Swan C50 is believed to have been one of the last gaff-rigged fishing vessels built by Peter Locke in Queenscliff. Locke sold his successful boatbuilding business to brothers Bob and John Cayzer in 1947. It is likely that Swan was built by Peter in the final stages of the transition of his business to Cayzer Bros and Sons, circa 1945 – 1950.
Custodian: The Parkinson Family; c1945 – Present
The boat was commissioned for A W and D H Parkinson from Blairgowrie, on the southern shoreline of Port Phillip across from Queenscliff. She was built as a commercial craft to fish barracouta and snapper in Port Phillip, principally to supply the Parkinson’s Fish shop at Blairgowrie. She continued to be used as a commercial craft until 1985.
Her hull is carvel planked in NZ Kauri Pine; the ribs are constructed from 40 x 18 hardwood frames closely pitched at 130 mm centres which are fastened by copper clenched nails; the deck is traditionally laid in Queensland Beech, while the spars are built of Oregon.
In the late 1970s, Keith Parkinson purchased Swan from his parents and set her up for competitive racing in the Couta Boat fleet out of Portsea. In 1981, she fittingly won the Camerons Bight Easter Sternchaser. In the days when the Couta Boat Club had no permanent home, this event was supported by the Parkinson’s and celebrated with a seafood picnic on the Camerons Bight shore opposite their fish shop
A photo in Swan’s file shows her in a Vogue Living magazine in 1988, presumably featuring the lifestyle that comes with living on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. This image was passed on by Keith Parkinson to her next custodians.
In August 1997, Swan was purchased by Williamstown locals Luke and Lisa Aarons. Luke had been looking to purchase a timber boat to restore and came across Swan parked next to the Parkinson’s Fish shop in Blairgowrie. Keith had pulled her apart to do a restoration but he didn’t carry out the works; the boat was stripped to her hull of just planks and ribs. After transporting her to their backyard in Williamstown, Luke’s labour of love began.
Swan was completely refitted from bottom to top including some new planking, a new case and plate, floors, floor frames, sole, deck frame, decks, spars and rigging and new sails. The receipt of sale showed that the hull still retained the original timbers. The refit was carried out by shipwright Doug Sinclair over a period of three years. Luke Aaron’s neighbour, the late Harry Clark, offered valuable advice on the refurbishment; he would pop his head in every so often. Vale Harry.
After her refurbishment, Swan was re-launched at Blunts Boatyard in 1999 and in the following few years she was sailed regularly by Luke. She joined the small Couta Boat fleet that met each Tuesday for an informal twilight race in Hobsons Bay at the top end of Port Phillip. For Luke, this race was always enjoyable as were the dinners post-race with fellow sailors in the local pub; lasting friendships were forged.
In the mid 2000s, Swan also raced in two of the Couta Boat National Championships off Sorrento and claimed Line Honours in a heat. Entry into these events at the southern end of Port Phillip required an extended sail from Williamstown to the designated race course at Sorrento.
Luke recalled the logistics involved.
For the first Nationals Regatta, we sailed her down there the day before the race, competed in the races then returned to Williamstown on the following day; we always went down the West Channel.
After the second Nationals we set out after the presentation of trophies. We pushed off around about 9 pm with just a navigation chart, torch and a crew who had done the trip once before, as our guide. We motored straight down the Pinnace Channel ‘slow and steady’ and didn’t hit the bottom as we could see it clearly under the moonlight. We had a very clear night and had consumed a couple of beers beforehand, which helped! The smaller boats are so seaworthy that they can do those trips without much danger.
Swan has been a big part of the Aaron family for 23 years and has provided the family and many friends so many great times sailing her on ‘the beautiful Port Phillip’. Presently, at the time of writing, February 2021, the family is working on a new sailing adventure – ocean cruising extensive offshore in a 50ft timber ketch.
Sadly, Swan will pass to a new custodian… she has given us so much. Long live the Couta Boat!