The Julie Burgess was originally built as a gaff rigged topsail fishing ketch and was the brain child of Harry Burgess, whose family had pioneered the crayfishing industry in the 1890s.
Her design called for a length of 19.5 meters (64ft), and a width of 4.9 meters (16ft), which is considerably wider than the original design for these ships, and a weight of 40 ton.
Harry approached Ned Jack’s shipyard in Launceston to build her, but Ned was unwilling to venture from the normal design. Harry finally convinced him, and the ketch named the Julie Burgess, after Harry’s wife, was launched in the Tamar River in 1936. She was built from Blue Gum, Huon Pine and other Tasmanian timbers and some of her original timbers were able to be used in her reconstruction. She contained awet well amidships, where she could hold 4000 crayfish in sea water. With this amount of moveable cargo below deck, the extra width made her extremely stable in the Bass Strait conditions, which due to its average depth being only 25ft, can produce a treacherous sailing environment.
The extra width also makes her extremely passenger friendly, and, with thewet well being replaced with a cabin containing sleeping berths, toilets, cooking facilities and other creature comforts, the Julie Burgess is indeed a comfortable ship. She is also fitted with a diesel engine. During her career, she was also used as a trading vessel between Tasmania, Victoria and the Islands, and during WWII she was chartered by the Commonwealth and used to service the Bass Strait undersea cable.
In 1988, considerable repairs were carried out on her for the Bicentennial Celebrations and she was sailed to Sydney as a Tall Ship looking very impressive with her 2 masts, carrying 7 sails.
She lay idle at her mooring until 2009 when she was purchased by the Devonport City Council, and then restoration work began resulting in this beautiful vessel which you see before you.
She was relaunched in 2011 and undertook her first official sail in July 2012. She is crewed by volunteers, most of whom were involved in her restoration.
She represents the Devonport community at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, and in February 2015, won the inaugural Ketch Race on the River Derwent in difficult sailing conditions, and against aggressive competition.
She is an amazing vessel, and there is a detailed progressive photographic history of her restoration at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre.