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Vessel Number: HV000489
Date: 1940
Vessel Dimensions: 10.97 m x 3.51 m x 0.76 m (36 ft x 11.5 ft x 2.5 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
BROADBILL is a game-fishing boat built in 1940 at Carrington, Newcastle NSW. It was designed and built by Ivor “Chips” Gronfors, who was a well-known boat designer and builder in that region. It was built for Dr Keith Watkins who was one of the pioneers of game fishing off the Newcastle coastline in the 1930s. It is understood to be the first twin-engine, vee-bottomed game fishing boat built in the region.
DescriptionIn Dr Watkin’s book ‘Big Game Fishing’ published by in 1950, he refers to Gronfors designing the lines and later building the vessel. It is carvel planked and has a raised deck forward with flared topsides, the typical shape for an offshore sports-fishing vessel. The 36ft long vee-bottom cruiser was also reputedly the first twin-engined game fishing boat in the Newcastle/ Port Stephens region. He remarks in the book that it was fitted with two 50 horsepower petrol engines. These were replaced during the war with 150 hp Chrysler petrol engines, giving it 15 knots top speed. At an unknown time the cabin top was added to to give more shelter over the cockpit.

Keith Watkins was an English doctor who had emigrated to Australia in the late 1920s. He had a large General Practice in Newcastle and later became an eminent Macquarie Street specialist physician in Sydney. He had joined the embryonic Newcastle and Port Stephens Game Fish Club in the mid 1930s and went fishing with some success in his old boat ICTHYS.

BROADBILL was launched in wartime. Watkins joined the RAAF Reserve and lent BROADBILL to the Naval Auxiliary Patrol Service “under whose auspices she was driven backwards and forwards several nights weekly opposite the Newcastle Harbour entrance in search of prowling Japanese submarines”. It was later requisitioned by the RAAF, and Watkins received 1250 pounds from the RAAF, and is understood to have added the proviso that BROADBILL would be sold back to him at the conclusion of its war service. On 14th July 1944 it was taken out of service, and at the end of the war BROADBILL was bought back by Watkins for 800 pounds (complete with new engines).

Watkins then used BROADBILL for sport again, fishing for marlin and sharks off Newcastle and the Port Stephens region into the 1950s until he sold the vessel.

The Australian Women's Weekly 1 May 1948 carried an articile about Dr Watkin's daughter Joan, who at the age of 15 landed her first marlin and created a record.

" 'Unfortunately I learnt two lessons that day' she admitted ruefully. 'One was how to land a marlin. The other was how not to dress for big-game fishing.' "

She was wearing a bulky canvas suit, sweater and cardigan, with no ventilation. Harnessed to the boat and rod, she nearly collapsed with exhaustion as she was playing the fish for 30 minutes after it had taken the bait. The crew were about to cut away some of this clothing and douse her in cold water when the fish tired and Joan regained her composure to successfully land the marlin aboard BROADBILL. Later that night her catch was officially weighed and recorded, then noted as an Australian record for a girl for catching a marlin in her age group. Further enquiries suggested it may even have been a world record as well.

Dr Allan Grant wrote about BROADBILL in Afloat June 2009, recalling his memories of Dr Keith Watkins.

“Dr Watkins used to take us hospital resident doctors at Royal Newcastle Hospital fishing. It was an adventure for us to go out into the ocean and catch fish which he used to give to the fish shops. The boat had two Chrysler engines, I think. Dr Watkins was meticulous. On the mornings before he operated Dr Watkins came to the hospital and [there] double-checked all the machinery and instrumentation”

In 2011 BROADBILL remains in good condition and in the same configuration as it has had for most of its life.

Vessel Details
Cabin or superstructure material and construction:timber planked
Current status:operational
Deck layout:cabin
Deck layout:decked with cockpit
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hull material and construction:carvelcarvel-planked
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:chines
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:plumb transomvertical transom
Hull shape:semi-displacement
Hull shape:vee-bottomv-bottomv-sectionvee-section
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:launch deadwood
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:spade rudder
Motor propulsion:diesel
Motor propulsion:inboard
Motor propulsion:motor vesselMV
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:wheel

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