Custodian: Original Custodian Unknown: 2001 – 2006
Ella is a carvel planked boat designed by John Hunter and built by Brett Almond at St Leonards on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria in 2001. She was built for a local from Portarlington. Her length is 32 foot. Her builder described her as having a good mix of classic lines and construction, with the added benefit of a separate head cabin. Brett declared that;
Ella has impressive heavy weather abilities and will handle any conditions, ensuring good race results.
Documentation confirms that Ella was custom built to survey requirements, with discreetly mounted modern navigational aids and survey papers. She was built with traditional laid timber decks, an open cockpit, a cuddy cabin and coaming over appropriate framing.
Her owner intended to use her for his tourist operation out of Queenscliff but, as he had very little experience in boating, he found the boat difficult to handle, so Ella was sold in 2006.
Custodian: Michael MacTavish; 2006 – 2013
Classic yacht sailor Michael MacTavish purchased Ella and took her to Royal Yacht Club Victoria (RYCV) in Williamstown where she remained for several years.
Initially, RYCV would not provide a berth as they did not consider Ella to be a yacht. Couta Boat fishermen would agree regarding the designation, if not the eligibility – they are working boats, not recreational yachts. It is said that in the early days the fishermen were excluded from crewing in yacht races on account of they being ‘professional’ sailors. However, after Ella began to outperform other competitors in the Classic Yacht Association of Australia (CYAA) regular racing, and at the invitation of the Club, Michael was granted a berth in the Gem Pier.
Having ‘earned her stripes’, for the next seven or so years, Ella became an integral part of the CYAA racing fraternity, outperforming many of the larger classic yachts in strong wind conditions.
Michael and his crew sailed Ella to Queenscliff, at the southern end of Port Phillip, numerous times to participate in the Queenscliff Maritime festival activities of the Blessing of the Fleet and the Couta Boat Regatta. This festival, which is held each year in February, brings together Couta Boats and classic yachts from around Port Phillip to race in the waters off Queenscliff. The journey to and from Williamstown to Queenscliff could take up six or more hours depending upon wind strength, direction and tide.
As Michael is a renowned competitive sailor, Ella participated in the biennial Wooden Boat Festival held at Geelong and in the annual Couta Boat State Championships held at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club.
In Ella’s time at RYCV, owners with Couta Boats berthed at the Club formed their own network and organised regular Tuesday twilight racing. Ella would often have eight to 10 crew onboard enjoying the sailing and the conviviality. The race was followed by dinner at a local hotel, and always with a rowdy post mortem held in the bar.
Custodian: Mark Read; 2013 – 2017
Ella’s time at RYCV in Williamstown came to an end in 2013 when Michael sold her to Mark Read from the Gippsland Lakes region in eastern Victoria.
The journey from Williamstown at the northern end of Port Phillip to the Gippsland Lakes is an epic undertaking for a Couta Boat. However, it was a regular practice in earlier years for some Couta Boat fishermen to make the journey in search of barracouta and other fish, depending on the season.
Mark, the new custodian, accompanied by his crew, undertook this same journey, sailing Ella in stages: Williamstown to Queenscliff, to Refuge Cove and then along the south east coastline to Lakes Entrance on the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria.
Custodians: Ranald MacLurkin and Kevin Savage; 2017 – Present
Mark Read sailed Ella on the Gippsland Lakes for approximately four years until September 2017 when she was sold to Ranald MacLurkin and Kevin Savage.
Ella spent her first few months on the hard stand, with her custodians undertaking a cosmetic refurbishment. But she was back in the water by December of that year.
In the time in which they have been custodians of Ella, Ranald and Kevin have used her for recreational sailing on the Gippsland Lakes, sailing as far as Metung to compete in the Metung Classic Boat Regatta. On these journeys, Ella always performs to their expectations and they regard her to be a beautiful boat to sail.
Ella is currently moored at a private jetty owned by Kevin Savage at Raymond Island on the Gippsland Lakes, Victoria.