Search the Register
Advanced Search

Sea Urchin

Vessel Number: HV000266
Date: 1953
Vessel Dimensions: 9.14 m x 2.48 m x 0.88 m, 5.41 tonnes (30 ft x 8.15 ft x 2.9 ft, 5.5 tons)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
SEA URCHIN is a timber launch built in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II's first visit to Australia the following year. It was then taken over by Queensland Harbours and Marine and used as a survey and paymaster's vessel, it had a long association with the port of Brisbane.
DescriptionSEA URCHIN was built as a showpiece at the Queensland State Dockyard. The 9.14 m (30 ft) long Huon pine planked craft was completed by four apprentices under the direction of foreman shipwright John Wassin.

It was built as an open boat to be used when the Royal couple visited the Great Barrier Reef aboard the Royal Yacht GOTHIC. The bottom of the launch was fitted with two 450mm (18 in) diameter brass rimmed double-glazed viewing portholes. Inside the cockpit viewing scopes were placed over the portholes for looking at the coral as the launch passed over the reef. SEA URCHIN was put aboard GOTHIC for the reef visit, but because of bad weather on the day, it was never used for its intended purpose.

The launch remained in Queensland after the GOTHIC left Australian waters.

In 1955 Queensland Harbours and Marine converted SEA URCHIN for use as an advanced survey vessel to undertake cross section echo-sounding of the Brisbane River. A cabin was added and it was fitted with the latest Kelvin Hughes MS26 dry-paper hydrographic echo-sounder. Previously, soundings had been taken by lead-line from small rowing boats or outboard powered craft.

The echo-sounding was a very precise method which required SEA URCHIN to be manoeuvrable and maintain a constant speed as it crossed from bank to bank, with the added ability to stop within two boat lengths. These requirements were met by fitting a Kitchener rudder, especially imported from England. A curious device in the form of a scoop made in two halves, the rudder directs water flow off the propeller to steer, stop and reverse the craft. It was very effective and needed to be used with care. A change in direction was sudden and crew members could fall overboard if caught unawares.

When the survey work was completed around 1960, SEA URCHIN became the paymaster's vessel, with the task was of paying labourers along the river working for the Brisbane Port Authority. In 1967 it was fitted with a new Cummins diesel engine.

It is understood that when the harbourmaster retired around 1970 he was able to buy the launch which he converted into his own private vessel at Southport, Queensland. In the 1990s it was sold and taken north to Noosa on the Sunshine Coast where in 1998 shipwright Vic Devonshire carried out an extensive restoration.

The craft changed ownership again and moved south to Port Stephens in New South Wales. In 2008 the brass rims for the portholes in the hull remained in place but the glazing had been covered over and the Kitchener rudder replaced by a conventional blade. The strongly built hull retained virtually all of its original planking and structure, and the superstructure represents the configuration of the 1970s.

Vessel Details
Cabin or superstructure material and construction:timber plywood
Current status:operational
Deck layout:cabin
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hull material and construction:carvelcarvel-planked
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:displacement
Hull shape:monohull
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:full keel
Motor propulsion:motor vesselMV
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:wheel
Alternate Numbers

Vessel Registration Number: IJ882Q

Discuss this Object


Please log in to add a comment.