The Full History of Sirius
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. His own yacht, Utiekah II, was a good sea boat but had little forefoot and would not heave-to, so she was condemned for the purpose. For this he felt he required a custom designed boat of advanced concept for the time. He took his ideas to J.D.Thistlethwaite, 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 displacement 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 Careening Cove, Sydney. The contract was signed in September 1933 and the keel was laid in February 1934.
The boat was launched on 6th February 1935, in the presence of about 300 spectators and named “SIRIUS” after the brightest of all navigation stars. The masts and rigging were erected once she was in the water and she was fitted with an 18 horse-power Jersey City Standard petrol engine. Harold Nossiter took delivery in the April. It was only possible to make two short coastal cruises before the date fixed for their circumnavigation, 14th July 1935. With his two sons, Harold and Dick and a friend called Clive Russell, they sailed out of Sydney harbour on what was to be a 28,000-mile trip lasting 20 months. The journey took them North to Rabaul in New Guinea then to Buton and Komodo where they saw the twelve foot dragon lizards, varanus komodoensis. Clive Russell the most inexperienced of the crew had a bad experience at the helm one night. He became confused and almost put the Sirius on a reef. Harold Nossiter awoke to the sound of the breaking waves and managed to start the engine in time to avoid disaster by twenty feet. After this incident, the responsibility of steering alone at night affected Russell’s nerves and he would wake at night in his cabin and flash his torch about looking for the compass, thinking he was still steering. Nossiter even considered abandoning the circumnavigation and suggested just circumnavigating Australia instead but the eldest crew member, his son Harold was determined to continue and he urged on the rest of the crew. They pressed on to Bali and Batavia (Jakarta), Indonesia then Singapore and Penang where the Sirius was hauled out to have the hull cleaned and anti-fouled. They came off the slip on 10th November and set sail for Langkawi where they moored in Kuah on the 16th. There, Tunku Abdul Rahman, a son of the Sultan of Kedah and a Thai Princess was in charge of the district. He and his wife, an Englishwoman made their stay very pleasant and entertained the crew at their home several times. The Tunku who later became the first Prime Minister of Malaysia gave the eldest son Harold, a Malay Kris.
The next stop was in Colombo where, due to nerve-strain Clive Russell left the vessel. His father flew from Australia to take him home. On the next leg of the journey to Aden with the wind almost dead aft, in a confused and nasty sea, the crew were having difficulty steering as Dick Nossiter recalls with a chuckle; “We told father it was impossible to steer that course but he insisted it could be done and he took control. While steering at night the boom swung over and the yacht gybed breaking the boom. After that whenever he told us that we were doing something wrong we could always remind him that he broke the boom!” Dick was the Navigator and with his sextant and almanac he guided the vessel accurately throughout, making good landfalls. They passed through the Suez Canal and across the Mediterranean stopping at Crete and Cephalonia then passing through the Corinth Canal.
The rest of the trek across the Med was very hard with head winds and storms all the way. Off Italy, in a hailstorm, the cockpit and gunwales were full of ice. At Malta as they could not get her slipped, the midshipmen from HMS Australia offered to clean the bottom of the yacht by diving. They left the Island with an addition to the crew, a young cat which they named Oliver Twist as the animal was always meowing for more food. The journey to Gibraltar in April 1936 was hard with gale force winds on the nose and the cat had to be kept below. He became more and more annoying until one day he disappeared and was never found. Harold Nossiter later confessed that he perpetrated the dark deed, as he felt that “in the ocean his troubles would soon be over-including our own as far as he was concerned- especially with the sea running at the time”.
They entered the Atlantic on 12th May and sailed past Cape Finisterre and across the Bay of Biscay to anchor in Plymouth on 2nd June. In the log book, Harold wrote “How apt are the words:- ‘For England home and beauty.’ ” The Sirius had come through the rough and tumble of the voyage very well indeed and as they subsequently found, showed no signs whatever of strain. They were not affected by sea-sickness during the voyage, never missed a meal and could always stay below in the worst weather without feeling any discomfort.
While in Plymouth they had the yacht slipped at Cremyll where she was repainted and anti fouled. A new boom was made to replace the broken one and the deck erections were scraped and varnished. Sirius was out of the water for eleven days so the crew took the opportunity to see some of the countryside of Devon and Cornwall. The Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, and Lady Drax invited them to lunch one day and later the Admiral visited the yacht. A few days later they sailed to Dartmouth where Rear Admiral Holt gave them a mooring off the Royal Naval College. While there, Harold Nossiter visited London for the first time. He was impressed with everything including the Tube but after this visit he avoided the suburban trains whenever possible, finding them poor compared to those in Australia.
The next port of call was Torquay, then Southampton. Harold Nossiter was very impressed with the magnificent yachts that he saw in the Solent and while they were moored at Southampton, which is not far from London, he took every opportunity to visit the Capital and even visited France. He fell in love with the English countryside and was most impressed with Stonehenge and Hastings where he paused on the spot where King Harold fell.
They left Southampton for Cowes on 9th July and moored near a black, dismantled yacht moored to a buoy. Nossiter thought she might be the “Britannia” so he rowed past her in the dinghy and found that she really was the late King’s yacht. She still carried about her the remains of her former grandeur though dismasted and dismantled. He wrote in the log. ” I happened to look out at eleven p.m. to see if the sky was clearing and saw two destroyers standing by, quite close to us. A launch then came alongside the “Britannia” and silently towed her to the stern of one of the destroyers, where she was made fast to the warship. The day had been windy and cold, with rain and a threatening sky but as the time drew near for the end of the famous yacht, the sky cleared, leaving black clouds only on the horizon, as though in mourning for the fine old boat. The destroyer stood out in majestic outline in the night, with the black hull of “Britannia” lying some lengths astern. At eleven fifteen p.m. the warship moved slowly ahead and like a departing spirit, the poor, dismasted yacht followed in her wake. So she, who had so well played her triumphant part, moved silently away to her last resting place. As the destroyer turned and moved faster ahead with her tow the clouds gradually passed away, leaving a bright, star-lit sky for the old yacht’s end, which came a little later when she was sunk by a bomb, six miles out at sea.”
The next day, Sir Philip Hunloke, the late King’s Sailing Master, came aboard and handed Nossiter an invitation from the Committee of the Royal Yacht Squadron to use the Club House during their stay at Cowes, which they greatly appreciated. They stayed in England for three months which gave Nossiter the chance to document the voyage from Sydney to Southampton in his first book, “Northward Ho” which was published in London by H.F.& G.Witherby Ltd. in 1936 and in Boston by Charles E. Lauriat & Co. the following year. Meanwhile they sailed in Mr. Isaacs Bell’s yacht “Bloodhound” with her designer, Mr. Nicholson, joining in a race against four of the J Class yachts (also designed by Nicholson) and came second. Nossiter’s two sons Harold and Dick sailed as crew in the “Bloodhound” in several more races, winning the Channel race, the Queen’s Cup and other races at Torquay and Gosport.
