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KATHLEEN GILLETT

Date: 1933 - 1941
Dimensions:
Overall: 13180 x 4540 x 11550 mm
Vessel Dimensions: 13.18 m × 11.55 m × 4.56 m × 2.09 m, 23.44 tonnes × 8 tonnes × 2.2 tonnes, 98.25 m² (43.24 ft × 37.9 ft × 14.96 ft × 6.86 ft, 23.06 tons × 7.87 tons × 2.16 tons, 1057.66 ft²)
Medium: Spotted gum, huon pine, baltic pine, paint
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Royal Norwegian Embassy
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Ketch
Object No: 00008344
Place Manufactured:Gladesville

User Terms

    Description
    The cruising yacht KATHLEEN GILLETT is well known as the second Australian yacht to complete a circumnavigation of the world. This was undertaken from 1947 to 1948. During and after the voyage the owner and skipper, marine artist Jack Earl, became widely recognized as a result of the richly illustrated articles and logbook he created during the voyage. Kathleen Gillett also sailed in the first Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race in 1945 – an event organised by Jack and his friends who formed the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia.
    SignificanceThis double ended cruising ketch is a good example of a Colin Archer inspired design. The famous ketch was built by Charles Larson, who worked from Colin Archer drawings to develop a world-cruising yacht.
    HistoryKATHLEEN GILLETT is a wooden gaff ketch, just over 13 metres long. It was built in Sydney by Charlie Larson at his Gladesville yard on the Parramatta River, NSW. Construction commenced in 1933 and the design was based on an unknown set of plans from the famous Norwegian naval architect Colin Archer which Larson possessed. The shape is very representative of Archer’s style of seaworthy double-ended commercial vessels such as the sailing rescue boats (redningskoites), pilot vessels and fishing craf, which all have different characteristics and proportions to suit their purpose. Archer also designed cruising yachts along these lines and some of the commercial vessels were converted to cruising yachts.

    Larson carvel planked KATHLEEN GILLETT in Huon pine, which was supported by thin and closely spaced frames. This appears to be Larson’s own method and is not understood to be an arrangement used by Archer. Larson also appears to have interpreted other features of the structure and shape in a manner that is different from a typical Archer vessel, but suitable for the purpose.

    Early in the 1930s Jack Earl and his wife Kathleen were inspired by stories about long sailing voyages and wanted to build a yacht for themselves to use to circumnavigate the world. According to a piece written by Kathleen in Seacraft November 1947, they wanted to use a design by Colin Archer, such as the Norwegian Redningskoite or Pilot ketch. They knew from these stories that his designs were extremely seaworthy. A close friend doctor and surgeon Dr Robert Scott Skirving had a smaller modified Archer style yacht called PHALAROPE (HV000191) and he also strongly recommended they have a design by Archer. The actual plans of KATHLEEN GILLETT have never been located. Kathleen only notes they were signed by Archer, but Larson never let them out of his hands, and guarded them jealously.

    The couple had little money available so the yacht was built slowly and in a simple manner to suit what funds they could spare. When KATHLEEN GILLETT was launched in 1939 it was towed to Rushcutters Bay where they lived aboard, gradually completing the fitout and rigging it for sailing. During the latter years of the Second World War it served as a naval coastal patrol craft, based out of Sydney. When the war finished Earl had become one of the founding members of the Cruising Yacht Club, and KATHLEEN GILLETT was one of the nine participants in the inaugural Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race late in 1945. The yacht finished fourth in this race, which had started out as a planned cruise to Hobart involving Earl with his colleague from the CYC Peter Luke on WAYFARER. The cruise became a race on the suggestion of Captain Illingworth, and was started on Boxing Day 1945.

    The Earl family lived aboard KATHLEEN GILLETT until the early 1950s, however Kathleen and their two children (Maris and Mick) did not go on the circumnavigation, or crew in Sydney to Hobart race in 1945.

    During the circumnavigation the yacht had a shelter around the cockpit to protect the crew, and the bright work was painted because it was easier and cheaper to maintain than varnish. They were away for exactly 18 months, leaving 7th June 1947 and sailing through the heads again on 7th December 1948. They covered 26,000 nautical miles, in a voyage that went first to the north of Australia, then across the Indian Ocean, then the Atlantic Ocean to Panama. From there they crossed the Pacific including the Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, Tahiti, Tonga and New Zealand.

    The voyage was followed by an appreciative audience who read dispatches published each month in Seacraft magazine. These were written by crewmember Mick Morris, but illustrated by many drawings, paintings and sketches done by Earl. Crew member Will Sinclair also sent photos, but the wonderful images by Earl and the extraordinary illustrated log he kept gave him the recognition he needed to become one of Australia’s premier marine artists for the next four decades.

