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Tuna trip. Feb & March 2014

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The Western Explorer Tacoma’s older sister


briefly, as I understand it from stories and articles i have read, several years before her building, Hervey Petrich had gove to school in Washington. He had visited friends in Boston/Gloucester area. While there he thought he saw large schools of tuna in the area.


He had brought this observation back to his family with the idea that something should be done about it. At this time, the fishing boats, basically seine boats, were far ahead of anything on the east coast. (the larger bait boats had been built, too.) an idea developed to build a tuna seiner and take it to the east coast to teach them how to fish the modern west coast way.


Eventaully the Explorer was built. It may or may not have been the first of the two deck house boats, but it was one of the first. To my sense, it was the epitome of the classic seine boat. It was packed with all the latest equipment. It was built in 1938.


Somehow, in depression Tacoma, a big commotion was made about it. I am not sure, but, I am guessing that if it was successful on its first journey, the shipyard workers and people of Tacoma felt there might be a lot more work for Tacoma yards builsing seiners for the East Coast.


I was amazed in pulling out old newspapers to find the front page of the Tacoma paper full of headline articles about the Western Explorer. In anticipation of its sail to the east, through the Panama Canal, probably the largest crowd in history to see off a "fish boat" went down to Point Defiance, maybe one of the largest crowds in history for any boat: 25,000 to 35,000 people. Around Tacoma in pubs, which now feature old, historic photos and post cards of Tacoma for their decor, you can see the Point Defiance area filled with throngs of people and cars. These are all of the departure of the Western Explorer. Two family members skippered and crewed the boat. It was escorted out of Commencement Bay by a large flotilla of the fishing fleet, local pleasure craft and Navy and Coast Guard vessels.


At stops along the way crowds would greet the boat and it captured headlines. Fortunately one of the Petrich boys had along a camera and took snapshots of the voyage. They also left "logs" or journals. At a great sense of loss I have read letters back and forth concerning the 16mm color films being sent back of the voyage with reports from professional film makers saying that they were of professional quality and worthy of showing. Sadly, family sources report they were stolen from Hervey's house around 1950 as these would have been of inestimable value for the history of the seine boat. What a loss! The major department store's book section had a display daily displaying the headlines of the newpapers from the towns and countries that greeted the boat as it stopped along the way.


Rumors preceeded the Explorer and in one or more places armed crowds went down to the dock to keep it from being provisioned as they were afraid it would take all the fish from the local waters.


It was greeted with crowds in Gloucester and officials from a local cannery. Local fishermen and crowds likened her to a yacht due to the fine finish and varnished mohogany. compared to local fishing boats, this was real luxury. The photos show the contrasts from sunny Panama with snow and ice covering her the Northeast.


The great Western Invasion did not occur either to the lack of more sizeable schools of tuna or the price the local canneries would pay vs. cost of fishing.


Owned by the family, she was sold to the Newfoundland Fisheries as a modern research vessel.  As Canada was part of the British Empire, the Admiralty, who felt the Puget Sound designed seine boats would serve as ideal minesweepers due to their seakeeping  abilities, they commandered the Explorer for sweep duties around the the British Isles. A party in Britain told me she was not commissioned until after Dunkirk, but family members, Augie Felando and others assure me it was known she took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk.


As the war in the Pacific was winding down, the Haldane family of Australia, among others, was intent upon starting a tuna fishing industry there. They thought from their studies Australia should start with a typical purse seine boat and that Tacoma would be they place to look. Through an interesting circumsance, which I will forego here in the interest of brevity, the Haldane's selected Western Boat and the Western Explorer was discussed as the prototype for the Australian fleet. Recently, Clare and I have discovered the first of the Australian fleet, the Tacoma, was actually paterned after another Western boat, the Stanford, built for the father of Mary Ann Petrich, the wife of James J. Petrich, naval architect and architect for several of the Petrich homes.


Somehow the Explorer was brought back to Tacoma around 1953 for repairs at the yard to her bow. I do not know if this was from damage in the War or other. I am guessing the boat was returned to the Newfoundland authorities by the British Admiralty after the War and then the yard somehow aquired it. They then sold it to a Japanese American fisherman in San Pedro, whose name I have forgotten. We have photos of the boat, the owners in their custom Western Explorer T-shirts and other Western Boats at one of the Fisherman's Festivals in San Pedro in the mid 1950s. Perhaps the San Pedro historical society group there has more. There is some account of the boat in the archives of the the Washington State oral history project by one of the State's prominent politicians, Augie Mardesich (I think!). This describes, sadly, the fate of the Western Explorer off the coast of Southern California around, if I recall--don't have my notes, 1956. (I think Augie or his brother or other owned the Sunset.)