They departed Cowes on 17th September 1936 to return to Australia via Madeira and Trinidad. It was on this leg of the journey that the Sirius was repeating an earlier attempt to sail in a yacht from England to Australia by the “Mignonette”. The skipper Thomas Dudley related the story to Harold senior. A well-known Sydney yachtsman, J.H.Want, bought “Mignonette” in England. She was only fifty-two feet long by about twelve feet six inches beam, about the size of Sirius and left Southampton on the 19th May 1884 for Sydney via the Cape of Good Hope. A very venturesome undertaking in those days. Dudley was accompanied by two men and a boy as crew. The men’s names were Stephens and Brooks; the boy’s name was Richard Parker who was seventeen years old and looked upon the trip as a great adventure.
The “Mignonette” put in at Madeira, as the Sirius did, then sailed south. After crossing the Line she encountered bad weather and on 2nd July in a storm she was struck by a heavy sea. The yacht had been lengthened and at the point where the timbers were joined she broke apart and water poured into the unfortunate vessel. Dudley could see at a glance that the yacht was doomed and shouted to his terrified crew to launch the dinghy, a boat fourteen feet long. Imagine the confusion on this small storm-tossed craft. It speaks well for the men that they were able to launch the boat in the sea that must have been running at the time. They then endeavoured to provision the dinghy but time was short and with only two small tins of preserved food and no water the unfortunate seafarers were adrift on the ocean.
Dudley was the last to leave the doomed vessel but wisely took with him the sextant and a binnacle. The dinghy leaked through a hole which had been knocked in its side when she was launched and they had to bail the boat constantly. The skipper was very resourceful and used every loose piece of timber aboard the dinghy for a sea anchor and they rode the seas thus. When the weather cleared they used their clothes for sails, keeping a sharp lookout for passing vessels but none were sighted. During this time they had only the two small tins of vegetables for food and a turtle caught and eaten raw. The only water they had to drink was what they collected when it occasionally rained. After sixteen days at sea in the open boat they were in a pitiful state of starvation, so bad indeed, that it occurred to Dudley, after being without food for seven days and with no water, that their only chance was to draw lots as to who should sacrifice himself for food for the others and he made that suggestion but Brookes would not agree. The lad, Parker, was very ill and helpless at the time and according to Dudley would have died in any case. The captain finally proposed to put an end to the boy’s life.
The lad was slain and the starving men drank his blood and ate the flesh, which kept the three alive until they were picked up on the 28th July by a German barque when the boy’s remains were found by their rescuers, at the bottom of the boat. At this time Dudley and Stephens were in a state of collapse and had to be carried aboard the ship.
When they were landed at Falmouth, about six weeks later, they were charged with murder but Brookes was acquitted, as he was no party to the slaying of the boy. Dudley and Stephens were however committed for trial, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. They were reprieved on appeal and only sentenced to six months imprisonment. After serving his time, Dudley went to Australia and started a business as a sail and tarpaulin maker and prospered. His end came in a strange way, as he was the first man to die of the Bubonic Plague, when it first broke in Australia. He is buried at the Quarantine Station at Manly.
The Nossiters continued to Trinidad where the locals told them that the Island was outside the hurricane zone, despite the fact that one had struck there as recently as 27th June 1933. It caused extensive damage to the coconut plantations and the derricks of the oil fields, destroyed houses and sank vessels. The Trinidadians would not admit this was a hurricane as they pride themselves on being outside the hurricane belt. They soon moved the yacht to Monos Island where the vampire bat is found and they visited the Pitch Lake which they walked across watching the Negroes digging out the pitch with picks while other labourers carried the lumps weighing up to eighty pounds on their heads, to trucks which hauled it up to the refinery.
On the 1st December as they approached Panama they saw hundreds of floating trees and stumps. They had many narrow escapes from running into huge logs in the dark. Fortunately there was not a heavy sea and hard wind at the time as many of the larger logs would have stove them in. As it was they received a few glancing blows. Then through the Panama Canal where they were measured at a cost of $10 and paid their tolls of $15.75 including pilotage, making a total of $25.75. In Colon the Sirius was hauled up on Wilson’s slip at Foulkes River, for a final overhaul, before proceeding on the long run across the Pacific Ocean. Whilst being piloted back to Cristobal by Mr. Wilson, the owner of the dock, he steered too close to a point and they grounded. After several unsuccessful attempts to get off the mud, Harold signalled a passing banana boat for a tow. They were pulled clear but the antifouling along the keel was scraped off and marine growth quickly grew there.
They left Cristobal under power with a pilot and a friend and passed through the first lock. As the ropes were cast adrift, the pilot at the wheel ordered full speed ahead. The water swirling in the lock swung the yacht around and with the engine at full power they rammed into the wall. The bobstay, of 1 3/4-inch wire rope, snapped and the Sirius hung on the wall of the dock by her bowsprit, made of Australian spotted gum. The rushing waters then picked up the yacht and deposited her back in the lock, without breaking the fitting to the stem or the gamin iron. The Port Captain, Captain Rodgers kindly offered to straighten some rigging screws and replace the bobstay, so they were soon ready to sail. They entered the Pacific Ocean and reached Cocos Island on New Year’s Day 1937, anchoring in Chatham Bay.
Five days later they hoisted sail and made for Santa Cruz (Indefatigable Island), one of the Galapagos Islands, some four hundred miles distant. The whole way the wind and current were against them so they had a long beat to windward. Nossiter chronicled the return to Sydney in his second book “Southward Ho” which contains many stories and legends of the sea. Here is one example. “I remember a few years ago a story told to me by the brother of a man who was going home late one night from Sydney to Pyrmont and who saw the captain of one of his father’s schooners called the “Meg Merriles” get into a rowing boat and row across to Pyrmont. He was rowing across himself and called out to the captain but receiving no reply, followed him in his skiff. He saw the captain land and although he ran after him along the road, he could not catch him and finally he saw him disappear into his cottage.
Next morning at breakfast he mentioned the incident to his father, who was surprised, as he believed that the vessel was up the north coast. He went down to the captain’s residence later but his wife said he had not returned and the son was chafed by the family, who said he must have been drinking. The following day the “Meg Merriles” came into port with the flag at half mast. The mate reported the skipper was lost overboard, off Port Stephens, on the same night and at the same time as the captain was seen by my friend’s brother going into his home.”
