What a story! The boat was built in the
thirties by Claude and Harold White. Now I'm building a boat
and it's hard work but the way these old boys built the boat
is something else again. The White Family had to be self sufficient
in all ways. It was just the way to survive. They felled trees
native to the island and that was good timber then. They made
planks with a pit saw
that is a long timber saw with handles
on each end, a two man rig. They dug a deep pit and had the log
straddling the top. Then one man would stand in the bottom of
the pit with one end of the saw whilst the other had the top
position and then muscle the saw up and down
up and down
well you get the picture.. a massive job for the
amount of hardwood required.
But that was just the start. They built
the 30 foot boat at the homestead up on the hill. Upon completion
they disassembled the boat and hand carried it piece by piece
down the hill to west bay where they reassembled and launched
A feat beyond imagination.
When Andrew Martin bought the Island Lease
from the White's in the sixties the boat was part of the property.
Andy operated the boat on the island for many years but she started
leaking and eventually she wound up on the beach at west bay,
drying out and decaying.
I talked to Margaret Beaumont in Cairns.
She and her husband knew of the boat, being old friends of the
White family, and contacted Andrew Martin and arranged a deal.
She told how her and her husband used their fishing boat "Ocean
Spray" to transport some cattle and emus to the island in
trade for "Islander". They got the boat around to the
lagoon and between tides recaulked her and she would float once
again. Margaret's memory was a bit vague on the dates but this
should have been around the early eighties. One memory was very
clear to Margaret though. She told how she found Harold White
in Mackay, ill but keen. They arranged for "Islander"
to be sailed into the Harbour in Mackay, specifically sailed,
not under motor. They transported Harold to the harbour with
a brief stop on the way for a bottle of rum. Everything worked
perfectly. With Harold sipping a tot of rum, on cue, "Islander"
sailed in. She reckoned the whole exercise was worth it for that
They transported the boat up to Cairns
where they sold her later for $500. This is a regret that Margaret
has. They had a cattle operation that was a victim of a bad drought.
Spending months at a time driving cattle to water and feed. They
bought the fishing boat to make some money to support the cattle
but eventually the fishing got good and that became their business.
Working the seasons taking Barra and Mackerel. But the boat was
being neglected, thus the sale. She now lives alone as her partner
has passed, aboard the ex pearling lugger, "Pacific Pearl".
She can't sail her but she would rather live in the marina on
a boat than on land. She would be keen to buy the boat again
as she would like to see the vessel restored and turned over
to a museum or someplace that would insure the boats survival.
Jon Hickling, whose family were the islands
best caretakers since the White's heard of the boat and found
her in hock and desperate. She had spent years at the boat yard
of the Yacht Squadron, one of those boats that appear to have
little chance of ever floating again. She was set to be burned
as the unpaid yard fees were in the thousands. Jon made a deal
with the current owner for $500 as is and the Yacht Squadron
forgave the yard fees with the promise that the boat would actually
be repaired and taken away.
Whilst making repairs Jon was visited at
the yard by a young guy with a Mohawk haircut and wild tattoos.
Mick Cotter seemed strange in appearance and seeming to live
on cigarettes and Coca Cola but he did volunteer to supply some
timber for the project, which he did. As soon as the hull was
sound a boat was organised for a tow back to the island. Mick
asked to come along. It wasn't long after Mick returned to Cairns
that the Hickling's found that Mick had flown to England and
convinced aging and mentally infirm Andrew Martin to sell him
the island for $10!
When the Hickling's vacated the island,
"Islander" had to be left behind. For the up-date on
Islander.. read TCP # 32.
The Final Update of The Islander.
When Cotter fled the island after the loss
of the courst case, he towed the Islander away with him. He eventually
took it to Hill's Boatyard in Mackay Queensland. He left it there
without paying any rent. Others wished to take the Islander off
the boatyard as it became known that it was left without paying
but the boatyard refused. Then we found they had burned the boat
to the ground.