PRE-LOVED - Wooden love

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The timber yacht <I>Ranger</I> is for sale after being passed down through the one family for almost 30 years. MERRY ABBEY reports…

PRE-LOVED - Wooden love
PRE-LOVED – Wooden love

The timber yacht Ranger is for sale after being passed down through the one family for almost 30 years. MERRY ABBEY reports…

Ranger is a beautiful, classic timber boat and has been a much-loved part of my family for 27 years. Putting her on the market has been a tough decision. However, the time is right to pass on the custodianship to another wooden boat enthusiast who I know will love and nurture her as we have!

A 9.2m Blythe Spirit Classic, Ranger has mostly sailed in SA waters from the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron in Adelaide. She is well-known at the Squadron and was originally built for Robert Henshall, a past RSYS commodore. Designed by WA’s Len Randell, she was built in Adelaide in 1964 by A. Mitchell. The hull is carvel planked King Billy pine, and the cabin top mahogany.

"They [wooden boats] deserve to be preserved as historic artefacts and being loved and used on a regular basis is the best way to ensure their survival in years to come"

In 1984, Ranger was purchased by my parents, Peter and Barbara Osborne, both for weekend sailing and for cruising in their retirement. Throughout a lengthy sailing career, Peter harboured a passion for wooden boats and as a young man enjoyed racing on many classic SA timber yachts. He was also navigator on the classic timber yacht Nerida, the handicap winner of the 1950 Sydney Hobart Race and the only SA-built boat to win the coveted blue-water classic.

When searching for a cruising yacht Peter tried unsuccessfully to convince himself that a ’glass boat was the practical way to go, and found several that met all the listed criteria, bar one! They weren’t timber! Perhaps it was fate then that Ranger came on the market at that time. Having always admired Randell’s Blythe Spirit design he did not hesitate to buy her.

Although the boat did not ‘tick all the boxes’ it satisfied many of the criteria. Peter and Barbara then set about fitting out Ranger to meet their personal needs for cruising, while being careful to retain her traditional character and appearance both inside and out.

It was important to them that the boat could be easily managed by the two of them on their own, and could comfortably accommodate an extra two people if desired. Peter spent many hours in his shed applying his woodworking and lathe skills to equip her with a roller-reefed mainsail and a self-furling headsail. This eliminated forward deck work and enabled her to be sailed singlehandedly from the cockpit. It not only meant increasing their flexibility by not having to organise and depend on the availability of crew but also prepared the boat in advance for their old age.

This was obviously effective as they enjoyed their cruising until they were into their eighties! A refrigerator/freezer was installed under the chart table and modern navigational instruments were installed. The helm was converted to wheel steering and an auto-helm was fitted to the tiller post.

Over the years, many summers were spent enjoying the fantastic cruising grounds offered within SA waters: the two gulfs, the islands around Port Lincoln and the north coast of Kangaroo Island. Sometimes it was just the two of them but often they were joined by family or a couple of friends. My partner Anton and I cruised with them every January.

The inflatable dinghy was stowed on the deck, crab pots and fishing gear were loaded onboard, the deep freeze and fridge were filled, and plenty of liquid refreshments stored under the bunks. Our worries evaporated as we sailed from Adelaide across St Vincent’s Gulf lulled by the rhythm of Ranger’s hull rising and falling on the waves.

The coming month would be filled by lazy breakfasts in the cockpit, swimming from the boat, going ashore in the dinghy and walking on deserted beaches, fishing and creating delicious meals from calamari, crabs and an amazing range of fish and shellfish caught from the cockpit. King George whiting was caught in abundance and was always a favourite!

We enjoyed many safe and beautiful anchorages, often unoccupied or shared with only a few other boats, and all within a day’s sail from each other, eliminating the need to sail long distances or at night. I learned to sail on Ranger. She was always very kind to me and forgiving of my mistakes.


After my father’s death in 2000 it was indeed a pleasure and a privilege to take over the custodianship of Ranger. She is currently berthed at Portland in South West Victoria, and we have enjoyed some great sailing. The boat needed extensive repairs to bring it up to excellent condition. More than $30,000 has been spent on replacing the cabin top and the transom, and on re-rigging and sails.

Each summer we sail her to Port Fairy and take part in the annual Port Fairy Wooden Boat Show. This combines well with a holiday onboard in the beautiful Moyne River and slipping for regular yearly maintenance.

Any timber work or structural repairs to the hull are carried out by Garry Stewart, a highly skilled wooden boatbuilder at Port Fairy. It is a privilege to watch such a fine craftsman at work and comforting to know that wooden boatbuilding skills are being maintained.

In this article, I have deliberately used the word ‘custodian’ rather than ‘ownership’. It is my belief that our wooden boats are now part of our maritime history. They deserve to be preserved as historic artefacts and being loved and used on a regular basis is the best way to ensure their survival in years to come. They are demanding in terms of time and attention and are indeed a labour of love, but in my experience an extremely satisfying one!

Ranger has a price tag of $60,000 and for enquiries phone Merry Abbey on (03) 5523 1577; 0409 217 195.

Blythe Spirit Classic

FOR SALE: $60,000
BUILDER: A. Mitchell
MATERIAL: King Billy pine and mahogany
TYPE: Keelboat
LENGTH: 9.2m
BEAM: 3m
DRAFT: 1.6m
FUEL: 73lt
WATER: 273lt
ENGINE: Volvo Penta 2BD diesel

(Crew’s Views)
Ranger is a classic Randell-designed timber cruising yacht that has cruised extensively in South Australian waters and has been enjoyed and much loved by the same family for 27 years. She is rigged to be easily sailed from the cockpit by two people or singlehanded. A detailed maintenance log is available and she is well maintained. Slipped annually, she has a sound hull, with all repairs done by reputable Port Fairy boatbuilder Gary Stewart.

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