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Keeping Docklands maritime history in shipshape condition

By Emma Hartley

Against the Docklands horizon with its gleaming skyscrapers bobs a ship invoking more than 180 years of history.

Michael Womack oversees the upkeep of the near replica of the Enterprize – the ship that brought the first white settlers to Melbourne in 1835.

“It’s a great opportunity for kids to start appreciating that it’s not all video games but going back 180 years, this is how people moved around the world,” Mr Womack said.

The reproduction ship uses the same 1830s technology and is undergoing the rigging replacement that occurs one in every seven years.

Authenticity is a key priority of the Enterprize project so the ship relies on traditional supplies.

The hemp rope comes from Holland, the sailcloth from France, and the Stockholm tar from Finland.

“The tallow (sheep’s fat) used for lubricating the rope is “not as easy to find as you might expect.”

“I phoned up Australian tallow suppliers and they asked – do you want five tonnes? We only needed a couple of kilograms, so I ended up getting it from a fish and chip supplier,” Mr Womack said.

The reproduced Enterprize has space for eight passengers and nine crew.

There is a sailing program that leaves Williamstown on the first and third weekend of each month and school programmes which run throughout the week

High school kids can climb the rigging and primary school kids help haul up the sails.

A keen group of volunteers lend their hands to keep the Enterprize in shipshape condition.

Peter Van Leeuwen is one such volunteer but despite his Dutch name, his family don’t have much to do with seafaring.

“My original ancestor came out [to Australia] in 1856 and he was a sailor, but no one since then. Though I’ve always had particular affinity for the sea,” Mr Van Leeuwen said •

enterprize.org.au

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