In the Galapagos Islands an ex-German named Kubler took care of them and showed them around. He took Harold and Dick hunting wild pig and showed them how to catch lobster by simply feeling for them under the rocks and pulling them out one by one. He also took them to catch a giant tortoise, called a Galapagos by the Islanders. Kubler killed one weighing about five hundred-weight ( 254 Kg.), which he said was upwards of five hundred years old. The Indians at that time were killing them in large numbers and Harold wrote in the log that these creatures would soon be extinct. They dined on the liver of the one they killed for several days.
There was one more stop before leaving the Galapagos Islands, at Islabela (Albemarle Island) where they caught several turtles for fresh meat and fat which was boiled to make oil for cooking. Then came the longest leg of the journey, three thousand miles to the Marquesas Islands. All the way from the coast of America to Australia they never saw another vessel under way. The log was over reading compared to Dick’s noon day observations so Harold hauled it in and found that two of the blades were bent. There were bite marks on the blades and as this was the third time the log had been attacked by fish, he decided to dispense with the log as they only had one spare. When they were fifteen hundred miles from the nearest land they saw a large number of whales. Harold then recalled a visit to Twofold Bay, on the New South Wales coast, a few years earlier. He visited the remains of Boyd Town, built by an adventurer named Boyd who came from England to Australia in a yacht called the “Wanderer” in 1842, to develop the pastoral and whaling industry.
Wanderer was the first yacht to sail to Australia. An old whaler told Harold that many whales were found in Twofold Bay in past years and many killer whales assisted in the capture of the whales. Only a few of the killers were left by this time and were known by name. When the killers sighted a whale they would drive him into the Bay and signal to the whalers of his presence by jumping out of the water. The whalers would then go out in their boats, assisted by the killers, which prevented the whale from going to sea and harpoon the poor monster. When the whale was at bay the killers would bite out the tongue and lips which must have been a delicacy, for that is all they bothered about, leaving the carcass to the whalers.
It was the porpoise that kept them company on the lonely tracts of ocean and made them feel less cut off from the rest of the world. Leaping in front of them and crossing the bow, having no fear of the hull moving through the water and missing them with only inches to spare. The flying fish was another friend. Each morning a few would be found on deck and they tasted good when fried in turtle oil. The record number collected was one morning when approaching the Celebes. The crew gathered about seventy. Exhausted birds often came aboard and rested on the yacht. They were usually quite tame and let the crew pick them up. One poor bird stayed with them for quite a time and Harold was sorry to find it dead on the floor of the saloon one morning, where it had fallen from its perch during the night. After nineteen days at sea they reached Fatu Hiva (Magdaline Island), the most southerly island of the Marquesas Archipelago.
One luxury item the Nossiters carried aboard was a wind up gramophone and some 78 rpm records. They would often play some music for the natives, the first western music they had ever heard. Here in Fatu Hive one of the younger men started to do the “Hula Hula” when they gave him a little music. In return they were given breadfruit and paw paws, then one after another, visitors came with presents of oranges, tomatoes, watercress, pineapples and every fruit and vegetable they grew. Harold gave them tobacco and cigarettes but they really did not want anything in return. They also had a camera and Harold would develop the film on board straight away, getting the negatives printed when they reached port.
Here in Fatu Hiva the natives were a happy, smiling race but after a day there, Harold noticed that many were diseased, especially the men, with nasty sores, elephantiasis and leprosy. The crew had shaken hands with all on the beach, the night before and never knew how many were afflicted. Later they were told by a Government official at Atouna that this island was closed and they should not have gone there. After this “Garden of Eden” they had a pleasant sail, close-hauled, to Hiva Oa (Dominica Island), then to Tahu Ata (Saint Christina Island) for a few days before returning to Hiva Oa. When they weighed anchor there on 21st February they carried the mail for the island of Nuku Hiva (Marchand Island) where they arrived after an uneventful voyage.
The route across the Pacific took them to the Atoll of Takaroa in the Tuamotu Archipelago where they picked up the next load of mail and headed to Tahiti, then Bora Bora in the Society Islands. Then to Raratonga, Cook Islands and Nuku’alofa, Tongan Islands. By this time Nossiter was becoming fed up with the way his crew would, in his words “chase around after those filthy black girls” whenever they went ashore. Some times the crew failed to return to the yacht on time for their planned departure and Dick’s sons now say, “I’m sure we have half-brothers or sisters and cousins all over the South Pacific”.
The last part of the journey was the toughest. They sailed down the East Coast of Australia, they encountered a severe storm with force twelve winds from the south. They had to lay hove to with enormous waves breaking ahead and aft of them but none came crashing onto the decks. After three days the current had actually taken them 10 miles further south, towards Sydney. They dropped anchor in Watson’s bay at 7 p.m. on 20th May 1937 and Sirius earned her place in maritime history as the first Australian Yacht to circumnavigate the globe.
From then until the outbreak of war, Sirius was a well-known racing yacht. Unfortunately the fore mast which was made of Norwegian Spruce had dry rot and Harold’s son Ben had to chop it down. Ben was the youngest of the four Nossiter sons and he became a pilot in the RAAF. He went to England in 1941 and flew Spitfires on 503 Squadron based in South East England. During the war Sirius was impressed into service with the Australian Army Small Ships Division and used as a training vessel. Her service registration number was AK574 and the captain was Charles Gould. They would take a batch of trainees who, when embarked, would spend the first day becoming familiar with her, then put to sea for fourteen days. At first her home base was Clifton Gardens in Sydney Harbour and later at Torbal Point, Bribie Island. Charles remembers that she was “..a marvellous sea boat and one trip heading North in our biggest South-easterly gale covered 182 miles in 24 hours. She was never pooped whilst I was in her and she was such a dry vessel.”
After the war Sirius was returned to Harold Nossiter who sold her to Jim Booth and she returned to the racing circuit with the sail number cYc 53. She entered two Sydney to Hobart races, the first time in 1946/47 (when Jim was 33). Only 11 yachts finished the race, Sirius was blown off course and was one of 8 boats to retire and didn’t get into Hobart until after New Year. The weather was reported as: Light north-east winds for the first two days, then a 65 mph sou’westerly hit the fleet in Bass Straight with seas up to 25 ft. In 1947/48 she finished 15th from 28 starters. Twenty one yachts finished, there were five retirements and two disqualifications. The weather was reported as: Fleet subjected to hard 40-50 mph northerly across Bass Straight. Some yachts trailed sea anchors or hove to, others logged 9-10 knots, Sirius was said to have gone across the strait “under bare poles”.
