The profiles listed in this Register have been documented from the stories and photos contributed by custodians and others who willingly shared information. Readers who have additional information about the history of any Couta Boat are invited to forward it to so that it can be added to the Register.

Avalon C91

Boat Details

Sail Number:
Previous Names of Boat:
Jan Sim
Boat Location:
Wooden Boatshop, Sorrento
Current Custodian:
Tim Phillips
Year Built:
Early 1900s perhaps between 1905 and 1910
Designer & Builder:


Timbers Used:


Length: 24 ft.
Beam: 8 ft 6in.
Draft: 2 ft 6in.


Early Years
Little is known of this boat’s early history, or even if she had a name. But when she was found in Queenscliff in the 1990s, it was clear she was very old and in poor shape. It is likely she was built between 1905 and 1910 and may have been used as a pattern boat to assist in the construction of other wooden boats of the era.

Custodian: Derrick Bernie; c1970 – 1984
It is known that from approximately 1970 to 1984 the boat was moored at the Lagoon Boat Club on the foreshore of Limeburners Bay, the same mooring grounds of the Geelong Grammar School (GGS) Yacht Club. In this time, she was owned by Derrick Bernie and was named Jan Sim, after the children of the Lagoon Boat Club Commodore Bernie Russell.

Roger Spooner tells that in this period, his father Ronald Spooner who was both the Club Captain of the Lagoon Boat Club and a boatbuilder at the GGS Yacht Club, carried out some repairs on Jan Sim in 1984, after she broke her mooring and was beached besides the jetty.

After that incident, it is not known how long she remained in Limeburners Bay, before she was eventually discovered at Queenscliff, at the bottom end of Port Philip.

Custodian: Philip Myer; 1997 – 2007
In 1997, Philip Myer, then a partner in West Coast Marine Chandlery, recalled a boat sinking in its pen at Queenscliff, well before the harbour redevelopment, and that the owner could not be identified. Subsequently, the council proceeded to pull her out of the water and Philip decided to offer to purchase her for $40. She was pretty much a wreck, and in hindsight Philip stated that it would have been cheaper to build a brand new boat.

The boat was badly planked on one side, but the other side was normally laid out; Philip supposed that perhaps someone had tried to rebuild her at some stage.

After starting the restoration, Philip engaged Tim Phillips from the Wooden Boatshop (WBS) to carry out a complete restoration. The boat was loaded on the car ferry to make the journey to Sorrento. There she was fitted with new ribs, a new stern and centre-case; there was nothing much that was original.

Philip completed the rebuild at Murradoc near Queenscliff, adding an epoxy glass hull below the waterline to ensure her seaworthiness and to preserve the aged and original timbers in her hull. The Couta Boat Association (CBA) gave a dispensation for this to occur. Philip named her Avalon after his association with the Geelong Grammar School (GGS) and painted her in the school colours of light blue.

Avalon was relaunched at Queenscliff in 1999 and for the next few years was sailed by Phillip’s son Patrick and students of GGS around the waters of Limeburners Bay located in front of the school, during school term and then sailed around to Queenscliff, Port Phillip for the summer.

For some time in this period, Roger Spooner from the Lagoon Boat Club managed the boat for Philip Myer and recalls sailing the boat periodically between Queenscliff and Geelong, either single-handed or with a full crew.

During the early 2000s, Patrick Myer participated in Division 2 Couta Boat races off Queenscliff and Sorrento. One race in which she outclassed all other competing boats was the ‘Round Mud Island Race, getting so far in front the other vessels were out of sight behind. A spectator recounts,

It was blowing 35 knots and a great number of vessels broke gear or filled with water during the race but Avalon just sailed away.

Avalon was a fast boat for her size, with a straight stern and a vertical bow, signs of her age. However, after a time, she was not being used and tended to sit on a mooring at Sorrento. It was time for Philip to sell her.

Custodian: Andrew Callander; 2007 – Present
In 2007, Andrew Callander heard Philip was moving house and was considering gifting Avalon to GGS if no one bought her within the week. Andrew was after a ‘knock- around’ boat and Tim Phillips of the WBS agreed she was worth purchasing, so Andrew took up the offer. Sometime later he repainted her in more traditional couta colours of cream and Brunswick green.

Andrew says he had spent many happy years sailing around Sorrento when Sorrento Sailing Club (SSC) Commodore Morrison was in charge in the 1960s. Since then he has sailed sporadically, with golf and other activities getting in the way, and with Avalon he has enjoyed some successes including a Yabby Lake win and competing in the annual Division 2 Lacco Cup.

Andrew says Avalon is a wonderful straight stemmed example of her time.

When visiting the War Memorial, I noticed the design similarity to the Gallipoli landing craft. Although not raced a lot, she is much loved and also a reminder of the fun we all had at the Club dances when we were too young for Tom Katz but old enough to Wah Watusi!

Avalon is moored off the Sorrento boat ramp adjacent to Andrew’s home.

Custodian: Tim Phillips; 2022- Present
Following an incident when Avalon was badly damaged on her mooring in 2022, she was taken to the WBS where her insurer “wrote her off” and paid Andy Callander out.

Tim Phillips from the WBS purchased the “wreck” from the Insurer and has once again restored her.

Avalon remains in Tim Phillips’ custody.


Race Record

2017: Winner Lacco Cup, Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, Sorrento, Vic.

Hardback Coffee Table Couta Boat Book

The Hardback Coffee Table Couta Boat Book is now available for order.
The book is a fascinating mix of wonderful photos and interesting stories.
CLICK HERE to Buy The Tradition Lives On – a Register of the Historic Couta Boats