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The Most Historical Boat in Australia? Could be.. 

 

 The "Islander"….

What a story! The boat was built in the thirties by Claude and Harold White. Now I'm building a boat and it's hard work but the way these old boys built the boat is something else again. The White Family had to be self sufficient in all ways. It was just the way to survive. They felled trees native to the island and that was good timber then. They made planks with a pit saw… that is a long timber saw with handles on each end, a two man rig. They dug a deep pit and had the log straddling the top. Then one man would stand in the bottom of the pit with one end of the saw whilst the other had the top position and then muscle the saw up and down … up and down… up and… well you get the picture.. a massive job for the amount of hardwood required.

But that was just the start. They built the 30 foot boat at the homestead up on the hill. Upon completion they disassembled the boat and hand carried it piece by piece down the hill to west bay where they reassembled and launched her… A feat beyond imagination.

When Andrew Martin bought the Island Lease from the White's in the sixties the boat was part of the property. Andy operated the boat on the island for many years but she started leaking and eventually she wound up on the beach at west bay, drying out and decaying.

I talked to Margaret Beaumont in Cairns. She and her husband knew of the boat, being old friends of the White family, and contacted Andrew Martin and arranged a deal. She told how her and her husband used their fishing boat "Ocean Spray" to transport some cattle and emus to the island in trade for "Islander". They got the boat around to the lagoon and between tides recaulked her and she would float once again. Margaret's memory was a bit vague on the dates but this should have been around the early eighties. One memory was very clear to Margaret though. She told how she found Harold White in Mackay, ill but keen. They arranged for "Islander" to be sailed into the Harbour in Mackay, specifically sailed, not under motor. They transported Harold to the harbour with a brief stop on the way for a bottle of rum. Everything worked perfectly. With Harold sipping a tot of rum, on cue, "Islander" sailed in. She reckoned the whole exercise was worth it for that one moment.

They transported the boat up to Cairns where they sold her later for $500. This is a regret that Margaret has. They had a cattle operation that was a victim of a bad drought. Spending months at a time driving cattle to water and feed. They bought the fishing boat to make some money to support the cattle but eventually the fishing got good and that became their business. Working the seasons taking Barra and Mackerel. But the boat was being neglected, thus the sale. She now lives alone as her partner has passed, aboard the ex pearling lugger, "Pacific Pearl". She can't sail her but she would rather live in the marina on a boat than on land. She would be keen to buy the boat again as she would like to see the vessel restored and turned over to a museum or someplace that would insure the boats survival.

Jon Hickling, whose family were the islands best caretakers since the White's heard of the boat and found her in hock and desperate. She had spent years at the boat yard of the Yacht Squadron, one of those boats that appear to have little chance of ever floating again. She was set to be burned as the unpaid yard fees were in the thousands. Jon made a deal with the current owner for $500 as is and the Yacht Squadron forgave the yard fees with the promise that the boat would actually be repaired and taken away.

Whilst making repairs Jon was visited at the yard by a young guy with a Mohawk haircut and wild tattoos. Mick Cotter seemed strange in appearance and seeming to live on cigarettes and Coca Cola but he did volunteer to supply some timber for the project, which he did. As soon as the hull was sound a boat was organised for a tow back to the island. Mick asked to come along. It wasn't long after Mick returned to Cairns that the Hickling's found that Mick had flown to England and convinced aging and mentally infirm Andrew Martin to sell him the island for $10!

When the Hickling's vacated the island, "Islander" had to be left behind. For the up-date on Islander.. read TCP # 32.

 

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 Sometime in the sixties..

 Andrew Martin in his prime aboard The "Islander".

 Two photos above taken in 06 and showing the neglect..

 Remaining photos taken july 08