Custodians: Bill Audley and Les Johnson; 1940 – c1941
The 28 foot, net boat Pearl was built in Port Melbourne, Victoria by fishermen Bill Audley and Les Johnson. They commenced the build in 1939 and completed it in 1940. The boat was designed by Jim McIlvanna who worked for local undertakers building coffins.
The boat was build out of NZ Kauri that had been washed up onto the beach at Port Melbourne after a collision at the top end of Port Phillip in 1937 between the New Zealand steamship Kakariki and another ship departing the port. Kakariki was carrying the last load of the local timber, NZ Kauri.
Custodian: Fisherman McIntosh; c 1941 – 1953
Custodian: Henry Briggs; 1953 -1956
Not long after the build, the fishermen sold her to another local fisherman by the name of McIntosh. However, during the war boats were not allowed out on the bay at night. But on the night of the 26th February 1942, McIntosh was in Pearl and attempting to avoid the path of the search lights sweeping across the bay, seeking a Japanese aircraft on a reconnaissance flight over Melbourne and Port Phillip. Unfortunately, Pearl’s engine failed and McIntosh was sighted and arrested by the authorities. Consequently, the boat was confiscated and towed to the naval depot at Williamstown where she remained for the duration of the war years.
Pearl was eventually returned to fisherman McIntosh who kept her in the Port Melbourne Lagoon. However, in 1951, she faced more misfortune. A severe storm swept over the bay, damaging most boats in the lagoon. At this particular time, Pearl had been lifted out of the water and was sitting on the pier and, although she survived the storm, she remained in that spot for the next few years, until she was sold to Henry Briggs. Pearl was in the custodianship of Henry Briggs for three years.
Custodian: Oppy Beazley; 1956 – Present
After Port Melbourne fisherman Dugga Beazley’s grandfather died in 1956, Dugga’s father Oppy wanted to secure the family’s livelihood, so he sold the ageing Volunteer, which was in need of repair, and bought Pearl. Dugga left school and joined his father in the family’s commercial fishing operations. Vale Grandfather Beazley.
Pearl was used for long line fishing for the next 25 years, until the 1980s. When the double-ender Margaret, commonly known as Butterbox, was built in 1963, she and Pearl were used concurrently.
In the early 1980s, Dugga became involved in the regular Couta Boat races out of Portsea at the southern end of the bay. Having reinstalled a centre-case in Pearl and fitted her with a larger mast and larger sails, she was equipped to outperform the Couta boats. In the 1984 – 1985 season, she won both Line Honours and Handicap in the Couta Boat Club Portsea Fishing Boat Regatta, the Portsea Cup.
As the Couta Boat races were scheduled across the summer months, Dugga’s involvement in, and commitment to, the regular races was extraordinary. Summer was the season of long-lining, and often Dugga would rise at 3am and fish to mid-morning, then drive to Portsea for the race. Returning home, he would then prepare for another early rise the following morning.
On occasions, he even sailed Pearl to Portsea on the day of the race, a trip which could take up to six hours. In one Passage Race, sailed in light conditions among the tidal banks of southern Port Phillip, Dugga demonstrated the skills built over his years’ of experience on the Bay, carefully guiding the Pearl to lead the heavier Couta Boats, and continued to extend the lead at every mark, finally winning the race by a good 25 minutes.
Today, Dugga can often be seen sailing Pearl at the northern end of the bay; her maroon sails are distinctive.
Pearl is moored in St Kilda Harbour.
Shipwrecks of Port Phillip Bay. Retrieved from http://oceans1.customer.netspace.net.au
Japanese Reconnaissance Flight over Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay on 26 February 1942. Retrieved from https://www.ozatwar.com/japrecce/recce02.htm