Fifth Strait Crossing

The Laurent Giles yacht became the ‘Patsy’, which some years later Jock purchased for himself. Jock, with myself, Adrian Dean and Ted Domeney were to sail it to Sydney early the next year, with the owner and his two teenage sons on board. It was quite a good trip weatherwise and we had a lovely quiet sail all the way. The only slight hiccup was the owner always challenging his sons to do what Adrian and I were able to do comfortably. They appeared fairly sheltered and when Adrian was straining a pot of vegetables, the lid slipped and the lot fell into the brand new stainless steel sink. Adrian did what anyone (from Hobart) would do, put a big knob of butter and some milk on top and mashed the lot in the sink. The Sydney boys went without their vegetables that night and the owner wasn’t all that happy either.

On the lovely warm days with relatively quiet breezes, the boys would pester Jock until he let them put the large Genoa on the forestay. The sailmaker had not finished the hanks to attach the sails to the forestay and they had to be shackled into place. Jock would invariably call me about midnight to come on deck and unshackle the bigger sail and re-shackle the smaller one to make comfortable sailing through the rest of the night. I think tempers were a bit frayed all around by the time we got to Sydney, but the trip was lovely, the weather perfect, and I had another magic flight back to Hobart.

Jock was asked to quote on building two Heavyweight Sharpies, which were extremely popular around that time. Jock gave the job to brother Don and myself and we worked upstairs in what was left of the Ross Patent Slips. The sharpies performed very well and were owned by well-known yachtsmen Neil Campbell and Ediss Boyes. While Don and I were building the Sharpies, Jock and the team were building a lovely fishing boat in the slipyard area for the Dunbabin family at Dunalley, to be named ‘Marie Laurie’.

Changes were still happening around the workshop. The next yacht was bigger again than the others and was a larger version of the well-known Hobart yacht ‘Saona’. At some 50ft, a beautiful craft and again one of Jock’s designs, to be owned by Hobart identity Len Nettlefold. A delight to work on, all Huon pine planking, teak decking and cabin work.

I was also obviously improving in my woodworking skills and was being given more and more demanding jobs to do alongside Max. Jock asked me if I would be interested in ‘planing off’ the hull when planking was completed. He wanted this done after hours so it wouldn’t interfere with the rest of the work in progress. I was young and quite fit so took on the job ‘planing off’ the whole of the hull, first with a wooden jack plane, next with a steel smoother and finally from the waterline up, scraping with a steel wood scraper. Jock paid me ‘time and a quarter’ for this job. The yacht was named ‘Van Diemen’ and would eventually transfer to Sydney and occasionally sail south to Hobart.

Strong memories remain of Jock’s father, Ernie Muir. A square rigged sailor in his younger days and a strong supporter of his four sons (and of course his daughter Bessie), Ernie would spend a lot of time at the yard and was often part of Jock’s crew on his extended voyages. He was well into his 60s when he came down one day and someone told him he looked well and could have climbed that mast in his younger days. Ernie took off his coat and shoes and climbed the 50ft mast hand over hand to the top, and down again. No one challenged him again that I can recall. He would walk from his home in Colville Street around the dock area each day, look at what was going on and home again. I met him in Princes Park one day when he was on his way home and I was going back to work after lunch when I told him how well he looked. He said, ‘Feel well too Bill, bloody near a hundred.’ He apparently sat on a park seat after I left, had a heart attack and died. I couldn’t believe it when Mum told me when I called in on my way home. He was in his mid to late 90s.

The other major change was the building of the steel framed, asbestos clad and roofed building that was to be the basis for the existing larger structure that now comprises Muir’s main workshop. Max and I were putting the purlins in place on the roof and sides and I almost fell when I went to step on a roof purlin just as Max moved it. We were at least 25ft above the ground and I was so lucky to grab another fixed one and hold on until I could regain my footing.

The ‘Van Diemen’ was probably the last full construction job I worked on at the yard.