Designed and built in Tasmania in 1946 by shipwright Walter Wilson, the ‘Hunter’ was to be Wilson’s last vessel. At his shipyard at Port Cygnet, south of Hobart, blue gum, Tasmanian oak, celery-top and Huon pine grew within sight of the yard and were cut and dragged by bullocks to the slipway.
She has undertaken numerous Australian circumnavigations, tall ships races and holds all necessary GBRMPA permits to operate. Capable of long-term voyaging for 25 people overnight (1B) and 65 for day trips (1D), she is the perfect vessel to lead the fleet.
Under three decades of ownership with Warren & Jo Ladd, the Derwent Hunter has been sailing the sheltered waters of the Whitsunday Islands for over 25 years and is multi award winning for Adventure and Eco Tourism. The Derwent Hunter has been delighting guests by offering traditional sailing, snorkelling, eco interpretation sharing knowledge about the Whitsundays original inhabitants, the Ngaro Aboriginal people, the local ecology & geology.
Through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) the vessel has also participated in Marine Park research programs ensuring that the reef and islands will be there to enjoy for years to come.
2021 sees a change for everyone, including the Hunter when she embarks on a new chapter in her history by increasing the level of voyaging options, First Nations maritime cultural heritage and eco tourism from Tweed Heads to the Torres Strait. Her new home port from April 2021 will be Cairns.
The Hunter is embarking on a new journey, of increased voyaging throughout Queensland. In 2021 she will embark on voyages from Brisbane to Airlie Beach, then on to Cairns early in the year.
In June the Hunter is voyaging to Cooktown for the Cooktown & Cape York Expo before heading to Cape Melville and the Torres Strait.
In 1950 the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) purchased the vessel and sent her to Sydney to work as Australia’s first oceanographic research vessel. For 12 years, from 1950 – 1962, she worked under sail roving from Antarctic waters in the Southern Ocean and as far north as Noumea and the outer Pacific basin.
Information collected from Derwent Hunter cruise reports was used as reference material for New Zealand research on whales in the south pacific. Ironically, 40 years later, Derwent Hunter is still contributing data material for whale research by submitting whale sightings through the GBRMPA sightings network during winter. These are then used by scientists to establish migratory patterns of humpback whales along the East Australian coast.
Unlike the idyllic sailing in the Whitsunday waters, back in the 1950’s The Derwent Hunter carried out her research in the stormy southern ocean, Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea. Her hydrographic work included salinity tests plotting the East Australian Current. The Derwent Hunter Sea Mount (Guyut) was discovered by and named after the vessel.
The sea mount thought to be an extinct volcano that was once above the oceans surface is found 293km ESE of the coast of New South Wales. Sea mounts have a rich seabed fauna characterised by high numbers of species found nowhere else and the presence of large, erect seabed animals including habitat-forming corals and sponges. Some of these are extremely long-lived – hundreds and possibly thousands of years old – making them some of the longest-lived animals on earth.
During her eventful time with CSIRO she had many adventures, twice losing her rudder at sea and successfully piloting safely in to port unaided under sail, a tribute to the remarkable sailing ability of the men who sailed on her and the seaworthiness of the magnificent ship.
Tropical sailing on a traditional tallship is one of the truly great adventures, that has inspired many generations to leave their humdrum lives and head to sea. The eye catching lines of the Derwent Hunter brought her fame and fortune in 1969 when she was chosen by Panama studios to become the “Pacific Lady” in the hit family television series “The Rovers”.
The Rovers was based on the adventures of the crew of the Pacific Lady, an island schooner owned by Captain Sam MacGill (known as ‘Cap’ for short), played by Eddie Hepple. In the series the ship cruised the east coast of Australia under charter to Bob Wild and Rusty Collins played by Noel Trevarthen and Rowena Wallace. Wild was a freelance photographer filming wildlife for use in documentaries by a television network. Rusty was a journalist for “Wildlife” Magazine, whose editor had agreed to her accompany them on the boat as long as it didn’t cost him anything. Captain MacGills 10 year old grandson Mike accompanied the crew.
39 episodes of The Rovers were made, produced in colour and entirely on film, with extensive outdoor filming at scenic locations. Many native Australian animals are featured, in the storylines due to Bob and Rusty’s occupations concerning native flora and fauna, but also by Mike having on board the “Pacific Lady” a pet wombat, koala and cockatoo- the latter which exasperates Cap no end.