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The last of its kind

 

The Julie Burgess is the last of the nearly 150 ketches built or operated by five generations of the Burgess family.  It was built in Ned Jack’s yard in Launceston in 1936 for Harry Burgess who named the vessel after his wife Julie. 

 

The Burgess family’s connection to Bass Strait began in the 1840s.  Although centred on the northern coast of Tasmania, the family operated vessels to Sydney, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, most Tasmanian ports and even ventures to the further reaches of New Zealand, California and Mauritius.  Their interests extended to all aspects of the maritime industry – shipbuilding, trading and yachting.  

 

The Julie Burgess was a fishing vessel, its larger size a response to the economic gains to be made from being able to get fresh seafood quickly into the Melbourne markets. Harry Burgess understood that if he had boats of the right size with deep wells which could carry up to 10 000 live crays at a time he could bring the spoils to Stony Point, load them onto the train and deliver them into the Melbourne markets. 

 

With the exception of World War II war service where she was used as a cable ship in Bass Strait supporting John Johnstone, the diver who walked the sea floor of Bass Strait in 1941 to check for cable repairs, Julie Burgess was a fishing vessel for all her working life.

 

When Harry Burgess died the vessel passed to his son, Captain (Dick) Burgess as operator.   In 1988 it was restored and took park in the nation’s celebrations on Sydney Harbor. She eventually fell into disrepair and the Devonport City Council purchased and restored the vessel that is now a working representation of the maritime heritage of both Devonport and Bass Strait.

 

The ship is moored at Reg Hope Park, East Devonport and there are two hour public sailings on Wednesdays and Sundays, contact the Bass Strait Maritime Centre for bookings.