Sirius elapsed time: 6-02-51-07 , Corrected time: 4-20-00-47
Sirius’ racing crew in the Sydney Hobart race were family, friends and people who worked with Jim. None of the crew are still alive. They included:
Jim Booth (owner and skipper) Albert Booth (Jim’s brother) Jim Simmons (Jim’s brother-in-law) E.V.(Ernie) Campbell (Jim’s business partner) V.A.D (Bunky) Auland, Colin Campbell (Ernie’s son), Geoff Gyngell, Bill Parcell, Harry West, Tim Watt, Cyril Rostrum, Dick Pederson, Bill Ryan, Stewart (Porge) Johnston, Ken Dixon and Cecil O’Dea (who took the caul that was over his face at birth in a bottle in the Hobart race as the caul is supposed to bring good luck and be an infallible preventative against drowning!)
The photograph (No. 28) of the crew at Constitution Dock in Hobart was taken when they were “ready for lunch”. Minimum dress code for meals at the table was singlets and shorts, so those without shirts had put on their singlets ready for lunch. As beer was still rationed in Sydney at that time but not in Tasmania they were in no hurry to return home.
For fishing trips, family holidays and ocean racing Sirius was loaded at Alexandra Street Wharf in Alexandra Bay, Hunters Hill, where she was the only boat moored in the bay. This is only a few miles upstream in the Lane Cove River from where Nossiters kept her in Woodford Bay at Northwood. The photograph of Sirius being rigged on the mooring shows Jim’s parents’ house at 4 Vernon Street, Hunters Hill where he grew up. In the background directly behind the main mast is the boatshed, somewhat obscured behind the boom. The slips alongside the shed were built for Sirius and are still in working order, but not these days for anything as big as Sirius. The boatshed is in Mornington Reserve and has public access so you can see it if you are in Sydney.
The photographs of numerous “boys fishing trips” to Broughton Island off Port Stephens tell of huge catches of beautiful big snapper, lots of beer, no women, so no “rules” and no shaving! Ken Dixon’s son remembers his father pushing a wheelbarrow full of snapper along the street near his Sydney home yelling “Free fish! Get your free fish!” There were also fishing trips to Ulladulla on the New South Wales south coast.
On one February 1949 trip they were moored in Esmerelda Cove at Broughton Island and the crew were playing cards. A big storm blew up and the yacht dragged its anchor. Two of the crew, Bunky Auland and Ash Gay went forward and threw a heavy admiralty pattern anchor over when they were six feet from the rocks and close to foundering. Comment was made that although Sirius was insured, it was not covered north of Port Stephens. Ernie Campbell said that he wasn’t in danger because he could have jumped onto the rocks.
Wonderful times were had when Sirius was moored for the summer holidays at Clareville Beach, a beautiful place on Sydney’s Pittwater when the family lived on board with friends and with Merv and Dot Davey’s “ Trade Winds”, the 1949 Sydney-Hobart race winner, moored nearby. In the early years they were the only yachts moored in the bay. Jim’s kids had great adventures learning to row, sail and fish, and watching dolphins right next to them in the bay and seeing torpedos being tested on the Pittwater range. Lyndall Precians, Jim’s daughter, remembers being fascinated by flying fish landing on the deck. Her sister Judy, who was 14 when the boat was sold and was regarded as a “tomboy”, could spin the red flywheel herself and start the green Lister diesel engine. The engine room was painted beige although it was all varnished in Nossiters days. There was a porcelain hip bath which was much admired, built into a panelled cupboard aft of the main saloon.
In 1950 Sirius entered the second Brisbane to Gladstone race and again in 1951 when she finished 4th out of 14 starters.
In 1952 Ernie Palmer from the Solomon Islands bought Sirius in Sydney, on behalf of Levers Pacific Plantations Limited. Steven Nossiter remembers, as a ten year old, seeing her moored in Manly Cove when sailing with his father Dick, who recognised her immediately. They moored nearby and went across to meet the owner who had a son, Ambrose, about the same age as Steven. The two lads were allowed to spend the night aboard and Steven remembers the spacious interior was large enough for them to leap from bunk to bunk across the cabin, while their fathers were ashore.
In 1955, Palmer sailed her from Sydney, directly to Honiara (for customs and immigration clearance) and then to Ilua in the Russell Islands group, which was the headquarters for Levers Pacific Plantations Limited, at that time. He then chartered her from Levers and set about recruiting labourers to work in Lever’s sugar cane fields. They would collect the men from many different islands and return them home after their year was up. At one time Sirius carried at least sixty passengers, mainly in the stripped out hold. Palmer and the then General Manager had agreed that he would pay more than normal charter fees as a way of buying the ship outright, unfortunately, this agreement was never registered with head office and when the GM died suddenly of a heart attack, Levers head office in Sydney did not recognise Palmer’s claim to the ship. By this time Palmer had almost paid for the vessel but had to hand her back to Levers.
During the time Palmer had her, she remained fully rigged and active as a sailing vessel, all he did was strip out all of the internal panels and fittings to turn her into a working ship. Alick Wickham, a friend who lived on neighbouring Rendova Island, used to sail the Sirius with the owner. Alick, a famous swimmer and high diver, would please everyone by climbing the mast to the cross trees and diving into the sea, swimming under the keel and popping up on the other side of the yacht.
When Levers took her back they based her at Yandina Island. They had no one to handle her as a sailing ship so they unbolted the 7 ton lead keel and let it drop on the sand in one piece so that they could carry that much extra freight. They added a wooden keel and removed her masts and interior fittings. The engine was changed to a Gardener In the ten years that lever Brothers had her she had two captains. The first was a man from Savo Island called Kote and then John Tehelua from Sikiana. There was a full time crew of six including Ivor Koti who had served Palmer for many years as an engineer and later as bosun before he followed the Sirius to levers. At this time Levers had plantations spread across many islands and the Sirius’s job was to take provisions for the workers, plying between Yandina, the Three Sisters Islands and Guadalcanal. John remembers one specific trip when he took her to Malaita Island on a recruitment drive but her main purpose in life was as a supply vessel. Unfortunately they did not maintain the anti fouling paint on the hull and not being copper sheathed, she sank at her moorings.
In 1963 an airline pilot called Laurie Crowley delivered a de Havilland Dove aircraft from Woomera in South Australia to Honiara for his new airline, Megapode airways, the first airline in the Solomon’s, which is now Solomon Airlines. Laurie was an old friend of Ernie Palmer and he knew the Pacific Islands manager of Lever Brothers. From them he learnt about Sirius. She was in a pretty bad state and Laurie thought it would be a good boat to resurrect and take back to his home base in Lae, New Guinea. He paid Lever Brothers £750 for the “old girl” and had her towed from Yandina Island to Honiara to carry out some repairs and to make her seaworthy for the trip to New Guinea. There was no way of lifting the 7 ton lead keel off the sand at Yandina so it was decided to cut it into smaller pieces and put it into the bilge as ballast. They first tried to cut the lead with an oxy torch but that didn’t work. A German yachtsman called Eddy Haering turned up with a chainsaw and cut the lead into easy to handle pieces in a few minutes. The lead was removed again after making it to Lae to make room for cargo once again. It was stored next to a shed to be refitted later but someone stole it and sold it for scrap.