Of all the fishing boats; the Western Flyer is the one known best by the literary public, the Mary E. Petrich may be the one of which the family is most proud, but the boat the family loved the best was the Western Explorer. 


What a pleasant surprise for me to find in the possession of the State of Washington these 8 x 10 professional photos from overhead, probably taken from a plane, of the tens of thousands at the pavillion and docks at Point Defiance Park and the huge procession of boats, following along the Explorer as if its wake, as it sailed out of Commencement Bay on perhaps the longest and most eventful of fishing boat voyages.


Perhaps someone could suggest to the gentleman who is now going around looking for shipwrecks to raise that his next project be the raising of the Western Explorer. And oh to find and recover those professional quality movie films of the voyage.




Dolphin 1939

New Boat Being Built Locally

Recently a party of children from The Port Fairy

HES visited the Island and were enabled to see a

new fishing craft, being constructed by Haldane

Bros – Messrs Hugh, William and Alan Haldane.

Rex White, a pupil at the school, gives his

impressions of the visit and the boat as follows:

“The new boat has a length of 40ft, and when

completed will draw 4ft 10 inches of water. Five

different kinds of woods are being used in the

construction. They are: 1. Oregon pine from USA;

2. Huon pine from Tasmania; 3. Jarrah from WA;

4. Spotted gum from NSW; 5. Hardwood from

Victoria. The boat has 140lbs of copper nails in her; it will have a diesel engine, a mast 40ft

high, and will take about 6 more months to complete.

The brothers will dry dock the boat four times a year so as to clean the sea weed and other

marine growths from her bottom. The propeller has a pitch of 25 inches and a diameter of 31

inches. The seams are stopped with caulking cotton sealed with putty. The young men make

their own putty from whiting, raw oil and tallow. The tallow is added to the putty to stop it

from cracking and falling out when the wood expands in the water. Wooden plugs called

‘dowels’ are used to plug the outside nail holes in the boat. The Haldane Bros cut their own

timber in their workshop which contains a lathe for making the dowels, a Ford engine to

drive the lathe and a band saw which cuts the timber into the required widths.”

1 dolphin was built in 1939 to allow the Haldane brothers to expand into South shark fishery

It was designed as an improvement on their first vessel the amarilis 40 ft


 Extract from the ‘Port Fairy Gazette’ 26 August 1935

Boat Building at Port Fairy

New 40ft Fishing Craft Launched. Youths’ Enterprise Rewarded

To the enterprise and ability of very few young men can be recorded an accomplishment

such as that now to the credit of Mr William Haldane, a son of Mr and Mrs H Haldane, of

Port Fairy lighthouse.

On Wednesday afternoon last, (Wednesday 21st August 1935) he had the well-deserved

pleasure of witnessing, amid the perfect surroundings of the bay at Griffiths Island, the

launching of his new deep-sea fishing boat.

For conspicuous merit and exemplary aptitude in an undertaking of such a stupendous

nature, culminating in a triumph over many difficulties, it would be difficult to imagine a

more exacting task than the construction of this craft, and when it is stated that this youth is

only 22 years of age, the merit becomes all the more pronounced.

There was not one of the very large crowd of experienced fishermen present at the ceremony

who begrudged this youth his pleasure, and none of these men whose critical eyes soon

detect any defect could have been more sincere in congratulating the builder.

Although Mr William Haldane shouldered the lion’s share of the formidable task, due credit

must be given to his two brothers – Messrs Hugh and Allan Haldane – who, throughout the

initial stages of construction and until the completion of the craft, assisted in every way to

make this deft and snug-like boat a “thing of beauty and a joy forever”.

1 The ‘day’ lasting from five in the morning until eight at night.

Page 5

Ruskin has written that “Work is only done well when it is done with a will,” and it is no

idle boast that, behind the piecing and construction of every section of the vessel there was a

pride in the task and the desire to win through. The three youths have truly carried on the

fine tradition of pioneer ship- builders of this and other ports.

