Tasmanian Ronald Beltz was a joiner and boat builder who designed and built many boats from his Lenah Valley home. Born in 1905, as a youngster he sailed regularly with several sailing identities from the time, including Stewart Pybus, Alan Partridge and Fred Fennel. Ron finished his apprenticeship with Crisp and Gunns, but was entirely self-taught in boat building skills with little schooling beyond Grade 7. Ron was able to build all manner of timber boats from his own half models, and although he hated maths and spelling, he was gifted at drawing and made intricate models of all his boats. A fine joiner, his family house in Giblin St Lenah Valley was testament to his skills, with many beautiful joinery fittings and fixtures using fine Tasmanian timbers including Blackwood, black heart sassafras and myrtle. Ron was a regular joiner fitting out boats in the 30’s and 40′,s including Winston Churchill. He built a joinery workshop in his back yard with all manner of tools and machines enabling him to set up a business from his home.
Ron’s first boat was Sand Peep in 1934, a 28 ft 6″ Huon Pine motor cruiser. She resides at Prince of Wales Bay in Tasmania and is being restored by a wooden boat enthusiast. She was launched at Constitution Dock using the steam crane.
Storm King, Ron’s favourite, was built in 1938 and is a 28 ft Huon Pine cutter. She has been restored to her former glory and entered the 2018 Sydney Wooden Boat Festival. There is a great connection to the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for Storm King! See www.yachtstormking.com
Storm King is now looking as good as ever following the great work from the family that owns her in Sydney. Ron was enlisted for military service however because of his trade skills he found his was to Prince of Wales Bay building boats of all sizes for the war effort. Mavourneen was Ron’s next project. Built for a local ship chandler, Jack Donaldson, Mavourneen is a 32 ft sailing sloop made of Huon Pine. The remarkable story of Mavourneen includes her racing performances in Tasmania, to being sold, renamed Bikini and moving to Melbourne in 1958, to being purchased by Jay Lawry in 1992, and sailing around the world. She is at this show after a refit from Jay and journey from her home port in New Zealand.
The Helen J was Ron’s final vessel, built in 1950 and at 50 ft this Tasmanian Oak fishing boat was a remarkable sea vessel. Unfortunately, she was lost at sea in 1997 with the loss of two lives off Tasmania’s rugged West Coast.
Ron, with the assistance of family members including carpenters Doug Beltz (Ron’s son) and George White (Ron’s son-in-law) built a number of small dinghies for the family, including hull No 2 on show here today.
Fortunately, Ron Beltz’s family of has many of the tools and half models in Hobart, and has slowly put together the history and the story behind Ron’s boat building, his workshop and family home, all of which have the trademarks of a very talented and self-taught craftsman.