Eddy Haering and Harry Moss, Laurie’s chief pilot, made the repairs to Sirius in Honiara. They fitted a new engine, a 6 cylinder Lister MGR616. Then they repaired the deck with a teak-like timber. The nails were out of sight as the timber was notched before nailing and then the next piece, which was also notched, went over the lower piece.
When she was ready, Laurie Crowley with his son Shane and Harry Moss motored Sirius from Honiara to Lae, New Guinea. Both Laurie and Harry, being aircraft pilots, knew how to navigate. Laurie hung a whistle around his neck and told his crew to do the same but Harry didn’t think he needed one. After a couple of days Laurie noticed Harry was wearing his whistle. When he asked why, Harry told him that he dreamt, during the night, that he was hopping off a tram in Melbourne and he woke up to find he was trying to climb over the guardrail around the Sirius. On the trip a huge wave deposited an enormous tree trunk across the deck which was too heavy to remove so the crew had to work for two days with an old saw to cut the trunk in half.
Laurie had another airline in Lea, New Guinea called Crowley Airways, which had a fleet of helicopters doing mostly survey work for mining companies and government bodies. So, when the Sirius arrived in Lae, Laurie had a platform built on which to land a helicopters. The first job was to do a survey from Lae to Samarai and the offshore islands so the ship’s cargo was Avgas (aviation fuel).
The work was measuring the earth’s gravity in different spots for the Department of Mineral Resources in Canberra, Australia. The crew consisted of Harry Moss, the captain and his engineer, a native named Kandelope. He was New Guinea’s first aircraft engineer, taught by Laurie. Kandelope not only kept the Sirius going but also the helicopters whose spares, tools and fuel were kept aboard the Sirius.
The very large and beautiful Lister diesel engine driving the boat never let them down. With it, Sirius would cruise at 8 knots at 650 rpm. The maximum revs were about 900 rpm. she would go faster but 8 knots was the best speed for fuel economy. Even though the engine had been under water several times over the 20 years that Laurie owned her (Sirius sank about 4 times from cyclones and tsunamis) each time she was re-floated the engine would start at the first attempt. There was many a beer won over that very fact.
After Harry retired, Laurie’s eldest son Denis became the skipper of Sirius. One memorable trip he was while ferrying the Sirius home to Lae from New Britain after some helicopter work he was overdue by a couple of days. The rest of the Crowleys went searching for him in a piper Aztec and found him about 10 miles North of Finschhafen, slowly making his way into port there. They landed and went down to see him.
Apparently he had been battling storms across the Vitiaz Strait and only making about 2 knots. Everything was soaking wet below deck and the engine was snow white with salt. He lost the speedboat, which he was towing, and it was never seen again. It probably ended up somewhere in the Philippines. Denis had his native friend Atrula Samana with him as crew.
Denis had another incident in the late sixties. He was delivering Avgas to Cape Killerton in New Guinea down the coast from Lae. He had left Greg Pike, a school friend, on deck to do the early morning shift, while he and Eddy Haering were asleep below deck. For some reason Eddy woke up and decided to go up on deck. He found no one on the helm and as he peered into the distance he saw someone in the water waving to him. It was Greg Pike, who had fallen overboard while everyone was asleep.
Early one morning in the early 70’s while moored at Lae, a tsunami struck and Sirius was beached high and dry. Laurie was a bit concerned as to how he was going to put her back in the ocean, as there wasn’t any heavy lifting equipment in Lae capable of raising a thirty-ton vessel. That afternoon, miraculously, another tsunami turned up and re-floated her but not before the newspaper reporter and cameraman recorded the event. After the Sirius was washed back out to sea she was half full of water. Laurie organised Jim Hoyle from Lae to tow her across the Huon Gulf about 20 miles from Lae to a place called Salamaua. Laurie managed to get back to her six weeks later to tidy things up. He hired Jim Hoyle’s boat again and put a couple of batteries on board and headed for Salamaua. Laurie’ son, Randal was on school holidays at the time and went with them. Jim wanted to know why Laurie had brought batteries. Laurie said he was going to run the engine after pumping the water out and thought that the batteries on board would probably be no use, after being submerged for six weeks. Jim laughed and so Laurie bet him a carton of beer that the old Lister would go. When they arrived at Salamaua, Laurie and Randal set about pumping out the water and setting up the batteries. Jim was watching with amusement, thinking that was the easiest carton of beer he would ever win. Laurie set all the cylinder decompression levers, started spinning the engine over and one by one pulled each cylinder decompression lever into the start position and the old Lister fired into life purring like a kitten. Upon their return to Lae, Jim promptly went into the Lae Yacht Club and returned with a carton of South Pacific lager, or as the locals called them SP Brownies.
By 1972 Laurie had sold his airline Crowley Airways to Helicopter Utilities owned by Bryce Killen in Australia. Laurie was starting to move back to Australia and used the Sirius as a way of getting all his belongings, collected over 24 years in New Guinea, back home. The cargo would also act as ballast. Amongst that cargo was a 4wd Suzuki jeep which would be used as a map table while under way and hoisted out at ports of call, for transport.
They left Lae in 1974 with Laurie Crowley as Skipper, Lloyd Neale, Tommy Ott, and Laurie’s three sons, Shane, Randal and Kieren. Lloyd and Tom were a couple of handymen who whacked up six bunks and made the Sirius a bit more liveable for the journey. Laurie wouldn’t let them do too many improvements, as he wanted her looking a bit rough, when she was valued by the Customs in Cairns, in order to avoid paying too much import duty.
Tommy Ott had built his own speedboat in Rabaul, New Britain and together with Lloyd Neale they motored it down to Lae from where it was towed behind the Sirius to Australia. They used it on the journey to do a bit of fishing and looking about. Tommy also had to have his speed boat valued in Cairns and it was valued at much more than the Sirius. The towrope for the speedboat was designed to set off an alarm if it broke away as they knew that Denis had lost a speedboat on a previous occasion.
They travelled down the coast from Lae to Samarai and then across the Coral Sea to Cairns. They spent a couple of weeks in Cairns waiting for the weather to improve before heading further south to Brisbane. While in Cairns they tied up to the Marlin Jetty and went down to the nearest pub for a beer, still swaying with the waves while standing at the bar. There were some famous people pulling up beside them as there was a marlin fishing tournament in progress. They included Lee Marvin, Jack Nicklaus and Bob and Dolly Dyer. Each evening they would bring in their big marlins for weighing on the Marlin Jetty. Whenever Sirius pulled into port there was always someone who had known her and could tell the crew a story about her.
