Kitty Miller is a gaffed rigged traditional style timber Couta Boat built by Brett Almond in 2000 in St Leonards on the Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria. Brett lived locally and was always interested in boats. He set up a boatbuilding business as soon as he could and successfully built a number of timber boats for some years, including Couta Boats, mainly for recreational purposes but always to traditional designs.
Custodian: Steve Chiodo; Late 1990s – 2012
In late 1990s, Steve Chiodo, a keen timber boat enthusiast, commissioned Brett to build a new Couta Boat for recreational sailing purposes. The timbers included the beautiful Tasmanian Celery Top Pine and sturdy Iroko planking. Kitty Miller was launched in 2000, and named after a bay on Phillip Island in Western Port.
She was sailed out of Queenscliff for about 12 years, with Steve at one time holding the title of Secretary and Treasurer of the Couta Boat Association (CBA). In 2004, she won 1st Handicap, Division 2 in the CBA Portsea Cup. However, after selling up and leaving Queenscliff, Steve decided to sell Kitty Miller and a new chapter was to commence.
Custodian: Graham Burton; 2012 – Present
Graham Burton bought Kitty Miller in December 2012 along with a swing mooring off Sorrento and promptly joined the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC). Graham had been a keen sailor since a teenager in Tasmania and then later at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron. He has always had a love for heritage and owning and sailing a Couta Boat fitted both these passions. Since then, Graham has participated enthusiastically in each season of racing conducted by Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC) and CBA.
Skippered by Graham, Kitty Miller has been a regular competitor in Division 2 races for boats under 26 ft. She competes in all weathers but particularly enjoys a fresh breeze. When she came up for sale in 2012, Graham was impressed by her condition and aesthetics, including her oiled timber deck and her responsiveness under sail.
Graham recounts numerous enjoyable and sometimes frustrating days racing Kitty Miller. Conditions are always changing when sailing on Port Phillip and you need to keep the concentration up. In the early days, it may have been ‘fun’ untangling sheets from props, or climbing masts to retrieve wayward blocks, but it’s during racing that knowledge, experience, nerve and teamwork come to the fore.
Avoiding the Sorrento ferry and ships in the channel is a rite of passage for sailors from Sorrento. The Kitty Miller crew learnt the hard way when, during their first season, they found themselves facing a large container ship bearing down the South Channel during a race back from Pope’s Eye. Graham recalls that moment:
We were on a good reach well clear of the ship and crossed easily ahead, notwithstanding a distant horn blasting. The next minute we were apprehended by the marine guard coming along side and giving us a ‘lecture’. We thought we were about to be arrested but, somehow we survived to sail another day, notwithstanding the fact that SSCBC were also told to discipline us. So not surprisingly, we missed out on a place in that race.