Clara

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UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2013

Clara has now been fitted out with mast and spars and looking every inch the superb sailing vessel that graced the Derwent River at the close of the nineteenth century. Work is now being undertaken on her rigging to ensure that it is a faithful representation of that era. David Nash has fashioned blocks from Huon Pine which will carry tufnol sheaves.

UPDATE MAY 2013

We have made steady progress on the restoration of this extraordinary survivor. Visitors are quite amazed when they learn of her age (120 years) and how she began life as a racing yacht, converted to power and now at the WBC where she is being reverted back to her original appearance.

UPDATE MARCH 2013

The hull was in poor condition but over the last 9-10 months the deck – now totally replaced – and the Kauri planked hull strengthened and splined to ensure she is tight and strong for sailing.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2012

During the winter of August great progress was made on Clara. The original batten seam planking included a clinker style sheer plank not uncommon during the times of her construction. Damage from fresh water over the generations had led to serious lack of integrity in these planks and the decision was made to fit new sheer planks. This was done using some first grade Celery Top found at Roger Linnell’s mill.
The outcome of this work transformed the appearance of Clara.

But before any further attention could be given to the original planking the hull must be turned over to give unencumbered access to her bottom and keel. To withstand the stress of being turned over the deck structure will first be completed and to this end the deck beams and cockpit carlins have been constructed and fitted.

As nineteenth century Clara moves towards her destiny of a completed restoration each stage gives clues as to her original and striking appearance. The incomplete deck shape is a significant step towards Clara’s completion and is giving visitors an exciting glimpse into the past.

First noted by name at the opening of the yachting season in November 1893, Hobart fruit exporter and manufacturer William Davidson Peacock’s cutter yacht Clara is almost certainly the vessel reported as being under construction at Thomas Williams’ Domain Slip for Peacock in September 1892. With dimensions of 24ft x 7ft 9in x 3ft 9in, the cruiser was said to have been built of 5/8in. Huon pine with blue gum keel, stem and stern posts, and copper fastened. There appears to be no link between this and an earlier Clara, a second-class centreboard yacht built in 1881 by William Bayes at the Whitehouse Brothers’ yard at Battery Point for Henry Calder, the dimensions of which were 24ft x 5ft 10in x 2ft 8in. That Clara disappears from trace after 1885.

Opinion in 1892 was that W. D. Peacock’s new yacht was a smart-looking vessel, and there was some regret that she had not been built a little longer to be able to compete with the 28ft class racing yachts. Clara did not, however, race regularly for many years, and remained a more or less anonymous harbour cruiser until 1903, after which she raced from time to time with several wins and second places in the cruiser division. While holidaying overseas late in 1908, Peacock arranged for Clara to be lengthened to just under 28ft. Although this made her a more competitive racer, she did not do much racing until 1912, after which she enjoyed a couple of very successful seasons competing against larger and more modern vessels.

About 1915 Peacock had Clara converted into a motor launch with a powerful 12hp oil engine, and continued to enjoy her as such until his death in 1921. Clara then slips into semi-obscurity for many decades. In 1931 she was advertised for sale as a Marconi-rigged auxiliary launch with a 12 hp Wolverine petrol engine. In 1948 Clara was purchased by J. D. Lucas of Lindisfarne, for whom she operated as a full-cabin launch with auxiliary gaff rig and a 24 bhp. Morris Navigator petrol engine. Following J. D. Lucas’ death Clara passed to his son, also Jim, under whose ownership she underwent a major overhaul in 1975 with partial refastening and new hardwood ribs. At some stage the original Morris Navigator was replaced by another motor of the same type that had never been used.

Having acquired the larger vintage motor-sailer Vera in 1979, Jim and Sheila Lucas sold Clara to Douglas Hornsby, under whose ownership she became a very well-known unit of the Vintage Boat Club of Tasmania, and a regular competitor in gaff-rigged races at the Bellerive Regatta and elsewhere. Clara also cruised extensively around the waters of the Channel and eastern shore, but her most infamous incident was on one of the regular Vintage Boat Club cruises to New Norfolk, when an overcharged signal cannon took off from the foredeck, holed a nearby ferro-cement yacht, and earned for her owner the nick-name Captain Cannonball.

Advancing years (for both owner and boat) led to a sale in 2002 to Michael Johnston, who enjoyed Clara with his family for nearly a decade. However, time was seriously catching up with the aging vessel, especially the superstructure, supposedly made from “recycled” tram materials, and the engine, which became unreliable and finally unserviceable. After lengthy negotiations Clara was purchased by the current owner in November 2011, with the intention of being rebuilt to her layout when she was at her best, just before the First World War. On 29 May 2012 the old boat was trucked from Prince of Wales Bay to the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin where reconstruction has now commenced. An interesting discovery is that the planking is mostly kauri pine, and there is no clear evidence of the 1908 lengthening, which suggests that the vessel underwent a fairly comprehensive rebuild at that time. Now, a century later, it’s time to go again.