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SHOALHAVEN on display in the 1980s at Nowra


Vessel Number: HV000538
Date: 1889
Vessel type: Flood boats
Vessel Dimensions: 7.31 m x 1.92 m (24 ft x 6.3 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
SHOALHAVEN is one of two flood boats built in 1889 by John Hawken in the Shoalhaven district on the south coast of NSW. Well known landowner David Berry sponsored their construction as a gesture to the community. The other vessel NOAH remains extant as well and both remain in the Shoalhaven district. The two craft were housed on the Shoalhaven River for decades until the mid-1960s. They were then passed into the care of the Shoalhaven Historical Society. SHOALHAVEN was restored and put in an outside display but eventually removed after being vandalised. It had since been repaired again but is not on display.
DescriptionThe Shoalhaven River suffered many serious floods in the 1860s and 70s and two flood boats were built by the government in 1879 to help save lives in future floods. They were considered unsuitable for their purpose by the locals and used only occasionally. In 1888 they had fallen into disrepair and no one was prepared to use them. Alderman Leslie of the Numba Council approached local wealthy land owner David Berry about the situation, and he generously supported the construction of two new craft and their sheds. The 7.31 metre long craft were built on Berry’s Coolangatta Estate by his boat builder John Hawken. They were cedar planked, clinker construction, somewhat following the lines of a whale boat with a double ended hull form, but with a stern post that was relatively straight with little rake. The keel was also straight with no rocker or camber in profile.

Both were mounted on wooden trailers including timber wheels and axles, so that they could be towed by draught horse from their shed when needed. NOAH was housed on the northern bank at Bolong; SHOALHAVEN was housed on the southern bank at Numba. In 1910 both craft were moved to new locations nearby when Coolangatta Estate was wound up, and NOAH became the responsibility of the Berry Municipal Council, while SHOALHAVEN was under the South Shoalhaven Municipal Councils’ authority.

There are no particular reports of their use over this period, and during wartime in 1942 they were noted to be in good condition, but would be destroyed in the event of an enemy invasion. In 1946 SHOALHAVEN was used to help sink piles for the Numba swimming baths, then no more is heard of either craft.

It appears they were then left in their sheds and forgotten until the mid-1960s when a display of historic and antique items was put on in Nowra by the Rotary Club and Country Women’s Association at the Nowra School of Arts. SHOALHAVEN went on display having been rediscovered locked away in its shed.

In 1969 Shoalhaven Historical Society members inspected both NOAH and SHOALHAVEN, and found both to be in good condition, with SHOALHAVEN needing the least work to repair. Both craft were restored in 1970. SHOALHAVEN was used on the river during bicentennial celebrations where it was used to re-enact the landing by Captain Cook at Botany Bay, which was staged on Grey’s Beach on the river front. It was manned by local surf club crew.

SHOALHAVEN went on display in 1971 at Moorehouse Park just west of the bridge over the river in Nowra. In the mid-1990s it was taken out of its open air pavilion after being damaged on many occasions by vandals. In 1998 it was restored by Dennis Hodge, but was not put back on display. It is currently owned by the Shoalhaven City Council and stored on its wooden trailer and under a canvas cover at the Nowra SES headquarters. NOAH has been housed with the Berry Museum since 1985, and remains in good condition.

Vessel Details
Current status:non-operational
Current status:not on display
Deck layout:open
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hull material and construction:clinkerglued lapstrakelapstrake
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:canoe stern/double endedDE
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:round bottom

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