Custodian: Joe Culliver; c1950 – 1970s
Peter Pan was built by Joe Culliver, circa 1950, with the assistance of the Lacco brothers in Rye, Victoria. Throughout the build Joe was mentored by Alec and George Lacco. They planked the boat and Joe finished the build in his back yard. Her original name was Seahawk II. As Joe was a professional fisherman, she was built with a cabin to provide some protection when fishing for barracouta in Port Phillip. Her length is 25 foot 6 inches.
Seahawk II was built shortly after the build of Phyllis now Scoundrel. Sources reveal that both boats were built out of a huge Kauri tree that Joe had transported from Queensland down to Rye. He obtained a design from Ken Lacco then set about building Phyllis, but her measurements were wrongly estimated. Joe did not allow for the planking, ribs and baton in estimating the size of the mould. Accordingly, the boat was considerably wider on both sides than the Ken Lacco plan. After this discovery, Joe then embarked on building Seahawk II to rectify the mistakes that had occurred when building Phyllis.
For the next 20 years, Joe used Seahawk II to fish for barracouta with the other Rye fishermen on Port Phillip; they also regularly caught ‘couta outside Port Phillip Heads with the Queenscliff fishermen. When Joe and his family relocated to Queenscliff in the 1970s, he took Seahawk II with him. Soon after the relocation, however, he sold her to a local fisherman whose surname was Wilson.
Custodian: Wilson; 1970s
Custodian: Mickey Wayth; 1970s – Early 1980s
Local Queenscliff identity Jack Beazley tells that Wilson only kept Seahawk II for a few months before he sold her to another local fisherman, Mickey Wayth. However, in that short period Wilson had installed a 3 cylinder air-cool Lister diesel. Jack claims that Mickey had an interest in horse racing, so much so that Seahawk II was renamed Peter Pan after the two-time winner of the Melbourne Cup in 1932 and 1934.
Peter Pan remained in the custodianship Mickey Wayth for about 10 or so years, and in this time he fished the local waters. In the early 1980s, however, he sold her to the Tony Muir from Sorrento. Tony was a mate of Mickey Wayth, describing him as a real salt who loved wooden boats. The Muir family recall that Mickey;
Pretty much just stepped off and left her as she was. Lots of old cigarette tins full of bits and bobs. Treasures galore!
Custodian: Tony Muir; Early 1980s – 1985
One of the challenges for Tony was the old Lister diesel that had been installed by Wilson.
Tony had to lift the valves that decompressed the cylinders so that there was not too much compression in the engine, to turn it over by hand. Once the engine had some inertia, the valve levers had to be dropped one by one, in order for the engine to start running.
Members of Tony’s family have fond memories of their dad’s beloved boat.
Dad just loved mucking about with boats. He would take us on overnight trips and we’d sleep on deck under tarps. My brother and I loved the Great South Channel Fort Race.
More family memories evoke imagery of nature taking its course on Peter Pan.
Sea swallows had built an amazing nest in the cabin that he [Tony] left in place. Each year we’d wait for the chicks to emerge and start demanding to be fed. The swallows were pretty much crew and part of the boat.
As with all boats, in time, circumstances bring about a change of custodianship. And after five or so years being in the good hands of the Muir family, Peter Pan was sold to David Brownell of Portsea.
Custodian: David Brownell; 1985 – 2017
When David purchased Peter Pan, she still had the 3 cylinder air-cool Lister diesel which occupied most of the cabin. As did her previous owner, David had to disconnect two of the cylinders, crank it by hand then reconnect the cylinders to start. Needless to say, soon after the purchase he replaced the Lister.
Peter Pan was refurbished by Tim Phillips at the Wooden Boat Shop (WBS) in Sorrento and fitted out for sailing. Tim fitted her with a new Yanmar and the air-cool Lister diesel was sold to an irrigation farmer; she was also fitted with a centre-plate and new spars. As the previous owners only sailed her in an emergency, the original spars were smaller than those installed at the WBS. But David did not part with the old spars – they are beautifully varnished and hanging in the gables of his house.