The new boat has been named “Amaryllis” (from the lily by that name), and this cognomen

was selected from a book, which narrated the adventures of an English officer who voyaged

round the world in a craft of a similar name. (May the youths one day see the realisation of

an ambition and travel far in her).

Nearly 40ft long, with a beam of 13 feet and a draft of 5ft 6 inches, she was designed in

Tasmania by Mr P Coverdale, of Hobart, to specifications prepared by Mr William Haldane,

whose acquired knowledge of draftsmanship stood him in great stead. Construction was

started on 10th September 1934, and although it was only a spare time task, involving

considerable night work, she was ready for launching on 19th August of this year. Built of

Huon (Tasmanian) pine, with an iron bark keel and jarrah stern posts and stern, she is to be

equipped with a 35hp “Thornycroft” engine, and in about 6 weeks’ time will be able to take

her place (a foremost one) in Port Fairy’s cray fishing and deep sea fishing fleet.

There are many outstanding improvements and features in “Amaryllis” and among the

principle ones are a cray fishing well fitted with patented valves through which the water

can be let out when necessary with the minimum amount of trouble, and a self-bailing

cockpit which enables the water to make a quick getaway. The whole of the woodwork is

caulked (an intricate task), and her joggled deck is built for strength. She has a steel centre

plate and a built bulwark similar to a yacht. When finally completed, she will be equipped

with three bunks, electric light having been installed. A teak dashboard, on which

compasses, clock, etc will be placed, adds to her appearance.

Of course, the launching of such a spic-and-span craft could not be carried out without the

Scottish custom of a “launching drink.” Mr H Haldane Senior. a justly-proud father,

dispensed hospitality to the assembled gathering, and hearty congratulations were showered

on the designers and builders who were wished the greatest measure of success with their

attractive and useful vessel.

And here’s hoping that they reap the reward, which is unquestionably due to them!


The "official" Three Men and a Boat story is now available on DVD, The fully colour graded and audio post Directors Cut DVD is about 10 minutes longer than the broadcast version of the story. It includes the AGA saga and more about Tacoma as a prawn trawler from Mr Andy Haldane's film archives.

The second disc has 45 minutes of the remarkable 1954 - 1962 images shot by cameraman Peter Brodie, in and around Port Lincoln and this also allowed the story of Tacoma to be told.

The two disc set with a slick and disc images designed by Graeme Klemm is for sale at $39.95 plus $2.50 postage.


As you are all aware "Tacoma" needs a new Berth so that the public have better and easier access to board and view this historic vessel, click the link below to read the final "draft" of the proposal. Please email us with your oppinion.

The dates for the 2013 TUNA TRIP'S are as follows

18th of March to the 29th of March

TRIP #1....5 days Port Lincoln to Coffin Bay via the CABBAGE PATCH, PERFORATED ISLANDS, ROCKY & GREENLY ISLAND.  Drop off at Point Avoid or Farm Beach depending on the weather.

TRIP #2....5 days  Coffin Bay to Port Lincoln via FLINDERS ISLAND, PEARSONS ISLAND, WARD ISLAND, KRAUSERS ROCK. Drop off at Port Lincoln.

$500 per day per person/ total for 5 days. $2500

LIMITED SPOTS AVAILABLE. for more details phone Mark. 0427171001 or inbox us on FACEBOOK



Ian Doyle Media has completed his story on Jack Bellamy........THREE MEN AND A BOAT"  Ian's documentary will be aired on ABC Landline Sunday April 7th. 12pm.

The AGA SAGA continues. follow the link below for a lovely "blog" about AGA stoves


As you all know the Tacoma has a passionate love and history with the AGA onboard.


The Historic "Tuna Poling" trip

March 2012

The lad's are back after 5 days at sea. On the re-enactment of "tuna Poling" A "burley" (near vintage) crew ventured into deep waters to find, catch and release the famous "BLUEFIN" Tuna.  Joined by the media, they got what they were looking for and enjoyed calm sea's, good food, amazing scenery and the "Taste" of what it was like to POLE for Tuna as in the old day's.

Jack Bellamy (one of the original crew) went along to RE-LIVE his youth and caught one, like he did 50 years previous.

Firstly they joined the sardine boat  "Chrissy" to get enough fish to fill the " live bait well" and then set off on their adventure.

