Model Boat Mayhem

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« on: June 02, 2007, 01:45:00 pm »

Hello everyone,

I write to draw your attention to the campaign to save the historic Steam Tug Wattle of Melbourne, Australia and enlist your support to publicise fundraising efforts through your website.

S.T. Wattle (see attached picture) is one of only twelve operating oil fired steam tugs in the world and one of only two working steam tugs in Australia. She is owned and operated by Bay Steamers Maritime Museum, a not for profit group of dedicated volunteers committed to the preservation and operation of historic steam vessels.

However, the Wattle’s hull is in need of major restoration. Although she is afloat and her mechanics are in first class condition, considerable slip work will be required to bring her to the standard required for Marine Board certification. Beyond general restoration and repainting of the hull, several plates around the concrete ballast are corroded requiring the removal of the concrete, replacement of the plates and the installation of new lead ingot ballast.

Prior to losing her survey in 2004 S.T. Wattle was operated as a popular and profitable charter vessel on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. A business case has been developed that projects a similarly financially sustainable future after restoration.

To ensure the future of this unique tug, her volunteer owners require in the order of ₤47,000 to restore the hull.

Other refurbishment works to the galley and passenger areas are also required to enable her to continue charter work.

And so I appeal to readers of Model Boat Mayhem to support fundraising for the Wattle’s restoration.

Any donation to help save this lovely vessel, now matter how small, would be warmly and gratefully received. Donations can be made to: Bay Steamers Maritime Museum, PO Box 98, Albert Park, 3206, VIC. Australia.


Jeremy Gronow, on behalf of the Bay Steamers Maritime Museum.

“The Tug ‘Codeco’ was built at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard Sydney in 1932-33. Following her launching on 26 June 1933, she was transferred to the RAN and renamed the Steam Tug Wattle, serving until 1969 when was decommissioned.  During her years with the Navy, she performed general dockyard and harbour duties as well as towing targets for firing practice outside Sydney Heads.

The design of the vessel was based on the Steam Tug “Bustler” launched in the same yards in 1917.  The Wattle has slightly increased dimensions with a repositioned boiler to accommodate large fire and salvage pumps fitted abaft the main engine.  The bridge and wheelhouse are raised to facilitate access to the galley and forecastle. She is also the first oil fired Australian steam tug.

Of riveted, all-steel construction, Wattle is 23 metres long with a breadth of 5.3 metres.  Her gross tonnage is 100 tons and her two-cylinder compound main engine runs on steam produced by a two furnace Scotch Marine boiler.

All her auxiliary engines are steam–driven.  Even the food warming pantry and the hot water in the galley derive their heat from steam. 

After her Navy service, the Wattle was destined for the wreckers until, in 1971, she was rescued by a syndicate of maritime steam enthusiasts.  They kept her in operating condition, taking limited public cruises in and around Sydney Harbour until they found they could no longer maintain her in service.

On hearing of the Wattle’s problems a group of Melbourne enthusiasts travelled to Sydney to repair and re-commission her.  This was accomplished with a dedicated effort which enabled her to be towed to Melbourne in 1979.  Howard Smith & Company carried out this service free of charge using the Tug “Edina”.

The Wattle has resided in the Port of Melbourne since September 1979. After S.T. Wattle was brought to Melbourne in 1979, she was fully restored and overhauled by Victorian volunteers. 

Engine, boiler, auxiliaries, hull, decking, sponsons and fittings were all brought up to first-class conditions by volunteers and eight long term unemployed working for the dole for ten months.  During this period, she was completely stripped and repainted, the rear deck was roofed and enclosed for passenger comfort and arrangements made for serving food and drinks to the 55 passengers which the Marine Board Certificate allowed her to carry.

During her last cruising season, S. T. Wattle offered hour-long cruises or day trips around Port Phillip Bay and was a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise. 

While she is still mechanically in first-class condition, Marine Safety Victoria withdrew S.T.  Wattle’s survey in January 2004, pending hull restoration and other restorative works. 

Currently berthed at Docklands in a rent-free berth courtesy of VicUrban, S. T. Wattle is still in working condition, although unable to operate commercially.

For more information please visit;

An historic 1939 picture of the Wattle at work on Sydney Harbour with the cruisers HMAS Australia and HMAS Adelaide:

Modeller’s plans for the S.T.Wattle are available commercially at



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« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2007, 11:15:02 pm »

Can you give us an update on how the Wattle is going?.
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