Boxall
She was built on a vacant block in New Town, quite close in fact to Peter’s current residence, and construction started in 1970, though she was not launched until 1972, as it took her builder and first owner, Kenny Chambers (with invaluable assistance from his father), a little while to purchase and instal her 80hp 4-cylinder Ford ‘Dorset’, a reliable engine that powers her to this day.
Peter Manthorpe could be called a traditional and competent sailor. Currently employed as Master on Tasports’ Mount Florance, a fine modern ZTech tug based in Hobart, his sea faring career began with his serving an apprenticeship with ANL, then one of Australia’s leading shipping companies, trading world-wide, and putting in the hard yards for his Master’s certificate. Peter can add such exploits as sailing as Mate on the Bounty during the First Fleet re-enactment, as Master on One and All, and also on Magan, the Bronze-Age reed reconstruction built in Oman under the supervision of the renowned Marine Archaeologist, Tom Vosmer, with whom he had become close friends when Tom ran ‘Ancient Mariner Boatworks’ in Port Adelaide. A competent boat builder himself, Peter comes from a renowned South Australian seafaring family being son of Pep Manthorpe and having cousins and nephews still sailing out of Port Lincoln and Adelaide.
Having settled in Tasmania he was also a lecturer for some time at the Australian Marine College at Launceston, but as he told us, his all-time dream had always been to obtain his Master’s Certificate first and then to simply ‘go sailing’. But owning his own deep-sea sailing vessel has always been part of the dream.
Three new floors in.
Four new floors in.
One day around 2010 he spied Chaparral and he immediately liked the look and style of the vessel and thought she would make a good project to turn into a cruising cutter.
By this time Chaparral had long retired from commercial fishing and passed into the hands of partners John Rose and Anthony Ingram, but John had moved on to another project, restoring Frolic, a Couta boat from around 1861, and they had put Chaparral up for sale.
Peter liked her lines. She had been modelled on a much older boat, Aone, another Couta boat that had fished Storm Bay and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel from the late 19th Century well into the latter half of the 20th. Aone had a reputation for sailing very nicely, and Peter could immediately see how Chaparral, re-rigged and refitted, could be a capable and seaworthy sailing vessel that met all his needs.
However, he was somewhat short of the going price, even after selling his 22ft catboat, Trim, and he could find no way of raising the balance required.
And here we return to his time on Magan, where on one occasion he had rendered assistance to his shipmate, the late Bill McGrath, in a somewhat perilous situation. And this was to be Peter’s salvation as, one day, totally out of the blue, he received a cheque from Bill as a gift, amazingly, for the balance he was trying to raise, with a note saying that this was in gratitude for Peter’s life-saving assistance all those years ago off the coast of Oman.
And so, suddenly, he could afford to purchase Chaparral and this he did in early 2014.
Since then, there has been slow but steady progress on her restoration. The first task was to remove the wet-well, which occupied the middle third of the boat, to provide more living space. This was not a simple task, since these boats were built with very little structure inside the well; being open to the sea, there are no stresses on the boat’s hull where the well is.
Cross section of mast. image Jonathan Wallis
Peter hired shipwright Jeremy Clowes, of Cygnet Wooden Boats, to undertake the bulk of the work. The boat was slipped at Cygnet for a couple of months, during which time the boat was completely stripped inside, including removing the well and chipping out a ton of cement with a jackhammer. Then five new floors of 5” x 10” hardwood were installed, together with four sister frames, two new stringers, a new mast step and two structural bulkheads. Seventeen very expensive bronze keel-bolts were fitted so that every floor in the boat had at least one keel-bolt holding it to the keel.
The reason for spending so much on the keel-bolts was that a steel slipper, packed with old drill-pipe for ballast, weighing 3.5 tonnes, was then bolted under the full length of the keel to provide stability and lateral resistance for sailing.
The next job was to cover the gaping hole in the deck where the wet-well used to be with a celery-top pine deckhouse, and to fit out the accommodation with bunks, a galley bench and sink, and a small enclosed head in the fo’c’sle. Once this was finished the boat was usable again, but there were still plenty of jobs on the list.
Since the big refit, Peter has replaced the rudder to make it more effective when the boat is under sail. He has also, reluctantly, ripped up the old Huon-pine foredeck and replaced it with two layers of 9mm plywood. The old deck was held down with steel nails which were rusting, and the deck had become impossible to caulk. Rain was getting in and some of the deck beams were starting to rot and needed replacing.
The most recent work, which turned into Peter’s lockdown project for 2020, was to build the new 40’ mast. For this Peter used Tasmanian Oak, scarfing together lengths of 3” x 1.5”, then tapering them and machining a bird’s-mouth groove down one side of each plank so they lock together into an octagonal tube. Gluing the eight planks together requires a long bench, a steel strapping tool and lots of epoxy. This work was done in Dave Golding’s shed at Glen Huon, adjacent to where Matt Morris and Iefke van Gogh are building their beautiful 40’ Pilot cutter, Tarkine.
The new mast was stepped late last year. Peter made the 29’ boom from a Couta-Boat mast and built a gaff out of a broken D-Class mast. Dave Golding gave him a Couta-Boat mainsail that had been kicking around his shed, so now, at last, after years of work, Peter could realise his dream and cruise around in Chaparral under sail. And she certainly sails well and cuts a handsome figure already on the Derwent River!
The project is not finished though. The main deck still needs replacing, as well as two rotten deck beams. The wheelhouse is also in a bit of a sad state so will get replaced when the deck comes off later this year. Rest assured that any Huon Pine from the old deck and wheelhouse will be recycled as cabin fit-out or furniture of some kind. None of this organic gold will find its way into land-fill. In the meantime, Peter is welding up new stainless-steel handrails to replace the original galvanised ones which were slowly rusting away.
Original wood heater. image Jonathan Wallis
Finally, when the funds and time are available, Peter plans to make a new full-sized gaff mainsail to fit the new spars, to make the most of the light Hobart winter breezes, but with three deep reefs to cope with the not-so-light winds Tassie is famous for. When the project is finished, Chaparral will look like the fishing boats that have plied these waters from the 1800s right up until the latter half of the 20th Century. The difference will be that she will be fitted out with simple, comfortable accommodation for eight people, and with the luxury of a wheelhouse in which to keep warm and dry.
We asked Peter how he envisaged utilising Chaparral on completion of his many innovations, repairs and restorations, and he told us he hopes to take his family out sailing on occasions with the desire to use her for off-shore cruising to the many beautiful wild and otherwise inaccessible Tasmanian locations as Port Davey and also Macquarie Harbour, the Freycinet Peninsula, and maybe King and Flinders Islands.
A knowledgeable and experienced sailor as well as a competent and practical boat builder, we can look forward to seeing him happily in command of Chaparral notching up many a memorable and enjoyable adventure. And equally we are certain that this beautiful vessel will repay Peter Manthorpe many fold for his sympathetic and dedicated renovations, turning her from something of a rough diamond into a beautiful seaworthy and attractive sailing Cutter.