Margaret Pearl was built in Hobart in 1958 as a crayfishing vessel for the Stanley fisherman Cyril “Dodger” Long.

She was designed by RH (Dick) Thompson who was a boat designer from the Tamar River and over the years designed hundreds of fishing, commercial and recreational vessels – many of them quintessential Tassie cray boats. Dick was a commercial mariner and became the harbourmaster in Devonport. His grandson Andrew Thompson came aboard in 2021 and remarked that the timber steering wheel on the vessel was probably made by Dick. Andrew had inherited a number of Dick’s tools after his passing and these included spokes and other parts for timber wheels which matched the pattern used in the wheel in Margaret Pearl exactly.

Jack Behrens of Hobart was the builder.

Her working life started in Stanley in the north west of Tasmania where she fished for crays under the ownership of “Dodger” Long until about 1977. Dodger was a well-known cray fisherman in the area and has his name on one of the points along the coast of north-western Tasmania.

She was then purchased by Keith Ford who fished Tasmanian waters based in Queenscliff. Keith used to drive her from Queenscliff for fishing trips of about a week or 10 days duration before returning to Queenscliff via King Island where he unloaded his catch.

In a very emotional visit, Keith inspected his old craft in early 2020 accompanied by his son. Despite being of advanced years, Keith managed to climb the stairway restoration which was almost completed. He expressed his delight that the vessel would now have a second life. Keith died later in 2020.

There were three other owners in Tasmania all mainly in the cray fishery. Like any commercial fishing vessel, life for Margaret Pearl was hard survived a number of mishaps including finding a rock off Three Hummock Island in the 1980s which nearly sank her.

She was sold to Peter Kelly in Portland, Victoria in 2004.

There, she was converted for shark fishing, and lay idle following the owner’s death in 2010.

See photos of Margaret Pearl before 2015 here.

Jim Woods purchased her in poor condition in 2015 from the son of Peter Kelly.

It was clear that substantial work needed to be done to make her seaworthy. The work was to be done in Queenscliff but the question was how to get her there.

See photos of Margaret Pearl in Portland in 2015 here.

Having not been out of the Portland Harbour for at least five years, the hull had opened up significantly above the waterline. Literally thousands of dollars were spent on caulking compound which was liberally applied in the seams. The engine which was a GM 671 was made operational but with some doubts about its ability to remain that way for the 24 hours needed to steam from Portland to Queenscliff. A number of 12 V pumps were booked up and a portable petrol 240V generator was installed on deck to make sure they had power.

In company with Jane Kerr as the support vessel, Margaret Pearl steamed her way to Queenscliff where a five and half year restoration project followed.

See photos of the Portland to Queenscliff passage here.

She was hauled out at the Queenscliff Marina where the old wheelhouse and interior fittings were removed.

See photos of the work done at Queenscliff Marina.

Having been lightened by the removal of the excess weight, she was transported from the Queenscliff Marina to the yard at the Queenscliff Maritime Museum.

See photos of the move.

Once in the yard at the Queenscliff Maritime Museum, a frame was built around her and covered with shrinkwrap plastic. The idea was to provide protection from the elements for the vessel and the tradesmen. The idea worked perfectly until the first day that the wind exceeded 30 kn and the entire structure started to shake itself to pieces. A number of attempts were made to maintain a temporary structure over the vessel but Queenscliff is a windy place and whatever was erected was soon dislodged.

The demolition continued and revealed a hull and structural members that were in far worse condition than expected.

See photos of the Demolition.

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