One day a beautiful yacht pulled in beside them and the crew helped to tie him up. The owner was Admiral Robinson, skipper of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. He had just bought his yacht, in Thailand, and was going to do some charter work because he had to leave the Navy due to the collision with the destroyer HMAS Voyager. He was later found to be innocent of any wrong doing in that accident. Laurie asked him what it was like having a waterproof boat and Robinson quickly replied, “Be buggered! It gets wet in this beautiful yacht too.” While in Cairns Laurie fitted Sirius with radar and an autopilot.
On the trip from Cairns to go to Brisbane the Sirius was nearly blown up, twice! Tommy Ott was cooking some peas in a pressure cooker and when the time was up he pushed the relief valve on top of the cooker. Thinking he had got rid of the pressure, he proceeded to remove the lid. The cooker let go with an explosion and the inside of the cabin was decorated green. Apparently a wasp had blocked the valve and so the pot was still under extreme pressure. A little later in the trip they were all relaxing on deck when an almighty noise came from the engine room. It turned out that a diving bottle, stored behind the engine, had blown a heat disc, which released 3,000 psi of air and frightened the life out of the entire crew.
When they arrived in Brisbane, they moored in Manly harbour. Randal Crowley remembers “We had just dropped anchor when we heard a lady screaming for help on a yacht about 100 yards away. There was smoke coming from her boat so we grabbed a fire extinguisher, leapt into the speed boat and went to her rescue. We were the only people around so it was her lucky day. She didn’t have a fire extinguisher on board!”
They found that they couldn’t unload properly at Manly harbour, so they went back up the coast to Mooloolaba where it was more convenient to unload and put the Sirius up on a slip for cleaning and servicing. Lloyd overhauled the engine while they were there. In 1975 they departed Mooloolaba and headed back to New Guinea to pick up some more of their belongings. On board were Laurie as captain, his wife Elizabeth, sons Randal and Kieren and Lloyd. This trip was going to be more pleasant due to the improvements that had been made in Cairns, on the way down.
They struck some very rough weather for a few days and couldn’t do any cooking so decided to pull in for some shelter at an uninhabited island called High Peak. When they anchored there was plenty of depth so the decision was made to stay overnight not realising that there was going to be an extremely low tide. A few hours later that evening the keel started to hit the reef. Laurie immediately tried to get back out to sea but it was even shallower behind them.
Surrounded by shallow reef and with the wind picking up Sirius was drifting towards some rocky cliffs about 500 meters away. Laurie dropped the anchor again but it wasn’t strong enough to hold her. Launching the new dinghy with an outboard motor they laid out four more anchors and warps which finally held her. The storm was now bouncing Sirius up and down while she lay on her starboard side. Elizabeth, who couldn’t swim was down below watching the side of the Sirius bend in and out each time a wave pounded them. Randal made her put on a life jacket just as an extra large wave dumped them so hard on the reef that it broke some timbers and water started pouring in the side.
They had a Yanmar 2″ diesel pump on board which was started, to keep the Sirius from flooding. The rudder post was pushed up through the deck as she bounced on the bottom. By day break the tide came back in and Laurie was able to back out into deeper water. Then they set off for McKay where they thought there might be a slip where they could make some repairs. The Yanmar pump was running 24 hours a day for a whole week, struggling to keep her afloat. If it stopped, this history would finish here.
When they finally arrived in McKay they found there was no slip big enough to take the Sirius, so they had to sail a further 360 nautical miles to Cairns where they knew there was a dry dock, the Yanmar running all the time. At Cairns, Laurie and Lloyd spent a few weeks repairing the hull and the rudder. They decided to postpone the trip to Lae as time had run out and work was awaiting down south, in New South Wales. Laurie moored the Sirius at Cairns to await his return some time in the future while Lloyd flew back to New Guinea where he was working as a ships engineer.
Laurie didn’t manage to get back to Cairns until 1978 by which time a cyclone had hit and the Sirius was half full of water. He picked up an old air force friend called Jack Dew from Tully, Queensland, to help him pump her out. They made her ship shape and tried once more to head for Lae, New Guinea with just the two of them on board. About half way across the Coral Sea, the weather became intolerable as they were hit by another cyclone. They decided to abandon the trip and return to Cairns, planning to try again when the weather improved.
Laurie organised a caretaker to look after the Sirius while he went back to attend his farm in New South Wales. The caretaker was a man called Harbrow who had a hire boat service in Cairns. A year later Randal and Kieren, Laurie’s sons and a few friends were on a fishing holiday along the east coast of Australia which took them as far as Cairns. They used the Sirius as a base for about a week. They had a couple of speed boats which they would use to go fishing during the day and then return at night to sleep on board the Sirius.
It was quite dry and liveable at the time. When they returned home they took the radar and auto pilot back with them for servicing. This is about the time the rumours started about the Sirius being occupied by squatters.
Laurie had been sending cheques to the caretaker, Harbrow quite regularly when in late 1983 he received an urgent message from Harry Randall the Cairns wharfinger saying “Sirius is on the bottom please remove ASAP”. Laurie tried to contact Harbrow but couldn’t find him anywhere. A cyclone had dropped 30 inches of rain on the Sirius in a short time and seeped through the deck weighing her down in the water until the topsides, which had shrunk over the years let more water in until she sank. She could have been saved if she had been pumped out earlier.
Laurie headed back to Cairns to rescue the Sirius once again. He found some old wartime, rubber fuel tanks which were used in ferrying aircraft long distances. He inserted them in the hull and filled them with air, which lifted the Sirius until the deck was level with the water and then started pumping out to raise her further. He then towed her up to Smiths Creek, Trinity Inlet, to some land owned by Mr. Halsted, where they used Dick Fry’s crane to lift her onto dry land to carry out repairs. Laurie worked out there was nine ton of mud inside the hull.
Laurie asked his friend, Bruce Evans if he knew anyone who could restore her. Bruce took a friend, Bill Cotter to see the boat. Bill was a furniture maker who had previously fitted out several yachts. He loved the lines of the yacht and estimated the cost of repairs at $100,000 which was more than Laurie was prepared to spend on her. Bruce then suggested that Bill buy her himself. He offered Laurie $5000 and so, after 20 years of fond memories, the deal was done and reluctantly, Laurie let her go.
When Sirius was raised it was found that her hull was in remarkably good condition thanks to the superior timber and quality of construction demanded by Harold Nossiter. Although the hull was fine the interior, deck and everything above had to be completely rebuilt. The renovation made 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 laminated Silky Oak that have slightly more camber. This gives more height in the cabin and the deck a better fall. The deck itself was White Beech, from an old contact in the Table Lands which was taken to a sawmill to be cut into planks. The wooden keel was removed and replaced with steel keel, filled with lead, bought from an old fellow who went around collecting little pieces of the metal and melting it down in his frying pan. Bill also fitted a newer engine. Again a Lister was chosen, this time a 1975, 6 cylinder, 170 horsepower JWS6M.
