Vintage Seasalter Sees the Southern Seas

Seasalter is a village in the Canterbury District of Kent in England. It lies between Whitstable and Faversham, facing the Isle of Sheppey across the estuary of the River Swale.  Seasalter is also the name of an Australian classic yacht built to a Thomas Harrison Butler design by J.P. Clausen and Sons at Birkenhead South Australia.  She was launched in 1937. She is the largest of Butler’s designs ever built and is considered the Queen of all the vessels presently registered or known about by the Harrison Butler Association of the UK.

Her construction was solid, with a massive piece of 18”x16” (460x400mm) jarrah for her keel, four garboard planks of 1¼” (32mm) jarrah and hull planking of 1¼” (32mm) Huon pine. Her frames were steam-bent turpentine 2 ½”x1½” (60x40mm) on 10” (255mm) centres, all copper fastened. She has two massive full length stringers on each side, through-bolted on every second frame. Floors are 4” (100mm) thick and are alternated with mighty cast metal floors also through-bolted to planking and frames.

This heavy construction has ensured her longevity for the past 80 years’ worth of adventures, voyaging, disasters and resurrections.

Her first adventure was as an Adelaide Harbour Patrol vessel during the Second World War, when she was provided with two soldiers, two rifles and a box of grenades stored on deck! In 1946 she changed hands and her beautiful ketch rig was removed along with the graceful raised house, converting her to a bald headed cutter. In this guise she contested the 1949 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, coming 6th from 9 other finishers after several retirements. She had begun a racing career that was to stretch ahead for the next thirty five years, firstly in South Australian waters and later in Victoria. She sailed at various times under the burgees of the Royal South Australian Yacht Club, the Royal Brighton Yacht Club and the Sandringham Yacht Club. At one time she was prepared for a nonstop world circumnavigation but after two false starts, the plan was abandoned.

In the 1980’s she was bought by a New Zealander who sailed her to Tonga and Fiji and subsequently lived aboard her in the Bay of Islands, NZ. In 2007 there was a ferocious storm which broke her moorings and Seasalter was washed up onto a rocky shore. She was sorely damaged and the vessel was offered to the present owner as a wreck.

Thirty months of full time work amounting to almost 14,000 hours and many thousands of dollars saved this classic yacht from the funeral pyre.

The work included replacement of the entire deck structure including beams, carlins and bulwarks; replacement of 140 steel bolts with handmade bronze ones; reconstruction of the elegant raised house; replacement with newly cast bronze floors, hanging knees, chainplates, rigging toggles, gammon and cranse irons, deck plates and cowl vents; the design and implementation as near original to the rig with which she was launched; new sails; a new interior; new wiring and motor.

Seasalter was relaunched in December 2015, just before Christmas.  On January 9th, 2016, she went for her first sail in the Russell Boating Club’s Tall Ships Race. In February she went on a shakedown cruise to Gisbourne and return and on the 9th of May cleared from New Zealand for her first big cruise in twenty five years.

From Opua, NZ to Noumea, New Caledonia and on to to Cairns, suffering 55 knots and a knockdown.  Thence to Thursday Island, across the blistering Gulf of Carpentaria to Darwin; down the Kimberly and Pilbara coasts to Exmouth; around the corner of North West Cape and down to Dirk Hartog Island to join in the celebrations for the 400-year anniversary of the landing of Dirk Hartog on October 25th 1616; onwards then, down the Western Australian coast to Geraldton and Fremantle and around the famed Cape Leeuwin to Albany. From here she sailed directly for the Southern coast of Tasmania and approached Hobart from the South.

Seasalter is here just in time for the Festival- so come down and see this beautiful and historic classic in all her glory!

The classic 1937 Harrison Butler ketch Seasalter

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