Nyria, originally named Salacia, was one of two boats designed and constructed by J B Jones at his boatshed on the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne in 1921. She was built at 28 foot and was constructed out of Tasmanian Huon Pine.
Custodian: Walter Dendy; 1920s
Salacia was built shortly before another Couta Boat named Sea Rover. Soon after their construction, both boats were shipped to Sydney where demand amongst yachtsmen for a Victorian Couta Boat design was growing. Yachtsman and member of the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club (SASC) Walter Dendy purchased and sold a number of Couta Boats during the 1920s: the Jones-built Salacia (1921) and Sea Rover (1922) included.
Later, Sea Rover was smashed with a wrecking-ball, whilst Salacia survived this disaster, but she was modified into a cruising boat: a cabin was installed and the centre-plate removed.
Custodian: Peter Avery; 1980s – 1986
Melbourne sailor Peter Avery brought Nyria back from Sydney to Sorrento in the 1980s. The Wooden Boat Shop (WBS) in Sorrento cut back the size of the cabin and converted her back to a Couta Boat with a centre-plate. She was re-named Zamira.
Peter sailed her for a few years out of Royal Brighton Yacht Club (RBYC). Then he sold her to Peter Cook.
Custodian: Owen Day; 1986 – Present
In 1986, Owen Day Snr. and Owen Day Jnr. purchased Zamira, which, now, was in a very different state to her original build.
She was basically a motor sailor with the plate-case and centre-board removed, with a longer cabin and three portholes each side, fitted with a very old marine toilet and sink and a very thick mast untapered. In addition, she had a very old Yanmar motor and a 2 blade prop.
The father and son duo picked her up from RBYC and sailed her to Portsea on Boxing Day in 1986, beating all the way into a strong 20 knot south-westerly and slipping further sideways than moving forwards. After that experience, they decided the fixed keel needed to be removed and a centre-plate to be re-inserted.
Zamira was moved to the Wooden Boat Shop in Sorrento where under the supervision of Tim Phillips, Owen Day Snr. and Owen Day Jnr. re-fitted her. They removed her mast and had it machined, fitted a new spider band and rigging and removed the lump of lead bolted beneath her keel to melt it down for ballast. And when they discovered the name ‘Nyria’ painted below her decks, they renamed her as a tribute to her original build and to her new pristine look.
Nyria was moored off the Portsea Pier, at the southern tip of Port Phillip, at which time the Couta Boat Club (CBC) had no club house and the membership fees were around $35 per year. To access the boat, a tender was stored on Portsea front beach. However, theft was an issue and the owners went through multiple dinghies. But they were well compensated by their ready access to the Portsea Hotel beer garden at the end of a day’s sailing and were often waylaid there.
Later, Nyria was moved to a swing mooring off Lentell Avenue in Sorrento, but soon after, the locals chopped off the end of the Lentell Avenue jetty to stop Couta Boats using it and planted tress to stop cars parking. So the Sorrento Sailing Club (SSC) clubhouse was a welcomed relocation. Further work was undertaken on Nyria in year 2000. A new deck was laid and the cabin was shortened to allow more cockpit room; a new cockpit floor, new centre-plate, new motor, stern gland, shaft and prop were also fitted.
For some years the Owen Day family raced Nyria in the Division 1 fleet out of Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC). She always performed well and was particularly fast off the wind. But she could not point as well as other boats in Division 1. As the fleet expanded, she was moved to Division 2 and won multiple races, both in Line Honours and Handicap. She won 1st Handicap, Division 2 in the 2003 Portsea Cup.
Since then, Nyria has been utilised more as a family boat shared between the Day and the Bobridge families. During most outings including during races, there was usually no less than 10 on board at any one time. The day sailing trips to Queenscliff for lunch were always a favourite, with plenty of kids in tow followed by a pleasant cruise home to Sorrento, often trailing several children behind.
The cabin, about which there were numerous discussions for its removal, remained on Nyria as the benefits outweighed the negatives; to turn her into a racing vessel was never really an option for a family boat.
In recent years, the children, having grown to young adults who are quite capable of handling the boat, often use Nyria as a means of transport to surf off the Quarantine Station near the entrance of Port Phillip. Nyria is also successfully sailed by the younger generation in the ‘Gill Next Gen’ Couta Boat Race each year in January.