Re-launching Sirius carried a heavy price for the Cotters who sold everything and moved aboard to complete the restoration. They fitted aluminium masts with self-tailing winches and all the latest navigation equipment including radar and depth sounder. Sirius was invited to join the Bicentennial fleet sailing into Sydney Harbour in 1988 but the cost prevented this. This came as a great disappointment to the organisers when she was unable to take her rightful place with the tall ships.
The Australian registration had lapsed and when Bill tried to re-register the vessel he found that the name Sirius had been allocated to a new yacht. So on the 1st December 1989 as a special concession she was allocated the registration of “Sirius 1935”. They sailed from Cairns to Gladstone to look for work and while there Bill was offered a job with his previous employer, VDO instruments. The job was in Penang so Bill & Magarete went to Malaysia and left Sirius behind. After a year Margarete returned to Australia and she and Bill divorced. Margarete registered Sirius in her name on 14th October 1991. The following year, with her son Michael and another couple she sailed Sirius from Gladstone to Port Douglas. It was not a pleasant trip and soon after that Margarete, with great reluctance, put Sirius up for sale.
At that time David Plant, an English yachtsman with a yacht charter business in Bali was searching for a larger boat. He flew to Sydney in October 1992 where he learnt of the Sirius from reading about her in the foyer of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. A passing club member mentioned that he had read somewhere that Sirius was for sale, “somewhere up the coast”. David felt his flesh rise in goose pimples and knew this was the yacht for him so he bought an old car, which he drove up the East coast of Australia, looking, for her. He found her in Port Douglas, where the purchase was quickly finalised and he sailed his prize back to Bali. With a young Indonesian lady named Sri, David was sailing through the Indonesian archipelago on his way to Bali, when he made the decision to continue sailing through the night instead of mooring up, in a bay for some sleep. They were sailing under a light breeze, in the pitch dark, with no moon, when they felt the yacht rise under them and swing right round through a full circle, a most unnerving experience. The next day they arrived at a port that had a jetty sticking out into the bay. David noticed a lorry that was hanging off the end of the jetty, suspended by its front axle and Sri noticed that the bay was full of debris. There were logs, whole trees and many bodies floating everywhere. Looking around they realised that the entire bay was wrecked to a height of 100 feet above sea level and that would have been their fate if they had stopped in a bay instead of carrying on. Their weird experience during the night must have been the passage of another tidal wave.
In Bali, David and Sri continued charter cruises with Sirius before sailing to Sumatra where they carried out charters off the Mentawi Islands. The passengers were surfers and there is no way of enjoying these waves unless you live aboard a yacht. One morning in August 1996 they hit a reef and stuck fast. The inside of the boat quickly filled with water and for a while it looked as though the ship was lost. All their possessions were being washed out through the hatches and Sri was swimming around inside the boat rescuing their personal effects. Then the wind picked up and blew them further on to the reef. David struggled for 3 days and 3 nights and at the beginning of the fourth night managed to haul her off using the anchor winch and self-tailing winches on the masts….into deep water and eventually into a dry dock. With sheets of tin, cork and bitumen he patched the badly bruised hull and departed for Thailand where he could get her repaired. The reef is now called Sirius reef.
Nearing the Northern end of Sumatra they encountered a violent storm and due to some contaminated Indonesian diesel, the engine wouldn’t run. Sirius had a very narrow escape sailing between two islands in the dark in a storm while being blown towards a lee shore. She was leaking badly and as the batteries had gone flat they had to pump the bilge by hand. For four days they took turns to pump non-stop and had no sleep between them. On arriving in Phuket they dropped anchor in Ao Chalong and David went ashore to organise a haul out. Once the vessel was anchored, the leak was slightly less so Sri took a break from pumping and tried to start the genset. Fortunately the batteries had recovered some charge and the water in the fuel had settled so she was successful and the electric bilge pump started to work. The water which had been up to the top step of the companionway, now started to drop.
In Ratanachai shipyard David found good facilities for wooden boat repairs. He hired a very skilled shipwright who was flown down from Bangkok called Perm who repaired the hull with Mai Dekian a Thai mahogany similar to Jarrah. The steel floors were removed and replaced with wood and the steel keel box section bolted through the floors. The interior was repaired. After a $100,000 re-fit she was re-launched on Christmas Eve 1996.
After two more seasons in the Mentawi Islands David built a new boat better suited to the surf charters, then back in Thailand in December ‘98 Sirius entered the Classic class in the Kings Cup Regatta, in Phuket.
In January 2000 Simon Morris was a customer on David’s new boat, Saranya, about to embark on a diving trip for a few days in Southern Thailand. He noticed a fine gentleman’s ocean-going schooner moored nearby and remarked how attractive she looked. David said she was his yacht, Sirius, and he offered to show Simon over her when they returned from the trip. Two months later Simon chartered the yacht for a diving trip with his son James and expressed an interest to buy the vessel. He put his own boat, a 1923 Dutch Barge, up for sale and bought the Sirius in November 2001. At that time she was moored in Langkawi where, exactly sixty six years earlier, to the day, Tunku Abdul Rahman had been on board.
She was in need of some repairs and investment, which Simon set about straight away. He replaced the stainless steel stanchions and guardrail, re-caulked the decks, serviced and repaired the engine and electrical system and the steering. With his son, James and youngest daughter, Fey-Louise he did a couple of trips around Langkawi and after a lot of work and many improvements, by February 2003 they were ready to sail her back to Phuket.
After sixty-eight years Sirius still had the strange characteristic of pointing in a different direction from all the other boats at a mooring. All the previous owners have noticed this and some have suggested that it takes forty-five minutes from anchoring after a trip, before she points the same way as the other boats. Many theories for this have been aired and other boats sometimes look aghast at Sirius, then before long, they up-anchor and depart. Often catamarans find it untenable when moored near Sirius; they start sailing around their own mooring and soon leave in disgust.
One night (the first time Simon took the boat out after he bought her) they were moored in a rather large but shallow bay that had a very tall hill just behind the beach. (Off Pulau Dayang Bunting, Langkawi, Malaysia.) After midnight the wind started howling from the shore, as if it was coming straight out of the hill. Sirius was pointing across the mouth of the bay at 90 degrees to the wind and the yacht was being blown sideways. The anchor held but the chain was pressing hard against the bobstay and she just would not turn into the wind. The wind strength increased to over 40 knots and the Sirius healed over to an angle of 25 degrees, just as if she was sailing. It was impossible to walk on deck and Simon could only just struggle up to the bow. He even thought she might have been aground but there was still plenty of water under the keel. Simon let out more anchor chain to try to cure the problem, which did nothing except terrify his daughter and her boyfriend who were in the forepeak. They thought that the anchor was dragging! The most likely explanation, put forward by his son, is that the ghost of Harold Nossiter has other ideas about when and where the Sirius should stop for the night.
