BOAT OF THE MONTH - 52 ft wooden tug Avon

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The classic wooden tug <I>Avon</I> has been maintained by the taxpayer for most of her 103 years afloat. But there’s still plenty of untapped potential for her new owners, says BOAT BROKERS OF TASMANIA

BOAT OF THE MONTH - 52 ft wooden tug Avon
BOAT OF THE MONTH – 52 ft wooden tug <I>Avon</I>

The wooden tug Avon has seen it all, everything from hauling explosive barges in Victoria to Navy service during WWII in New Guinea. But this tireless 52-footer isn’t finished yet. As a workboat, yes. However, her new life now as a uniquely historic pleasureboat has only just begun and her potential as a liveaboard and entertainer is far from realised.

Built of kauri pine in 1907, Avon began working life as an explosives lighter out of Williamstown, Victoria, pulling explosive barges, moving on to service the buoys in Port Phillip Bay, and being commissioned by the Royal Australian Navy in 1942 as a work vessel in New Guinea.

After four years of service with the RAN, she returned to Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes and became a familiar sight as the towing tug for the steam-driven sand dredge. Avon worked up until 1992 when she was retired, stripped out and auctioned off.

Purchased by the current owner in 1998, Avon returned to Paynesville on the Gippsland Lakes and underwent a complete restoration including refitting the original towing gear. Despite a two-year restoration at the Government’s expense in 1970, Avon was still very much a tug. The work undertaken in 1998 was to transform her from a tugboat to a tugboat that was cosy and comfortable inside.

"There is something magical about old workboats, they seem to absorb the karma of those devoted crews and maintenance engineers that have worked on them over the years," says vendor Ian Davenport.

"People seem to shy away from workboats thinking they have had a hard life. Sure they get knocked about, but they get knocked about by professionals. What’s more important is they get fixed up regardless of cost! Why? Because they are repaired with taxpayers’ money," he said.

Some of the work commissioned by her current owner includes extending the wheelhouse one metre to make the original captain’s bed into a proper double, raising the engineroom to give full headroom, and fitting flush-mounted skylights to the forecastle, lounge and galley to make it light and airy inside.

"Someone one said to me: ‘you think you own this boat? About 600 people own this boat and when you do something wrong they will tell you’," said Davenport.

"Over the last 12 years I have learnt, when you own something as special as the Avon, you don’t own it at all, you are only the custodian! I have known her most of my life. As a young child I used to watch her on the Gippsland Lakes, the place where I had my annual holidays," he said.

For those who know the boat from the past, she looks the same, but isn’t.

The new rear bulwarks save you from falling into Bass Strait and the centre of the bulwarks lifts out to make the launching and retrieval of the tender a singlehanded operation.

"People often walk through the interior and say, ‘Where is the engine?" Davenport says. "It’s under the sink!" is his reply. A 210hp Cummins 6BT diesel was installed as part of the 1998 refit, and coupled to a Twin Disc 3:1 transmission Avon steams along at 9kts using a frugal 12lt/h at 1400rpm.

"Because you are so far away from the engine you hardly know it is running and there is none of that constant drone, save for the sweet purr of the engine out the funnel," adds Devonport. "The Avon is probably the best sea boat I have spent time on. Last year we put on rolling chocks to strengthen the hull and make mooring at anchor more comfortable."

The overall condition of the boat is first class and it is easy to see that under the current ownership Avon has thrived.

One of the best features is the 12-foot long rear deck that makes for a huge entertaining area complete with barbecue, table and chairs. The galley has been completely redone as have the heads. Gas hot water, stove, fridge and microwave make cooking a pleasure and the spacious hot shower and electric toilet are a great addition. New Muir anchor winch and new electronics, electrics and safety gear complete the package. Overall, Avon sleeps six in current configuration with lots of inbuilt charm and some classic original fittings.

It is time for a new owner to inherit Avon and all its history. She lies at the Bellerive Yacht Club, Hobart, Tasmania, and is available for inspection. Priced at $250,000 this vessel looks a treat wherever she goes.

52ft wooden tug AVON

FOR SALE: $250,000
BUILD DATE: 1907, by Blunts of Williamstown
TYPE: Displacement monohull
MATERIAL: Carvel planked kauri pine with celery pine top, Coelan covered
BEAM: 14ft
DRAFT: 6ft
ENGINE: Cummins 6BT diesel (650 hours)
CRUISE SPEED: 9kts at 1400rpm
FUEL: 1000lt
WATER: 600lt
CONTACT: Boat Brokers of Tasmania, phone (03) 6243 0020 or visit

Old workboats can make for affordable pleasureboats, either for fishing, long-range passagemaking, entertaining, and even liveaboarding - and all four are indeed relevant in respect to the wooden tug Avon. Her massive rear deck is a cockpit par excellence, while for passagemaking she has good fuel capacity and a Cummins diesel engine that chugs the 52-footer along with great fuel efficiency in keeping with a tug or trawler. Other notable improvements include an interior refit for private use, including a big shower and electric loo, plus new electronics and electrics. Avon is a great and proven seaboat, a headturner, with the scope for further interior renovation in future. Best of all, she’s a one of a kind.


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