After the refurbishment, Peter Pan was moored at Sorrento and regularly competed in the expanding Couta Boat Club fleet. Because of her length of 25 foot and 6 inches, Peter Pan was categorised as a Division 1 boat, so had the unenviable task of competing against the 26 footers and larger boats. However, she was successful in winning the Division 1, Handicap in the Inaugural KPMG race in 1999. According to her owner, Peter Pan’s success was due to the course set on the day, which favoured a broad reach.
The race was a broad reach down to the Portsea Quarantine Station. We started well and led the fleet around the mark, and on a broad reach the boat is competitive with any boat in Division 1, but she does not point very well upwind. The only tacking involved in the race was up the Sorrento Channel so when we got to the entrance of the channel we were still ahead in Division 1, but we were overtaken by two boats tacking in the channel. Some of the crew later told me that throughout the race I kept saying ‘the faster boats will overtake us any minute now’. I didn’t think we had won given that we were overtaken by two Division 1 boats, but because our handicap was based on the usual ‘Triangle Windward Return’ course, we had a good chance.
The jubilant owner and crew of Peter Pan were awarded a very large Silver Cup which is still in David’s possession today. He recalls that the reaction of the other Division 1 sailors was most positive, if not a little astonished that Peter Pan had taken the honours. Also in David’s possession is a treasured painting of Peter Pan, depicting her sailing back up the course while the rest of the fleet were still approaching the rounding mark at the Portsea Quarantine Station.
Custodians: Andrew Gray, James Hayward, Anthony Northwood, Claude Roda, and Nick Sankey; 2017 – 2021
In 2017, Peter Pan entered another era in her long life. David sold her to a syndicate of five Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club (SSCBC) families whose children were sailing Optimist dinghies at the Club. And although the parents did not know each other so well at this stage, the common thread was an enthusiasm for sailing. The idea of forming a syndicate emerged on the annual KPMG regatta day held at the Club. Andrew Gray was so impressed with the large fleet of Couta Boats, he wanted to be part of the action and very quickly convinced a few other parents who were present on the day, of his plans. On advice from Tim Phillips and the Wooden Boat Shop at Sorrento, the syndicate arranged to purchase Peter Pan which was in the yard for annual maintenance.
Peter Pan first competed under the new syndicate with temporary skippers Graham Cunningham and Tim Collett, against the Division 1 fleet in the 2017 CBA National Titles held on Sydney Harbour. Their journey from Sydney Harbour to Pittwater in open ocean waters and being greeted by a pod of whales was an experience like none other.
Back in southern waters, Peter Pan became a regular competitor in the Division 2 fleet at the SSCBC. The crew quickly became attuned to handling the boat, but not without plenty of learning experiences along the way. In their first race they were caught up on the first mark and were jokingly told by crew in a boat close by to ‘pack up and go home’. After the first few races, they did wonder whether the boat had magnets attracting the marks, which they seemed to hit more often than not!
Reading the tides also was a challenge.
We will never forget the 2018 Portsea Cup when we were last across the line providing us with a great view of the entire fleet on starboard tack in front of us. With nothing to lose, in very light winds we went straight on to port tack and ended up at the first mark in second place, well in front of the rest of the fleet. Sailing strongly in second place we reached the final mark rounding whilst rehearsing our handicap honours acceptance speeches, only to discover what happens when there is a lull, wind shift and strong tide. As we drifted down towards McCrae, we watched the rest of the fleet take a tight line and finish well in front us.
After nearly three years sailing Peter Pan, the syndicate members have tuned the boat to become very competitive in Division 2. Through early beginnings of having other crews confront them, becoming tangled up with other boats, having competitors pick up a whisker pole from the water and experiencing plenty of equipment failure, the five members are sailing the boat well and have been placed strongly in various races on both line honours and handicap.
Great friendships have been formed through owning and sailing Peter Pan. The crew have been competitive on the water but never too serious and have a National Championship title: the 2019 Division 2 CBA Nationals Handicap (1st Handicap) to their names, and also the 2021 Division 2 CBA State Titles (1st Handicap).
Custodians: James Hayward, Anthony Northwood, Claude Roda, and Nick Sankey; 2021 – Present
In early 2021, Andrew Gray sold his share to the remaining syndicate members.
Peter Pan is moored at Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, Victoria.