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Flying Fish IV

Vessel Number: HV000705
Date: 1968
Previous Owner:
Classification:Vessels and fittings
FLYING FISH IV is a timber surf lifesaving boat built in SA in 1968. FLYING FISH IV was built by the late Arthur ‘Snow’ Wallace for the Port Elliot Surf Life Saving Club in 1967. FLYING FISH IV is the club’s only remaining wooden surfboat. A modest number of examples of timber surfboats from the primary builders from the 1950s and 60s such as Clymer, Barnett and Phillips still exist, but FLYING FISH IV is a rare example from the era of the all-timber surfboats of a craft built by a smaller regional builder. It also represents a strong and enduring connection to regional history and the loss of the barque FLYING FISH in 1860 at Port Elliot.
Description‘Snow’ Wallace was a boat builder of small commercial, sailing and recreational craft in the Port Adelaide region until the 1970s. Over the years, the crafting of all-timber surf boats became his speciality. Operating from a tin shed in Yeo St Semaphore, he used his own unique ‘cold moulding’ process, making his own glue on the family stove. According to legend he went to Burnside, cut down an Australian silky oak tree, packed it on a trailer and took it back to Yeo St. and used it in the construction of FLYING FISH IV.

The hull has three laminates. The inside and outside panels are silky oak Grevillia robusta, laid at right angles to each other, while the centre laminates run fore and aft and are Australian cedar Toona australis. Panels were cut to different lengths depending on the required curvature and hand planed until each panel fitted perfectly against the next. Each piece was numbered to allow for assembly then re-assembly until a perfect fit was achieved. Finally, they were stapled together, then glued. The staples were left in until the glue had dried a row of the staple holes can be still be seen as faint dark spots in the timbers.

The name FLYING FISH has significance to the Port Elliot region. The original FLYING FISH was an English barque from Portsmouth. In 1860 it was at anchor in Horseshoe Bay at Pt Elliot awaiting a small cargo of wheat and wool. Overnight a tremendous storm hit and the ship dragged its anchor and foundered against Commodore Point. A young farm-hand, Agen Dent swam through heavy storm surf with a rope that was made fast to the stricken ship, allowing all on board to reach the shore safely. Legend has it that he was taught to swim by the local Ngarrindjeri people. The vessel was completely wrecked. The remains still lie there and occasionally, when sand levels and tides allow, swimmers can see them protruding from the sand a short distance offshore. When the PESLSC was formed in the early 1930s the Flying Fish was adopted as an icon and significant spirit and the name used for the club’s surf boats. The current boat is FLYING FISH XIII.

After fibreglass became the material of choice for surf boats in the 1960s, all-timber surf boats became redundant and many became bonfires on the beach by clubs across the country at end-of-season celebrations. The early timber surfboats at PESLSC, the original FLYING FISH then FLYING FISH II and FLYING FISH III were lost to the club. FLYING FISH IV was retired in 1986 after 18 years of competition and patrols with PESLSC and pushed off to the side in the clubhouse where it spent the next 25 years as a storage place for other times with no particular place to go.

Club life memebr Christopher Tapscott recalled the launching of FLYING FISH IV, he was there as a teeenager: " I have in my possession the original cork from the champagne bottle used to launch the Flying Fish 1V in 1968. I was right in front of Mrs Basham as she broke the bottle against a weight-lifting bar placed in front of the boat. I grabbed the cork. I can be seen in the photos of the time as, I guess, a 13 or 14 year old. I wrote on the cork at the time and have kept it ever since."

He also helped another club member Alistair Wood to row out a big sea anchor off the Murray River mouth in FLYING FISH IV, which nearly brought about its demise: Alistair wrote:
"I was a professional fisherman who plyed my trade by launching large gill nets manually into the surf near the Murray mouth. This was always a very hit-and-miss technique. So I devised a hair-brained idea of holding a net offshore, overnight with a sea anchor. It comprised a railway wheel with a structure of piping. It was loaded into the stern of FF IV beneath the sweep; I was crammed in there somewhere as well. We headed out into a sea that was challenging to say the least, dragging out anchor lines from the shore. They were a terrible drag on the boat and Tappy & co slaved over the oars to get us out beyond the first break, where we ran out of rope. Two men getting the anchor overboard was a struggle, as FF IV yawed and plunged as seas rolled through. It was only by pure fluke it didn’t tear a jagged hole out of the stern and send FF IV & all her men to the bottom....... this was in1974."

In 2011 the club started to restore the boat in recognition of the club’s heritage and the story of the many FLYING FISH. Internal structural work was done, including the replacement of several broken frames, as well as planks along the keel. On the outside, five coats of paint were scraped from the hull and the bare timbers were sanded and repainted.

During 2012-13 the boat did several calm water demonstrations on the River Murray at Goolwa, as well as a static display at a surf boat carnival in Moana (SA). It also competed in races on the River Murray during the 2015 Wooden Boat Festival at Goolwa.

Early in 2014 it was noticed that random laminates on the outside of the hull had lifting edges. There were also random soft patches. A wooden boat expert was engaged and 18 affected sites were repaired. A Japanese fretsaw was used between laminates to expose the cedar centre strip and allow the shipwright to probe beneath the silky oak. The surrounding glue and several outbreaks of dry rot were scraped away and brushed clean. The resulting spaces were then filled with modern epoxy glue and a staple clamp was fabricated to hold each strip in position until the glue had dried. As the club did this work, it became evident that the original, 48 year old glue had reached the end of its useful life. Consequently, FLYING FISH IV will remain in a delicate state for the rest of its life and will require special care, but for the foreseeable future the club will continue to demonstrate FLYING FISH IV at selected calm water displays.

Vessel Details
Current status:operational
Deck layout:open/foredeck
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:oar
Hand propulsion/steering mechanism:sweep oar
Hull material and construction:cold mouldedcold-mouldeddouble diagonaltriple diagonaldouble-diagonaltriple-diagonal
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:round bottom

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