I have a deep love for beautiful and traditional vessels, which dates back to my earliest sea faring memories, travelling as a young boy on board the 1907 delivered Clyde built passenger/cargo ferry Karatta to and from Port Adelaide. This gracious little 527 gross ton ship serviced Kangaroo island and the Gulf ports from Port Adelaide faithfully until her replacement in 1961.
She had beautiful ‘yacht like’ lines, and a steel hull giving her the ability to sail from Glasgow to Port Adelaide on her delivery voyage at a spanking 12kts; but it was the whole package, from the smell of cooking and cordages to the magnificent timbers and cabinet making of her interior, that lingers in my memory. Literally a steel hulled vessel but with a heart of wood.
This love of the traditional and particularly for Tasmanian timber and admiration for those craftsmen who are working with it today, culminated in my awe on discovering the beautiful 65ft yacht Stormbreaker, peacefully tied up alongside the wharf in Strahan recently.
Originally designed and built in New South Wales by Peter Walker her strongly built steel hull was designed to serve as the ultimate indestructible ‘go anywhere on the globe’ vessel.
Stormbreaker was in fact launched on January 26, 1975 in Sydney. She was designed to explore the furthest untouched reaches of the world’s oceans for the filming of Stormbreaker-a Quest for Paradise to follow up the successful filming of Adventure Unlimited.
And indeed Stormbreaker lived up to her promise, sailing to romantic and remote destinations, filling a variety of roles from ‘film set’ to even salvage work until the Walker family decided to move onshore and bought a station in the Northern Territory, where as a result of a tropical cyclone, Sandy, and the resultant loss of their finances, Stormbreaker was put on the market.
She changed hands several times before Trevor and Megs Norton saw her and fell in love with her, and purchased her for their business ‘West Coast Yacht Charters.
So 1995 saw her move to perhaps one of her most scenic and remote moorings yet, to where we first saw her standing proud and graceful among the ferries and fishing boats alongside the wharf in Strahan on Tasmania’s west coast.
Trevor, a retired Heritage Architect from Geelong has long been a lover of sailing vessels having in fact purchased his first yacht at the age of 12 for $1. He undoubtedly inherited his love for the sea from his Father, who fished a Couta boat out into Bass Strait from Lorne during his childhood.
So when he saw the beautiful Stormbreaker for sale in Port Stevens the latent sailor within him leaped as he needed a new vessel to replace his ageing Wraith of Hamble. A vessel to both supplement his and Meg’s architect designed ‘The Crays’ accommodation, as well as offering day sails and overnight cruises and picking up white water rafters coming down the Gordon River from the World Heritage Wilderness.
Trevor told us:
“Having delivered Stormbreaker from Port Stephens to Strahan in 1995, I soon realised that she needed significant upgrading work to her very tired timber finishes in the interior, and the construction of a weather protective dodger for the helm and aft deck.
The next winter I resurrected all my dusty wood working tools, and I rearranged the workshop to accommodate the construction of the new interior and on deck timber joinery. With the help of local joiner, Dan Whitte, who was also heavily involved with the refurbishment of the ABT Railway Pullman carriages, I proceeded to design and construct the King Billy Pine framed dodger. Working around the often inclement west coast winter weather, we proceeded to use local Huon Pine, King Billy, Sassafras, and Celery Top to refurbish much of the yacht’s interior, as well as to complete the dodger and to construct a large dining table on the aft deck.
I found that the reinvigorated timber work on Stormbreaker significantly enhanced the experience of spending time and sleeping in Tasmania’s West Coast World Heritage wilderness.”
Indeed Trevor’s restoration work has steadily continued over the last 20 years, and will carry on into the future, enhancing his contribution to and personal connection with the ongoing evolution of this unique vessel.
Stormbreaker is licenced in fact to carry 40 passengers and two crew and to take them 12 miles further up the river than the commercial ferries are allowed, thus offering an exclusive view of some of the world’s most pristine and beautiful riverside scenery.
And whilst Trevor (a confessed wooden boat person) goes ‘north’ in winter to Queensland and Darwin, where he operates his second yacht, Harmony, his heart is firmly anchored in Tasmania.
This love and knowledge is apparent from not only his operation of Stormbreaker, but also even to his meticulously compiled charts for the Gordon River and it culminates in his knowledge and love for Tasmania’s unique and rare timbers.
On acquiring Stormbreaker he immediately set about enhancing her somewhat battered steel interior and hull by incorporating as much timber as was possible, the successful improvements made, wherever possible, from exclusively Tasmanian timbers, hand crafted with skill and love.
His locally sourced woods include Huon Pine, Celery Top, King Billy and there is an abundance of Huon Pine below deck, as well as Celery Top.
Trevor noted: “The local timbers are so beautiful to work with; they really beg to be used. We are fortunate also in that we are moored next door to Morrison’s Huon Pine Saw mill. So if I find out I need a piece of Huon Pine, or even Blackheart Sassafras, I can literally walk across the wharf and select a suitable length. Interestingly Morrison’s are now the oldest working Huon Pine sawmills in existence, and always obliging.
Whilst everyone knows and prefers working with Huon Pine, with its resistance to rot and worms, to say nothing of its sweet smell, I personally prefer King Billy Pine, which I find is lighter and easier to work with.
Ironically since the drought and the sudden availability of previously flooded stands in the lakes, plus the harvesting by boat of pine logs in places like the Pieman River, Huon Pine is now more available and suddenly King Billy is rarer and harder to come by.”
Both to give added deck seating as well as improving her aesthetics, Trevor recently added a 21/2m extension on her stern, and this too features Huon Pine seating.
It is a feature of a cruise on Stormbreaker that Trevor is able to point out and identify the trees along the banks of the Gordon, the trees that have provided the very timber used on board for the seats, tables, rails etc.
From arrival in Strahan to a cruise aboard Stormbreaker Trevor and his wife, Megs, a self-declared ‘reluctant sailor’, offer a total ‘west coast’ experience. The Crays, their beautiful and tastefully furnished self-contained cottages, are named after those worthy crustaceans once taken from the waters by Trevor’s father, and sold by Trevor back in the days when their office/reception was in the main wharf building in Strahan.
From the anchor motif on the attractive self-contained cottages to the beautiful Stormbreaker standing tall and stately at the town wharf, Megs and Trevor offer a unique and total sea / river / west coast wilderness experience.