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A Classic Staysail Schooner
A short history of Sirius
The First Circumnavigation
In 1932 the celebrated Australian yachtsman, Harold Nossiter, won the Lipton Cup, one of Australia's most coveted yachting trophies. Nossiter was planning retirement from his Sydney-based importing business in order to circumnavigate the world by yacht. For this he felt he required a custom designed boat of advanced concept for the time. He took his ideas to J.D.Thistlewaite, a naval architect in Greenwich N.S.W. who converted them to paper and completed the design in 1933.
The vessel was to be a canoe-sterned, staysail schooner of some 35 tons with accommodation for six. Length overall 62 feet, length on deck 53.5 feet, beam 13.5 feet, draft 7.5 feet and carrying 1600 square feet of sail. Her lines indicated a full-bodied hull of generous displacement. Construction was to be all timber with planking below the water line in Western Australian Jarrah and that above in New Zealand Kauri. The keel, timbers and deck beams were to be of Spotted Gum and the stem in Ti-tree. The design was handed over to J.Hayes and Sons, boat builders of Sydney and the keel was laid in 1934.
The boat was launched in 1935 and named "SIRIUS" after the brightest of all navigation stars. Later that same year Nossiter sailed her out of Sydney Harbour with his two sons, Harold and Dick, on what was to be a 28,000-mile trip lasting 20 months. When she returned, "SIRIUS" had earned her place in maritime history as the first Australian Yacht to circumnavigate the globe. Nossiter documented the voyage in two books titled respectively, "Northward Ho" and "Southward Ho".
From 1937 until the outbreak of war, "SIRIUS" was a well-known racing yacht. During the war she was impressed into service with the Australian Army Small Ships Division and used as a training vessel at Bribie Island. After the war she was returned to Harold Nossiter who sold her to Jim Booth and she returned to the racing circuit. She took part in the second and third Sydney to Hobart races in 1946 and 1947 when she finished 15th out of 28; then the first Brisbane to Gladstone race. She was bought by Ernie Palmer for Lever Brothers in 1953 and left Sydney for the Solomon Islands. In the late 1950s Lever Solomons Ltd. removed her masts and interior fittings and used her for supplying their coconut plantations.
In 1965 Sirius was bought by Laurie Crowley for use as a helicopter support vessel in Papua New Guinea and he returned with her to Cairns in 1974.
Sadly neglected by her caretaker she sank at her moorings and had to be refloated. Laurie estimated that there was seven tons of mud inside the hull.
In 1983 Bill Cotter was asked to estimate the cost of restoring Sirius. Bill was a cabinet-maker by trade and had already fitted out several boats. He ended up buying this one and started a seven year restoration project. He found that her hull was in remarkably good condition thanks to the superior timber and quality of construction but everything else had to be completely rebuilt. The renovation has seen a few minor alterations to the original layout such as an extra cabin and a larger galley but overall it is faithful to Nossiter's design while subtly incorporating the latest in modern technology. The deck beams were replaced with Silky Oak and the deck in White Beech but many of the original fittings were saved.
Re-launching "SIRIUS" carried a heavy price for the Cotters who sold all they had and moved aboard to complete the restoration. "SIRIUS" was invited to join the Bicentennial fleet sailing into Sydney Harbour but sadly, lack of funds prevented this. Bill went back to work and eventually the yacht was put up for sale.
At that time David Plant was searching for his ideal boat. David knew exactly what he wanted and "SIRIUS" was everything he had hoped for. The purchase was quickly finalised and he sailed his prize back to Bali. There he carried out charter cruises before sailing to Sumatra where he carried out Surfing Charters off the Mentawi Islands. One morning in August 1996 they hit a reef and stuck fast. The ship was pounded by a storm for four days and filled with water. For a while it looked as though she was lost and all their possessions were washed out through the hatches. David fought continuously to save her and eventually she was floated free and sailed for Thailand.
On the island of Phuket David found a boatyard well skilled in wooden boat repairs. The hull was repaired with Mai Dekeang a Thai mahogany similar to Jarrah and the interior was repaired. After a $100,000 re-fit she was re-launched on Christmas eve 1996.
In 2001, Simon Morris bought Sirius in Langkawi and over the next twelve years that Simon owned Sirius she underwent two more refits. The genset and refrigeration unit installed by Bill Cotter nearly 20 years earlier had to be retired and were replaced by a 7 K.W. Onan generator and a new refrigeration unit. New battery banks were built and a new day tank installed. The fuel and water organisers were re-designed and an inverter, solar panels and water maker added, to bring her up to date. With new teak deck, radar and an autopilot, Sirius clocked up over 20,000 nautical miles in those 12 years. Apart from dive trips in the Andaman and South China Seas, Sirius was an active participant in the South East Asian regatta circuit. She competed in the Singapore Classic Race, the Western Circuit Regatta the Raja Muda Regatta, Phuket Race Week and the Phuket King’s Cup where she won the Classic Class in each regatta at least once. In 2009 Mick Cotter, the son of the former owners started working on Sirius and over the next two years he made many improvements including a new forward hatch and a cockpit replacing the old wheelhouse installed by his father. In 2014 Mick bought a share in Sirius and is now taking care of the 'Old Girl' with Simon as his partner taking a back seat. In 2015 we started a major refit including repositioning the cockpit back to the stern where it was originally. The old Lister engine, gear box and Onan Genset have been removed and we have bought a new Elco electric motor which is being fitted now, with a DC generator and Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries.
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