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Editions

Wattle restoration continues

24 Oct 2016

Wattle restoration continues Image

By Sunny Liu

Restoration continues for a historic steamboat, Steam Tug Wattle, which has been out of service for more than 10 years.

The boat is currently docked at Victoria Harbour and works are being undertaken to repair its engine and improve the woodwork on passenger seats.

Wattle was lifted back to the water by two of Melbourne’s largest cranes in September last year after six years of restoration by a group of volunteers from the Bay Steamers Maritime Museum.

The ongoing restoration of the boat is expected to finish early next year. 

Wattle was used as a tugboat by the Royal Australian Navy for 35 years and later became a chartered boat that provided a unique venue for parties and corporate functions and sailed back and forth between Docklands, Portarlington and Williamstown.

Jeff Malley from the Bay Steamers Maritime Museum said the group was working out new marketing strategies for Wattle when the restoration was completed.

“The market has changed due to the increasing number of chartered boats in the water in Melbourne. So we need to find a niche market for Wattle,” he said.

Wattle is one of the oldest steamboats in the Port of Melbourne and is classified by the National Trust. 

The $1 million funding of the restoration was provided by Sorrento Steam, the owner of Wattle, with some support from businesses and maritime enthusiasts.

Most of the workers on the restoration team are professional engineers, construction workers and architects, who are volunteering their time to put the boat back in the water. 

Tony Lewis, chairman of the Bay Steamers Maritime Museum, said the team wanted to preserve a valuable piece from the past.

“It’s a very important part of Australia’s maritime history. It’s a unique vessel that’s Australian-designed and Australian-built,” he said. 

“We’d be lost if we didn’t have any history behind us. We need to preserve works of art because they are embedded in our history.” 

The boat’s name Wattle was given by the Royal Australian Navy, a reference to the floral emblem of Australia. 

The boat has been in Docklands ever since it was out of service in 2003, apart from the time when it was sent to New South Wales for a check-up.

Wattle’s location has been constantly changed due to the rapid transformation of Docklands, while buildings were soaring up from development sites.

But for the workers on the Wattle restoration team, the 83-year-old steamboat is a reminder of the good old times with some relevance to the future.

“In the challenge of climate change, the use of steam can provide some insight into energy use,” Mr Malley said. 

After the renovation, Wattle will be operated by Bay Steamers Maritime Museum volunteers and will be on a permanent exhibit. 

Those interested in volunteering to help restore Wattle can find the recruitment information at the Boroondara Volunteer Resource Centre at www.bvrc.org.au

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