‘1820’

This blog is just one chapter in the history of “1820” an historic Victorian 21 footer class racing skiff. 1820 was designed and built in 1933 by Charlie Peel in Melbourne for the Australian manager of Johnny Walker Whiskey, Jim Douglas. The unusual name “1820” was the name of one of the whiskies.

My first introduction to 1820 was in February 2017 when Tony Siddons took me to view the boat amongst other delicts at the back of a boat yard on the Mornington Peninsular. Tony along with his friend Chris had recovered the boat from a previous life as keel boat and attempted restoration in South Australia in 1999. They had replaced the steamed ribs and added some steel strapping to try and preserve the shape, however it had since been sitting outside in the yard.

My first impressions were not positive. The hull was full of rubbish, rotted timbers and grass growing though some of the gaps in the hull. It had been propped up with 44-gallon drums but these had moved and now the hull was twisted.

Tony as always the eternal optimist could only point out the good points – ‘look at the beautiful tumblehome!’ ‘its made from Australian red cedar – beautiful timber’  ‘what do you think Peter, we can get this restored?’ 

I was planning to take long service leave and do a full time course in traditional wooden boat building at IBTC in Lowestoft, UK for a year. I said I would think about it.

The next time I saw 1820 was in Nov 2019. I had returned from the UK with a shipwright certificate and was busy with a small business making and installing teak decking. 1820 had been moved to a shed on Chris’s farm. It had been put in a frame that supported the boat much better, no longer twisted but still out of shape. Unfortunately in transporting to the farm the forward section of the port bow had been damaged and now almost all the planking in this section had been smashed. 

This time the three of us talked about what could be done, what sort of rebuild we should do, and where we could do it. Chris was supportive but unable to put in time. 

Tony and I were keen to use as much of the original timbers that we could and only Australian timbers if we needed new. We also wanted the boat to be trailered rather than on a mooring with both the cost and maintenance that implied. We also wanted 1820 to be easy to sail recreationally but as much as possible to be visually authentic.

The idea of a ‘resto mod’ approach was developed. The hull needed to be significantly strengthened but still look original – we would cold mould a skin under the planking. At some time in the past a motor had been fitted so there was a bored propellor shaft in the keel – an electric motor to drive a small propellor to get on and off trailers and jetties would make it easy to use. We would add some fixed ballast and use water ballast to make up the rest – no need to lift 500kg of ballast in and out every time you launched the boat! And yes, we would figure out a way to trailer 1820 so we could launch from the local boat ramp.

By April we were ready to move 1820 from the farm to its new home in my workshop in Mentone. It took a while but we finally found a trailer that was road legal to transport 1820, and just before Covid19 restrictions came into force in Victoria we moved. On the way home that evening Tony and I enjoyed dinner and drinks in a country pub pleased with our success – little did we expect that to be the last pub dinner we could enjoy for the rest of the year!


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