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Tahua - $7,000

The 1939-built Tahua has impressive blue water credentials including the 1981 Brisbane-Gladstone and South West Pacific voyages up to1800 miles. Current custodians of the classic pre-war wooden sloop, Rick Humphries and his wife Mary Findlay, have unearthed Tahua's fascinating history. Tahua is currently moored at the QCYC on Moreton Bay in the Brisbane suburb of Shorncliffe.

The boat has been written about before, in the December 1945 issue of the prestigious UK Yachting Monthly, under her original name Talitha. The yachting-bible described the then six-year-old Sydney Harbour twenty-four footer, renamed Tahua in 1965, as a growing type of boat, the small or tabloid cruiser with sail area perhaps rather more than similar boats in this country would carry.

Tahua's keel was laid in the first weeks of 1939 in the yard of W.C. Holmes and Co. of Blues Point, Lavender Bay, Sydney Harbour, to a design by A.C. (Archie) Barber. Her original owner, Squadron-Leader George Clark RAAF who served in Australia, Singapore, Malaya and New Guinea paid ?600 for the boat, complete with 4HP Penta engine, two suits of sails, and all fittings and cabin equipment.

The Bermuda-rig sloop has since sailed the South-West Pacific, the Tasman Sea, the Coral Sea, the Arafura Sea and the South China Sea for the next seventy-eight years.

With the assistance of the Australian and UK National Maritime Museums, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, the RAAF and Navy League records and interviews with earlier owners, Tahua?s story and the parade of custodians emerged.

She was built for Squadron Leader Clark 1939-48, Sydney. Then came Captain Charles le Patroul Terry RAN, 1948-63, Sydney; QC and later PNG Supreme Court Judge Norris Pratt, 1965-1980, Sydney, Rabaul, Port Moresby, Brisbane; Merchant Marine Master Max Freckleton, 1980-87, Brisbane, Port Moresby, Brisbane; journalist Barry White and son lawyer Peter White, 1987-2003, Brisbane; Stephen Laffey, 2003-05, Brisbane; and currently, environmental scientist Rick Humphries and teacher Mary Findlay, from 2005.

Tahua's profile has altered with the addition of a bowsprit (1965), a half-cabin top (1980) and a stern-mounted solar panel tower (2005), but her lines shown in the 1945 UK Yachting Magazine photos remain unmistakeable.

In 1965 when Norrie Pratt shipped Talitha from Sydney to Rabaul he renamed her Tahua, a word in the language of the Motuan people of Papua meaning "to seek". He also found she had a heavy weather helm so he commissioned Peter Hood, brother of prominent Australian marine architect Warwick Hood, to redesign the sail area and to prepare the boat for bluewater sailing.

Peter Hood strengthened the hull and also fitted a bowsprit made from the mizzen boom of another boat he was working on, the 45ft Kathleen Gillett that press artist and sailor the late Jack Earl had taken on a pioneering around-the-world cruise from Australia in 1947-48. Hood was converting the lovely Colin Archer ketch into a mother ship for crocodile hunters, and this little piece of Australian maritime history remains with Tahua today.

Shipmaster Max Freckleton raised the half cabin top in Port Moresby in 1980 to make live-aboard life between commands more comfortable.

In Squadron-Leader Clark's notes to UK Yachting Monthly he described Talitha/Tahua as an excellent sea boat, and very dry, coping well with large seas on open water; and "sulky" in a short sea where chop on the bow can stop way. Owners since have agreed, yet also agree that she?s a safe, kind and forgiving little ship, and given her proportions has generous room on deck and below. She likes breeze in the fifteen to twenty-five knot range and is quickest and most comfortable on a three-quarter run where she'll log eight knots. She'll readily heave-to and will sit as comfortable as a duck on water with tiller and foresail in balance while meals are taken, or when rest is needed, or until difficult weather passes.

Nothing is known of Tahua's early days on Sydney Harbour and outside the Heads with Squadron-Leader Clark and Captain le P. Terry, but in the hands of Norris Pratt and Max Freckleton Tahua logged some impressive blue water sailing.

Norrie Pratt talked of ocean racing and cruising out of Rabaul over courses of 200, 400, 700 and 1500 nautical miles in the Bismarck Sea, the Solomon Sea and the Coral Sea, finishing with an 1800 nautical mile crossing Rabaul-Brisbane; and Max Freckleton told of regular Arafura and South China Sea sailings from Port Moresby to Indonesian and Philippines islands with a shotgun across his knees to deter pirates. In a curious twist, both Norris Pratt and Max Freckleton sailed Tahua the 2092 km Brisbane-Port Moresby, in both directions, during the course of their careers.

None of this bluewater ability was apparent when Barry White and son Peter saw a sad Tahua at a buoy on the Brisbane River and later in a saplings slip on the muddy. But something about the little yacht appealed and Tahua moved into their care and into a mooring at Wynnum Manly Yacht Club.

They had her professionally restored and maintained, they replaced the 1965 SABB 8HP marine diesel with the Yanmar 20HP marine diesel powering her today, and when the radio was replaced the original found a home in a wireless museum. Re-rigging included twin forestays to accommodate a generous genoa.

Firmly believing they are merely custodians of Tahua, current owners Rick and Mary entrusted her wellbeing to Simon Paroz and Co., boatbuilders and restoration specialists at Breakfast Creek, where two years without professional care was rectified. Rigging was refurbished, damaged planking and ribs replaced, new suit of sails was made, and a furling headsail joined the original furling boom.

To cap it all off Tahua returned to QCYC on Brisbane's northern Moreton Bay with absolutely brilliant 1930s marine art deco paintwork that could well make her a prettier boat than when she came down the Holmes slipway seventy-eight years ago.

Tahua: Built 1939 Lavender Bay, Sydney Harbour
LOA 24ft 4in.
LWL 20ft 6in.
Beam 8ft 6in.
Draught 4ft 1in.
Displacement 8,400lb
Lead ballast keel 3360lb
Sail area 360sq.ft.
Designer A.C. (Archie) Barber, Sydney.
Builder W.C. Holmes and Co., Sydney.
Planking One-inch Kauri pine
Grown frames Broad-leaf ti-tree
Steamed timbers Spotted gum.

For more information, prospective buyers should contact:
Rick Humphries








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