Jock Muir asked if I would like to work with him while he was building a fairly large yacht on a block of land in Queen Street, Sandy Bay. I jumped at the chance, was kitted out again in overalls and away I went walking up Colville, along St. Georges, down Nanny Goat lane and along Princes Street, up a laneway and over a fence to the partly built yacht. The yacht turned out to be ‘Westward’, which won the 1947 and subsequent 1948 Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Having spent that time at woodwork school, I just loved working on site with tradesmen. Besides Jock, there was his brother Wally, Bruce Griggs, Alan Cracknel and I can’t remember any others at that time. Later, of course, Jock expanded his staff considerably after he moved the building operation to the Battery Point site.
After ‘Westward’ was launched we started on a 30ft ‘Sports fisherman’ for the Bastick family. I remember this well because I was with it from the start, and had to sit underneath and hold the dolly on every copper nail head while Wally clenched the inner end. The design was taken from a book and Jock adapted it for the owner’s needs. It had a big car engine installed and seemed to perform as they wanted.
I had to carve the registration number of the launch into a main deck beam and when I finished, went right forward and lying on my back, carved my initials W.F.F. into the foremost beam, never thinking any one would see it there. Some years later, a subsequent owner told me he saw it there while he was re-painting the interior of the vessel.
When this was finished, we started the backbone (keel, stem, sternpost and moulds) for a 47ft yacht. Apparently Jock was negotiating with the Marine Board at that time for a lease on the property at Battery Point in Napoleon Street, so when this was completed, we loaded all the sections of the yacht onto Elliott’s trucks, carted them to Battery Point and began setting up the new site.
The first thing to be erected was the old shed from the Queen Street block. It had a large door at each end, which opened up with props under each corner, and inside was the big circular saw and a long bench for metal and woodworking along one wall. The site was fairly clear so the keel and backbone for the new yacht was easy to set up. With moulds in place, it looked as though the project had been underway there for many weeks. In fact, Perce Coverdale remarked that he ‘looked out one day at the normal scene; the next day there was a fully set up yacht frame on what was previously a vacant block.’