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Editions

Classy river lady will   turn many heads

30 Jun 2010

Classy river lady will    turn many heads Image

A very elegant lady has joined the rag-tag Yarra River fleet of charter vessels.

Birrarung looked rather undignified being carried from Docklands’ Wooden Boat Centre to the river early on June 24.  But once she hit the water, there was no doubting her sheer class.

The 48-foot fantailed river launch is sure to turn heads as she plies her trade, initially taking  VIP guests for a cruise on the Yarra.

The short journey from shed to river was a tense time for shipwright Ferdi Darley as he supervised a juggling act between three cranes.  One weak link could have meant the sudden end of 15,000 hours of lavish and loving attention to detail.

For the owners Ruurd de Visser and Malcolm Farr, the moment marked the beginning of the money-making phase of a project which started three years ago. But for Mr de Visser, there is a low expectation of recovering the substantial money ploughed into the project.

“It’s a boat! Boats are never a sensible decision,” he said.  “It’s not about the money.  I don’t care about that side of things.  It’s about creating something that you love.”

When Mr de Visser came across the vessel’s hull at the Wooden Boat Centre, it was in need of new ownership and direction.

“I rang Malcolm to come down and talk me out of taking it on,” he said. “But we ended up in partnership in the project.”

Birrarung is a testament to uncompromising passion and quality.    

For example, Mr de Visser wanted a 1.5 inch chromed strip around the craft but this was only available in a 1-inch width.  “So we ended up making it out of bronze and then had it chromed,” he said.

In other instances too, if a part wasn’t available, it was made.  

The craft’s lighting was painstakingly researched online and then imported from Belgium.

For Mr Darley, the project was a pleasant adventure.

“It’s really nice to do a job when only the best is expected,” Mr Darley said. “It’s a real novelty these days.”

Birrarung weighs 13 tonnes and has a strip-planked hull construction from Fijian kauri and is covered in fibreglass for strength.  Above the deck-line she features amoora and African mahogany.

The traditional look of the launch disguises the fact that its technology and design is cutting edge.

It is designed to throw no wash at all when cruising at the river’s speed limit.  And it boasts a hybrid diesel-electric motor – a first for a boat in Melbourne.

The original inspiration for the craft stemmed from the fact that when the Volvo Ocean race first came to Melbourne, there wasn’t a single boat that the sponsors felt was up to scratch to ferry VIPs around.  A boat was imported from Singapore for the purpose.

Birrarung is in a class of its own among Melbourne’s river craft.  It remains to be seen whether it can inspire an overall lift in standards.

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