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.
Harold Nossiter lives on in history as the first Australian yachtsman to circumnavigate the world. He died in 1956 aged 81. He had four sons, Harold Jnr., Dick, John and Ben. The eldest son, Harold married three times and has two sons, Ben and Tony, a tugboat captain in Sydney. Harold Jnr. died in July 2005 at the age of ninety seven. The kris, a rather lethal and rusty dagger with a wavy blade, which Tunku Abdul Rahman gave him in Langkawi, seventy years earlier, was left to the National Maritime Museum in Sydney. Before he died he also gave the museum the first aid chest from the original Sirius voyage which was packed full of all the nitrate negatives that his father had developed on board the Sirius back in the thirties. The museum has recently made excellent quality prints from these negatives, which can be seen in the library section. They have also recently been posted on Flickr. Dick went to England in the war and served with the Royal Navy. His experience as a navigator was put to good use as he guided convoys through the Baltic Sea to Murmansk in Russia. In England he met and married Nancy, and brought her back to Australia after the war. Dick, who was 100 years old in June 2010, was a Senior member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. He visited the Squadron in his 100th year, where he saw the original compass binnacle from Sirius, on display in the foyer of the clubhouse. In the same year he was awarded the Order of Australia for services to navigation, the first official recognition of his navigation of Sirius on her maiden voyage. Dick and Nancy had three sons, Steven, Hugh and Timothy, all sailors and yachtsmen. Tim lives in Tasmania where he is now retired as the Captain of a converted trawler “Penghana”. Steven and Hugh live in Belmont North, N.S.W. Steven sails his yacht on Lake Macquarie and Hugh is famous locally, as a magician known as “Super Hubert”. Brother John who sailed the Sirius with his younger brother, Ben in those halcyon days before the war moved to Perth, WA where he lived to the age of 87. Ben was never to return home from the war. He was killed in his Spitfire over the English Channel and is remembered on the Commonwealth Air Forces memorial at Runnymede. His body was never recovered from the sea. The spinner for the trailing log and one of the pulley blocks for the running backstays are now back aboard the Sirius after an absence of over sixty years. They have been polished and varnished and the original sheer plan dated 10th August 1933 has been framed.
Jim Booth, the second owner, was James Samuel Booth (1913 – 1982), he was born and lived in Sydney he married Jean who died in 1976.
Ernie Palmer, who bought Sirius for lever Brothers, the third owner, died in 1976 and is buried on Gizo Island. His friend, Alick Wickham died in New Georgia in 1967, one of the most respected men in the island. He had seen it change from a bloodbath to prosperity twice in his lifetime. He is buried on Rendova Island. Alick was the man who showed the world how to swim freestyle, then known as the Australian crawl.
Lever Brothers who owned Levers Pacific Plantations became Levers Solomons Ltd. The skipper John Tehelua retired to an island in the Russell Group and supported himself gardening.
The Crowleys, the fourth owners, Laurie, Elizabeth, Shane, Randal and Kieren, all live together with their families, on their sheep and wheat farm in Junee, NSW. Laurie wanted to do a circumnavigation in Sirius when he retired but he stayed working on his farm until he died in June 2013 at the age of 93. Their son, Denis was killed in a motorbike accident in Lae on the 5th February 1971 aged 18. His head stone has a bronze plaque with a relief of the Sirius. Denis’ friend Greg Pike became a colonel in the Australian army and his native friend, Atrula Samana, went on to become a senior minister in the New Guinea government after independence in 1975. He never forgot his trips on the Sirius. Harry Moss died in his nineties, after writing a book on his exploits called “10,000 Hours Harry Moss”. Tommy Ott, of exploding peas fame, died from cancer not long after the trip from New Guinea to Queensland and Lloyd Neale was killed in a rock climbing accident a few years after returning to New Guinea. Lloyd had worked at sea for about 30 years. The Suzuki jeep is still in use on their farm and Laurie never did find Mr.Harbrow.
Bill Cotter, whose seven-year labour of love saved the Sirius estimates that the project took 20,000 hours of work, working from 6 a.m. to midnight with only one day off each year. He is left with very painful but proud memories of those days. Sirius was Bill’s eighth boat project and he can be credited with the fact that Sirius is proudly afloat and in use today. His son Mick took some great pictures of the restored vessel under sail with dolphins swimming in formation at the bow. Margarete has vivid memories of those years. She researched the history of the yacht and maintains a keen interest. She lives in Cloncurry in Outback Queensland near her son Jamie. Bill has now completed and sold his ninth boat, “Little One” which closely resembles Sirius inside. He now has a lovely new home in Bundaberg where he lives with his second wife Norain and their two sons Adam and Harris.
Perm who is greatly appreciated for the repair work he did on the Sirius in Phuket returned home to Bangkok where he died of a brain tumour. Soon after David Plant sold the Sirius, Sri, who saved her from sinking, returned to her home in Bali and started a new chapter in her life. David sold his motor vessel Saranya and lives in Phuket with his son Harry.
Simon Morris lives in Chiang Rai, Thailand. He also has homes in Canada and Australia but still finds time to sail Sirius occasionally. The Old Girl has logged over 195,000 nautical miles (equivalent to seven times around the world) and there is no reason why she should not log many more.
Simon Morris 28th February 2014
The Vaughn Evans Library of the Australian National Maritime Museum, H.F. & G.Witherby Ltd. and Charles E.Lauriat Co. for excerpts from the books Northward Ho and Southward Ho by Harold Nossiter Snr.
The late Harold and Jean Nossiter, Harold’s sons Ben and Tony and Jean’s niece Heather Patchet. Richard “Dick” and the late Nancy Nossiter and their three sons Steven, Hugh and Tim. Steven’s son Ben (who produced the line drawing of his Great Grandfather’s yacht).
The late Charles Gould.
Graeme and Lyndall Precians, Belle Booth, Nancy Simmons, John Tankard, Tilly and Stephen Auland, John Dixon, Ash Gay, Val Watt, Annie Reynolds, Jim Murrant, Jeanette York,
Ambrose Palmer. G. Eyre from Levers Solomons Ltd.. and John Tehelua.
Laurie & Elizabeth Crowley and their son Randal.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (interviews with Harold Jnr. and Dick Nossiter and with Bill Cotter for “Blue Water Australians”).
Bill and Norain Cotter. Margarete, Mick and Jamie Cotter.
David Plant and Sri.
Also the many people whom I have met and were able to tell me some more of the history of this Classic yacht.
For Sailing Adventures
Mick Cotter +66 805343068