Early Years: 1934 – Mid 1950s
Shirley was built by boat builder Peter Locke at Queenscliff, Victoria in 1934. Peter built a number of fishing boats at a length of 25 foot. However, there are no records of her history until the 1950s, although early photos show the boat with a gaff rig and a very short jibboom and jib halyard at the height of her lower shrouds.
Custodian: Steve and John Woolnough; Mid 1950s – c1970s
In the mid 1950s, the boat was purchased by Steve Woolnough who came across her moored at Rhyll on Western Port, Vctoria. He was told that she had been used for fishing down towards Wilsons Promontory on the southern Victorian coast. Steve’s son John recalls that when they purchased the boat from two fishermen, she was full of fish guts and smelt terrible. They named the boat Dianne, for family reasons.
This period may have been the time when the centre-plate and casing were removed and a full-length external wooden keel with a ballast shoe was added, adding about one foot more draft and leaving more cabin space.
Sometime later, the aft half of the cabin top was raised to give better headroom, and the gaff rig was replaced with a Bermudan masthead rig, with a hollow Oregon mast stepped further aft and permanent backstays. The main thwart was also removed and there was no jibboom indicating that she had been converted to a small cruising yacht.
Custodian: Jack Williams; c1970s – 1980
In the 1970s, Jack Williams of Sorrento, Victoria purchased Dianne from Steve Woolnough’s son, John, who inherited the boat from his father.
Dianne was Bermudan rigged. In 1977, Jack was invited by Tim Phillips to join a medley of boats and sail in the Gaff Rig cup held off Portsea. Tim and Marcus Burke were the organisers of this event. Dianne was first over the line in the race and Jack was awarded the prize for the fastest boat. Because she was Bermudan rigged, she wasn’t eligible to claim the cup as the first gaff rig boat over the line. Later on, the Gaff Rig Cup became known as the Portsea Cup.
Custodian: Bob Clark; 1980 – 1989
Bob Clark from the northern bayside suburb of Williamstown, Victoria bought the boat in1980 and changed her name from Dianne to Osprey. She had a nine horsepower Stuart Turner H2MR two-stroke diesel engine. These motors were made in the years between 1953 and 1968.
Custodian: Tim Coldwell; 1989 – Present
In October 1989, Tim Coldwell purchased the boat and changed her name to Shirley, as there was no definitive evidence of her original name. Towards the end of 1990, the gaff rig was reinstated with new spars and a full length jibboom made by the Wooden Boat Shop in Sorrento, and a new mainsail and working jib from Hood Sails.
In about 1995, the Stuart Turner engine over-ran and broke an air-pump cylinder barrel and other bits. The necessary replacement parts were unavailable and too costly to re-make, so it was replaced with a second-hand Yanmar 2QM15, which is still in use. The aft half of the cabin top with its plastic ‘caravan’ windows was also removed.
In 1999, after rot was discovered in the canvas covered tongue-and-groove Kauri deck, the deck was replaced with Queensland White Beech by Richard Blake at Blunt’s boatyard in Williamstown, Melbourne. Later the main thwart was also replaced, to make the hull stronger. However she still retains the false keel.
In the 20 years since Tim Coldwell has been the custodian of Shirley, he has used her regularly for recreational sailing and fishing. For a few years, around the mid 2000s, he sailed her in the regular but informal twilight Couta Boat races on Hobsons Bay, Melbourne. Tim’s son is now a keen fisherman, which means that Shirley will be utilised more frequently.