Greta was built as a double-ended net boat in the mid1930s by Port Melbourne local Jim McIlvenna, whose employment was building coffins. So successful was the design that another five to six boats were constructed from the plans, including the double-ender Pearl. All the boats were built of NZ Kauri. Greta was built at 27 foot.
The current custodian of Greta, Port Melbourne fisherman Dugga Beazley, first came across the boat as a small boy in about 1945. His uncle George Beazley, also a fisherman, owned a 21 foot Couta Boat built by Higgs’ Brothers at Geelong, but her size and design were not suitable for mesh net fishing; a double-ender design was far more suitable as the boat would lie stern on to the waves and nets would not catch on the stern corners of the boat. George, who had assisted in the building of Greta, negotiated with fisherman McIlvenna to exchange the larger net boat for the smaller Couta Boat.
Custodian: George Beazley; c 1945 – Unknown
Dugga Beazley’s earliest recollection of being in a fishing boat is of the day when he accompanied his uncle up the Yarra River in Melbourne to where Greta was moored at the wharf between Spencer Street Bridge and Queens Bridge. She was taken from there to her new mooring in Port Melbourne Lagoon.
Dugga’s father, Oppy Beazley who fished out of the net boat Volunteer, and his uncle George, who now fished out of Greta, worked in tandem for the next 10 years. In one boat they would carry shark nets and in the other, flathead nets or other nets, depending on the season.
In 1951, when a huge storm hit Port Phillip and swamped St Kilda harbour, resulting in the loss of many boats, Greta suffered severe damage. She came clear of her moorings and washed up on the beach at Port Melbourne; her deck being pulled away from the force of the storm. There she remained for over a year, during which George carried out some repairs before returning her to the water.
When Dugga left school in 1954 and went fishing full-time with his father, Oppy, George withdrew from the sibling arrangement and fished out of Greta independently, until approximately 1958 when he sold her.
Custodians: Eddie Butcher and others; 1958 – 1985
Greta was sold to Eddie Butcher from Port Melbourne who owned her for a few years then, in turn, he sold her. In subsequent years, she was sold to other fishermen. Eventually, she was bought by an elderly recreational fisherman from across the bay at St Leonards on the Bellarine Peninsula, who used her to catch squid. Often, he and his wife would drift as far as Port Phillip Heads, catching squid in abundance and selling their catch locally. This continued until new regulations were enforced, limiting the catch, so they decided to sell the boat.
Custodian: Dugga Beazley; 1985 – Present
Fortuitously, Dugga had made it clear to his contacts in the St Leonards area, that if the boat ever came up for sale, he would buy her. When the opportunity arose in 1985, he purchased Greta and returned her to St Kilda Harbour. His uncle George who was quite elderly by this stage, took great delight in seeing Greta return to local waters and continue to work as a net boat on the bay.
Dugga’s last day of fishing on Port Phillip in a double-ender was the 15th February 2016, in Greta. Greta was the last double-ended net boat used for commercial fishing in Port Phillip.
Greta, named after the actress Greta Garbo, has always retained her original name.