The crew "crafted" their own "lure's" with great success! 

There will be a documentary by Mr IAN DOYLE aired in the near future and ABC "landline" will continue the story that was aired last May (2011) "The Boat That Rocked"

We will "post" the dates on this site and also on our "FACEBOOK" page. In the meantime there are a few photo's to wet your appetite ................. click on the tuna link




The "TACOMA" sail's into the 21 century !!!                                                               


Come and join us on "FACEBOOK"................tacoma mfv   



departing Monday 26th of March 2012 until Saturday, 31st March 2012.

Our next adventure is to take the Tacoma and it's crew on a charter to deeper waters to embark on a TUNA FISHING trip. If you are keen to experience the vessel as a TUNA fishing boat, please contact us and we will send you the details.

price is $2000 per person for the whole trip or $400 per night.



on November the 5th, from 10am until 5pm at the Port Lincoln town jetty, All welcome to come aboard and help us celebrate.

A "sausage sizzle" will be fired up and so will the "crew" so come on down.

Cairns Visit


Ross had the pleasure of meeting some "Old Salt's" who share a passion for restoring wooden boats.

If you would also like to follow their persuits visit the web site




1st May 2011 The Tacoma - Landline

The Boat that Rocked - screened on May 1st 2011

View the Video >

31st January 2011 - Tacoma reaches Hobart

Tacoma docked at Princes Wharf in Hobart this evening after a six day trip from Port Lincoln.  Last night was spent at Beauty Point on the North Coast of Tasmania.  Ross reported "following winds, if we were a yacht we would have only had to do one jibe".  Finding that the boat was too big to go into St Helens to refuel and with insufficient supplies to move further. On the locals came to the rescue, ferrying fuel through the bar - thanks guys!. As always with boats there have been lots of little jobs being done.The fridge door has been giving the crew a few problems with a broken a hinge.  Now for the main event - the Wooden Boat Festival.  See photos in the Gallery - Societies Activities.

The "Petrich" family

It was raining hard in Tacoma, Washington, on that morning in 1944, when the mailman delivered the letter that would change everything. World War ll would soon end. Boat builders had big ideas and were looking for new horizons. At the Western Boat Building Company. Hervey Petrich opened the mail and was stunned when a cheque fell onto the desk and he read the letter from DOWN UNDER. Bill Haldane and his two brothers wanted to build a "WESTERN" boat. they'd read about the Petrich family in Pacific Fisherman. They were convinced the waters of South Australia had fish to be caught. And they wanted a bigger boat to catch sharks. "We'd like to order the Western Boat plans for the Western Explorer,'" Bill wrote.

The problem was. Western Boat didn't have the plans. they had expert boat builders who had "lofted" the boat without drawing up plans. Besides that they wanted to build boats; they didnt want competition from others. Hervey replied to Bill. Bill responded. And thus began a correspondence that would continue for 25 years- and a friendship that would extend to next generations.

Western Boat sent the plans but refused to cash the cheque! "you can do us a favor some other time", Hervey wrote.

It took Bill and his brothers 7 years to build the boat. When they launched her in Port Fairy in 1951. they named the boat TACOMA after the city where the plans originated.

Today, Bills son and nephews are aboard the TACOMA with Hervey's daughter and grand niece, on their way to Australia's wooden Boat Festival in Hobart to cellebrate the vision of their ancestors., the building of the boat and their ongoing friendship.




400 Step Back in time on the Tacoma - 6th October 2009

More than 400 people took the chance to go aboard Australia’s first purpose built tuna fishing boat, the Tacoma, which was opened to the public at the marina on Saturday.

Ross Haldane from the Tacoma Preservation Society said that the open day was a fantastic success with between 400 and 500 visitors and locals looking through the boat.

The Tacoma Preservation Society membership drive was also successful with a bunch of new people recruited to bolster the volunteer base.

Mr Haldane said there were many people who said they had long wanted to look around the Tacoma including one local who came to Port Lincoln 25 years ago and had always wanted to look on board.
But he said the best part of the afternoon was seeing original crew member Jack Bellamy show his daughter around the boat in his Tacoma T-shirt bearing his own name and his brother keith’s who was lost at sea.

The Tacoma Preservation Society will continue the restoration process, working toward having the vessel put into survey to make it available to take groups out into the bay.