Couple hope to revitalise Docklands through the “Queen’s boat”

By Brendan Rees

When Leanne Bartfield and her husband Sandy of Docklands stepped aboard the Elizabeth Anne, a 75-year-old wooden boat, its royal history and character immediately pulled at their heartstrings.

“It is quite the boat!” Leanne said, admiring its fresh, varnished wooden interior and vintage upholstery – which once seated Queen Elizabeth II and her late husband The Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip during their visits to Melbourne.

Originally built in 1946 as a troop carrier for the Royal Australian Navy, the couple has given the 11.95-metre motor vessel a new lease on life after purchasing it in Southbank just before the pandemic hit.

“During COVID we were looking around and then we wanted something that explored the waterways,” Leanne said after she and Sandy moved to the precinct to downsize from their former bayside home in Parkdale two years ago.

“This became available and we walked on it and I said to Sandy ‘this is the one’.”

“It’s something for us to potter around and to also use as a charter boat so everybody else can enjoy it.”

Formerly known as the PMA25 Royal Barge after it was retired from the Navy at the end of WWII and purchased by the Melbourne Harbour Trust, the small boat quickly rose to fame for carrying dignitaries and VIPS, thanks to its ability to clear the Yarra River’s many bridges.

Its most notable guests include the late Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip when he visited Melbourne in 1956 to open the Olympic games. And years later, it carried Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to town.

In recent times, Australia’s best-known singer John Farnham has been a special guest aboard the majestic boat as has Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Mary during a visit.   

Leanne, 66, a former physical education teacher, and Sandy, 75, a former real estate agent, immediately fell in love with the heritage and woodwork of the vessel – with Sandy conceding “the clincher was it was built in 1946, which was the year I was born”.

They invested the help of friend Angelo Lomacchio, who runs Magic Charters in Docklands, to give the Elizabeth Anne a makeover – which was restored over 12 weeks and now docked at Victoria Harbour.

With the hull hand-painted in “true Britannia colours” of navy blue with red and yellow stripes, the couple say the boat’s refurbishment looks “fabulous”, adding the “workmanship that goes into it” was stunning.

Small details such as the reinstatement of the Commonwealth emblem, a brass barometer, a wooden helm, vintage leather seating, and a 100-year-old brass clock, which was passed on by Leanne’s father add to the boat’s beauty.

The couple now want to share their pride-and-joy with the rest of Melbourne after starting Elizabeth Anne Charters – which they hope will revitalise the Docklands precinct.

“The waterways are just beautiful … if we can promote Docklands and get people in, that’s important to us,” the couple said.

“I think the most exciting part is that people don’t realise what you can actually see from the water.”

For booking inquiries email: [email protected]

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