Celebrating our Enterprize
By Cr Jackie Watts - Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN)
Mid-winter, July/August is a significant time year for maritime heritage enthusiasts in Melbourne.
Why so? Docklanders today will be familiar with the Heritage Fleet on Collins Wharf and the sight of Melbourne’s very own tall ship Enterprize on North Wharf.
Imagine the original vessel Enterprize sailing in mid-winter from Launceston on July 21, 1835. It was not an auspicious start for the voyage as the vessel was detained for some days by creditors in George Town in northern Tasmania before setting sail once again across the wild turbulent Bass Strait on August 1, 1835. No doubt closely watched by Aboriginal tribes as they headed up the bay, the vessel zigzagged in search of a place to settle on the mainland. They first investigated Westernport, to the east of Port Phillip, eventually finding the Yarra River at the head of the bay. After warping (arduous hauling on ropes attached to the riverbank), the ship crept upstream where it moored alongside the riverbank at the foot of the rocky natural barrier which separated the brackish Yarra estuary water from the fresh flowing water upstream. On August 30, 1835 the settlers disembarked and the first permanent European settlement in Melbourne had begun. We now call the place they landed Enterprize Park. See enterprize.org.au/aboutenterprize
Interesting to note that today, mid-winter 2020, the replica Enterprize in Victoria Harbour is undergoing almost exactly the same maintenance routine as the original Enterprize would have undergone. Maritime heritage maintenance practices on such ships have changed little. Seafarers are constantly busy afloat and onshore. Currently, Docklanders will note that the Enterprize looks bare. The running rigging, sails, booms, spars and yards have all been removed for winter checking and maintenance by volunteers.
Much to the delight of tall maritime enthusiasts, the Enterprize today conscientiously uses traditional seafaring material and adopts traditional practises, e.g. hemp rope rigging, flax canvas sails and tallow lubrication. Traditionally, hemp and other natural fibres were the norm for rope production, but it would quickly rot when exposed to rain, so was tarred to preserve it. This tar, as you can imagine, stained the hands of ships’ crews. Thus, British Navy seamen became known as “tars”. It is fascinating to note that the market forces at play to control this valuable commodity were held by a single Swedish company holding a royal monopoly on its export from Stockholm. Hence the name Stockholm Tar (pine tar). It is the basis of many maritime preservative products, such as spar tar for the timbers, and rope tar for the rigging. Rigging is dipped through heated Stockholm Tar, all timbers are scraped or sanded, and spar tar applied. In the 1830s, when the Enterprize operated as a coastal trading vessel between Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and the Port Phillip District of NSW, these various tars were used. The original Enterprize disappeared from the shipping register in 1847, having been wrecked on the bar of the Richmond River in northern NSW.
Traditional ship materials and skills are maintaining the replica Enterprize today. It successfully completed the annual survey inspection of the entire the ship and equipment to comply with the stringent Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) standards. Come spring, hopefully post-COVID with all maintenance tasks completed, Enterprize will welcome all Docklanders aboard – once more. Surely this is a rite of passage for all who call Docklands home.
Contrary to the mid-winter busyness of maintenance attached to preserving heritage sailing ships, life in lockdown mark two is less hectic for the City of Melbourne (CoM) Waterways Unit looking after modern boating around Docklands. The CoM Waterways Unit, staunch supporters of the Heritage Fleet, describe their work in terms of what is NOT happening. New COVID-19 restrictions mean that the Melbourne City Marina and Yarra’s Edge Marina are closed. The three water-based recreational clubs in Docklands - outriggers, dragon boats and Docklands Yacht Club - are hibernating in the boat shed on North Wharf. Charterers are all experiencing great economic distress and the City of Melbourne has granted a six-month fee waiver to assist. A reminder that the CoM and the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network are committed to progressing ASAP the establishment of the Melbourne Boat Service Depot on the south side of the Yarra (Bolte West Precinct). During a peak boat maintenance period such as mid-winter, just imagine how much frenetic, recreational boating repair and routine maintenance activity would be taking place to enliven Docklands at this time of year - if such a depot existed. Stay-tuned.
In the grey dampness of mid-winter Melbourne, exacerbated by the grim reality of our second COVID-19 lockdown, it might be timely to take a look at fabulous footage of Docklands. It’s guaranteed to cheer you and remind you of why you live here.
See Melbourne Waterways - Our Story: youtube.com/watch?v=K7VizVPm3Hw
See more of the beauty of your Docklands waterfront captured on Instagram: #docklandsmelbourne #docklandsmelb •
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