    KATHLEEN GILLLETT was sold in the 1950s when the Earls bought land in Mosman Bay and built their own house. Under a succession of owners the yacht spent a considerable part of its time north of Australia in Papua and the Solomon Islands involved largely in commercial activities, including a spell taking part in crocodile hunting. The yacht underwent a number of changes to the rig and configuration as well as many repairs.

    Reg Stephenson bought they vessel around 1964 and had it rebuilt as a yacht. He brought it to Sydney to compete in the Sydney to Hobart race again in 1967, but it was disqualified over a starting incident. After the race he took KATHLEEN GILLETT back to Papua New Guinea and sailed it there for many years before tragedy struck in Guam in the middle of 1975. The following account comes from the story told by Tony Heaney who was aboard KATHLEEN GILLETT at the time of the accident.

    Reg sailed across well in advance of the August Regatta, and once in Guam formed a close relationship with a soon to retire schoolteacher called Marianne. Together they planned to do a circumnavigation on KATHLEEN GILLETT when Marianne retired and able to leave the island.

    In late May 1975 super typhoon Pamela formed in the lower part of the north Pacific ocean and bore down directly on Apia Harbour during the afternoon of May 21. In preparation for the storm Reg had secured the yacht in the lee of three storage tanks on the windward shoreline, and Tony Heaney offered to come aboard with a colleague and help him ride out the storm. As Typhoon Pamela crossed the island KATHLEEN GILLETT rode out the initial ferocious winds that were estimated at sustained periods of 225 kph, with gusts of just over 300kph. As the eye of the storm passed over and the winds dropped away for a brief period, Tony recommended they move across the harbour to the other shore to be in the lee when the winds returned form the opposite direction, bringing heavy sea conditions as well because they would then be on a lee shore.

    Reg decided to stay where they were, and to use the engine to take the load off the cables that had been laid out. In hindsight, this was the only possible course of action, as there was not sufficient time to haul in the cables, move across the harbour and then resecure the yacht.

    The winds returned and the seas built up quite quickly, but with the engine running Reg was able to relieve some of the tension on the cables without the yacht moving forward over their anchorage points. Meanwhile for a short period Tony tried to fend the stern away from a large steel buoy that was adjacent to the stern. Tony succumbed to sea sickness quite quickly, followed by the colleague, and they both retreated to the saloon, leaving Reg manning the throttle. After a period of time the engine began to splutter, then died, and could not be re-started. Reg then joined them below in the saloon, everyone realising they were at the mercy of the lines and the weather.

    The yacht pitched dramatically, stretching the lines then crashing forward as they contracted. This kept up for about 30 minutes until they rode up on one wave, but did not come crashing down, instead they felt suspended, ' floating like a cloud' , yet they knew what had occurred, and worse, knew what was about to happen. The lines had broken and KATHLEEN GILLETT was driven directly onto the coral, just offshore of the clubhouse. Waves continued to lift and drive the yacht further ashore until it came to rest on its port side amongst the breakers, battered but not destroyed. The three crew members remained on the boat, moving into the cockpit to avoid poisonous battery gasses escaping into the saloon, and sheltered under a sail Tony had located from the forepeak. As dawn broke the storm died away and they were eventually able to walk ashore from the stranded yacht to survey a shattered township and harbour.

    KATHLEEN GILLETT was severely damaged along the port side and keel, but was salvaged by Stephenson, who moved the yacht from a slip to a nearby yard. Reg and Tony were promised by the yard that it would be repaired with grant money that had been given by the government in the aftermath for storm damage repiars. Tony tried to facilitate this happening, but in October 1975 he had to return home to the USA without any progress on the work being made. Their trust in the yard owner securing a shipwright was not returned, and Reg was unable to get the yacht repaired. As well he had lost the grant money to the yard.

    n 1979 Stephenson became unwell, and with no money availabe he was forced to hand the yacht over to the owner of the yard as payment. It was then sold to Vaughn Tyndzik who returned it to sailing condition as a Bermudan rigged cutter.

    Late in the 1980s KATHLEEN GILLETT was bought from Vaughn by the Norwegian Government who funded its restoration as a Bicentennial gift to Australia to mark that occasion in 1988. In 1991 KATHLEEN GILLETT was handed over to the Australian National Maritime Museum and as an operational vessel in the National Maritime Collection it now takes part in occasional yachting events on Sydney Harbour.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Gaff-geräucherte Ketch KATHLEEN GILLETT

    Assigned title: Gaffelgetuigd Ketch KATHLEEN GILLETT

    Primary title: KATHLEEN GILLETT

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