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The three sets of footstraps on SS BILL FISHER allowed one or  two people to use the craft.

SS Bill Fisher

Vessel Number: HV000052
Date: 1958
Designer: Herb Robson
Previous Owner: John Mervyn O'Brien ,
Vessel type: The Surf Ski
Dimensions:
Vessel Dimensions: 4.58 m x 0.77 m (15 ft x 2.5 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Significance
SS BILL FISHER is a wooden surf ski built in NSW in 1958. It is an important example of the development of the Australian surf ski, and is a craft that set early records for endurance paddling in Australia with its owner John Mervyn 'Jack' O'Brien from Many NSW.
DescriptionSS BILL FISHER is a 4.58 m (15 feet) long plywood surf ski that was built by Herb Robson for John Mervyn 'Jack' O'Brien in 1958. O'Brien was a surf and fitness enthusiast and SS BILL FISHER was one of at least three skis that he owned and used off the northern beaches of Sydney where he lived.

It is an example of an important stage in the evolution of the surf ski as it forms a link between the original heavy planked boats and the much lighter craft that now exist. SS BILL FISHER shares the square section shapes and wide beam of the original craft, but is made much lighter using marine plywood. The cross section has a flat bottom and slightly convex deck for the paddler, a single chine and vertical sides. The foredeck is flat with a breakwater coaming.

It is also a little more refined in a number of areas. The widest point is forward of the middle, and the width is maintained toward the bow in a well rounded shape, while the aft lines taper to a fine stern and skeg. In profile the bow carries a significant amount of curve upwards to its tip while the stern runs out in a relatively straight line. This combination of features forms a very good shape for entering and leaving the surf break, riding waves to shore with good control, and general paddling in open water.

'Jack' O' Brien used SS BILL FISHER and other skis he owned to pioneer endurance paddling and to establish long distance records with journeys from various beaches near Sydney. Two significant passages he made on the SS BILL FISHER include Wollongong to La Perouse (12.5 hours non-stop) and Cronulla to Palm Beach (9hrs 10 mins non-stop).

Near the stern, mounted on the deck is a St Christopher's medal. The boat was built as a double ski but modified by O'Brien to be used as a single. It is simply fitted out with three sets of leather footstraps and a breakwater coaming on the fore deck. It has been maintained in excellent condition.

The SS BILL FISHER was acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum for the National Maritime Collection in 2005.
Vessel Details
Current status:inside building
Current status:non-operational
Current status:not on display
Deck layout:full decked
Deck material and construction:timber plywood
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:paddle
Hull material and construction:plywood/chineply/chine
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:chines
Hull shape:flat bottom
Hull shape:monohull
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:skeg rudder
Related materials:interviews
Related materials:news clippings
Related materials:photos
Related materials:references
Additional Titles

Previous title: Big Dolphin

Primary title: SS Bill Fisher

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