A Symphony in Wood

Megsie cruising to Brisbane
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A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…….hang on, that’s not exactly what I meant.

A long time ago, in what now seems almost like another life, I was editor of an Australian boating magazine called ‘Powercraft.’

During several years at the Powercraft helm I probably had the opportunity to test and evaluate more than 1500 boats of all types and styles, from dinghies to superyachts, tinnies to inflatables, kayaks to skiboats.

Some to this day remain memorable, some, sad to say, for all the wrong reasons, but that’s another story.

For this particular story we wander down memory lane to the tune of 23-years and a most memorable vessel by the name, then, of ‘Judith A’.

‘Judith A’ was a creation of arguably the most hallowed name in the Australian boating industry, Halvorsen, and she was designed by the iconic Harold Halvorsen whom I had the privilege of meeting several times.

The late (and great!) Trevor Gowland had invited me down to look over ‘Judith A’ and was on hand to show me through and over the magnificent vessel.

Well, Harold and Trevor are gone now, but ‘Judith A’ lives on, now named ‘Megsie’ (her original name) and living happily on the Gold Coast in berth 27 A at the Southport Yacht Club.

Well, here’s an instance where the immortal bard, William Shakespeare, hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head when he wrote something along the lines of (I’m no Shakespearean scholar)… a rose by any other name remains as sweet as…etc etc.

To put it bluntly, ‘Megsie’ is gorgeous, from her lavish port side Jacob’s ladder to the expanse of her open flying bridge she personifies recreational boating as it used to be.

She was launched on October 12, 1947, so therefore celebrated her 61st birthday just a few weeks ago.

She’s definitely one lady who does not look her age.

Forward berths aboard Megsie give the classic cruiser comfortable accommodations for at least six. - symphony in wood
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Current owner (her seventh) is prominent yacht broker Leigh Dorrington, and chances are he has used the vessel more than any previous owner.

From Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Mooloolaba, Mooloolaba to the Gold Coast are among the voyages he has undertaken.

For now, though, let’s discuss a little history.

It was in the summer of 1946 that a gentleman commissioned Lars Halvorsen and Sons to build a 50’ flying bridge cruiser.

This particular person did not go ahead with the sale and the finished vessel was purchased by a Stanley and Margaret Jourdain who launched her in 1947 and christened the imposing vessel ‘Megsie.’

‘Megsie’ was built in the traditional manner, a plump stem with tumblehome stern sections with splined Oregon planks on laminated spotted gum ribs.

She had a rocked keel with dual bronze rudders.

Immaculate engine room aboard Megsie showing the dual Chrysler Crown six-cylinder engines. - symphony in wood
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The engine room (absolutely immaculate now, and when I first saw her) sported two 110hp Chrysler Crown marine engines, six cylinder powerplants with shaft drive via mechanical Chrysler gearboxes.

For those with a mechanical mind, the engines had a four-stroke cycle, side valves, Zenith updraft carburettors with electric priming fuel and mechanical diaphragm pumps.

The engines are freshwater cooled via copper pipes located either side of the keel.

Even in today’s era of big horsepower, ‘Megsie’ boasts some pretty good performance statistics; she carries only 140 gallons of fuel (636-litres) in two stainless steel tanks, yet she can cruise all day at 7.5 knots and 1750rpm using only six gallons an hour.

Depending on sea and wind conditions, she has a range of about 175 nautical miles.

Twenty-three years ago (was it really that long?) when Trevor Gowland was showing me around, he told me that despite the vast technological improvements the world had made post World War II, the Halvorsen yard could not duplicate ‘Megsie’ again.

'For starters,' Trevor explained, 'the tradesmen who worked in timber are all gone.

'Secondly, obtaining suitable timber for the keel of such a boat would be out of the question.

'Timber imported into Australia these days is all cut to fit within containers, so to get a suitable piece of timber for the keel of a 50-footer, well, you’d have to plant your own tree,' he chuckled.

I sure wish Trevor (and Harold!) could see ‘Megsie’ today.

I’m sure they would be impressed.

One of two double staterooms aboard the superb Halvorsen. - symphony in wood
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Leigh Dorrington has lavished care and attention (and money!) on the vessel and rates it as one of Australia’s most admired ‘Halvos’.

To his credit, Leigh regularly holds ‘open boat’, allowing people aboard to see craftsmanship with their own eyes.

'It’s a piece of floating history,' he says, 'and people should be made aware of creations such as this.'

Megsie
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Leigh estimates ‘Megsie’ owes him 'about $800,000' including his purchase price and what he has spent on restoration.

She has been re-wired, boasts all new plumbing, a new deck and meticulous repairs to anything that needed it.

And for those who would like nothing more than owning a valuable piece of Australian boating history, ‘Megsie’ is seriously for sale.

'Vessels like ‘Megsie’ are very few and far between,' Leigh explained.

'A very similar vessel, the ‘Nicky O’Dea’, once owned by former poker machine czar (and Sydney-Hobart winner) the late Jack Rooklyn, was sold recently in Spain for USD$1 million.

'After all, how could one come up with a price on what could only be termed a ‘legend afloat’, an absolute icon of Australian recreational boating,' he added. But now it seems he has.

The classic, open bridge aboard Megsie with the traditional ship's wheel. Up here one really feels like a captain. - symphony in wood
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For information, contact Leigh Dorrington, telephone (0412) 538-576.