Enough with the sketching, drawing and talking - let's get to work!
By early 2005 we were ready to start work on the conversion project. I avoid using the word "restoration" because there was nothing to restore! In the two years I had owned the boat I learned how extraordinarily well she had been built and the magnificent structural condition she was in. There were never any unwelcome "Oh S#%t" moments during the process of uncovering the original structure. The only surprises we faced were of the "Oh Wow" variety.
I decided fairly early on that the construction work would be done in Tasmania with my good friend Graeme "Frizzle" Freeman in charge. The main reasons for this decision were firstly, that labour rates in Tasmania were (are?) significantly cheaper than mainland Australia and secondly, if I wanted Frizzle to run the project, then it would have to be in Tasmania because this is where he lived! Additionally, there was a good base of skilled maritime engineering trades available in Hobart due to an active fishing fleet and a substantial fast ferry ship construction industry.
Frizzle Freeman standing the first frame for the new wheelhouse in Triabunna, Tasmania. January 2005
On Frizzle's recommendation we decided to do the work at Triabunna (because that was 10 mins drive from his home!), the same village where the boat had been built by Bernard Wilson in 1986 - 87. Frizzle arranged for a berth alongside the town dock in Triabunna (at nil cost for the duration of the build!) and hired a local shipwright, Malcolm Fergusson, to work with him. Part of the deal with hiring Malcolm, who had worked as an apprentice shipwright on building Ada Hardy, was that he made his fully equipped workshop (located 100m from the wharf) available for the duration of the project. Grant Gaffney, a skilled carpenter and former woodworking teacher at various local colleges became the third member of the team. Grant is also a semi-professional photographer and took most of the photos in this section.
I have often remarked, when telling the "Ada Hardy story", how even though the boat has been totally transformed from her earlier life as a working fishing vessel, her "provenance"has been kept intact. For me, to have serendipitously been able to maintain the boat's ties to Triabunna, her original owner, the workers who built her and the people of Triabunna itself is a wonderful thing and it must also be most reassuring for Ada Hardy herself to have a place she can truely call home!
Mal Fergusson and Frizzle Freeman with the new wheelhouse frames stood.
Towards the end of January 2005 work on the new wheelhouse began in Malcolm's shed and in early March I brought the boat down from Sydney for work to start on-board.
I made many trips from Sydney to Triabunna over the next 16 months as work progressed. Despite having produced such extensive drawings, sketches and specifications beforehand there were still myriad details that needed to be sorted on site. I remember fondly the long and colourful debates with Frizzle, Malcolm and Grant as we worked through the best way to resolve various issues. Oftentimes, old Bernard Wilson, the original builder would wander down to the wharf or to Malcolm's shed and also stick in his two bobs worth! Even old Max Hardy, the original owner, made the long drive on a couple of occasions from his home in Stanley on the other side of Tasmania to have a "sticky beak" at progress.
The wheelhouse shell being prepared for painting. Protective undercoats were applied only, with final polyurethane finishes applied at a later stage in Hobart.
The overall plan for construction was to build the new wheelhouse in Malcolm's shed whilst at the same time start work on board. Once the new wheelhouse was complete we would lift it on board and fix it in place. When all the new external works, which included installing the watertight access door, engine room ventilation duct, access scuttle to the owners cabin and new portholes were complete we would take the boat (on her own bottom) to Hobart about 90nm away to be hauled out and painted in a controlled environment in a paint shed.
After external painting we would take the boat back to Triabunna to complete all the work except internal "furniture" (cupboards, galley, seating, tables, etc) which would be manufactured and fitted once the boat returned to Sydney. My thinking here was that whereas it was more economical to do all the shipwright work (building all the scribed, curved and permanently fixed in place things) in Tasmania there was no reason why internal joinery or furniture could not be economically manufactured off site and then installed on board. As a property developer I had worked for many years with a particularly good joinery contractor in Sydney and was keen to have him do this part of the project.
Our initial estimate was that the work in Tasmania would take about 12 months, but due to the unavailability of our plumber and electrician at critical stages it ended up taking 16 months, which I felt was a pretty good outcome nevertheless.
The photo gallery below provides a story board of the construction process (click on photos for enlarged view).
The work in Tasmania was completed in October 2006. Just before casting off and heading back to Sydney, with my ugly duckling having been transformed into a princess, I put on a party and invited all the tradesmen who had worked on the boat and their families, the owner of the hardware store, the publican and assorted other local movers and shakers to celebrate the end of the project and thank them for their support. I also invited Max Hardy (the original owner) and his wife Rhona as special guests. Having old Max there was truly special for me. He could not have been more overjoyed to see his beautiful boat receive such an extensive workover and was so happy that she clearly had a new owner who was going to love her as dearly as he had.
Towards the end of the evening Max asked me to accompany him down to the engine room to take one last look at his treasured Gardner 8L3B. We ended up chatting down there for nearly 2 hrs, just the two of us, with Max often in tears, reminiscing over how well Ada Hardy had served him over the years. He talked about the boats he had built and owned and the enduring responsibility he felt for their well being, in a way similar to the way farmers talk of themselves as custodians of their land. I got the clear impression old Max handed over custodial responsibility for Ada Hardy to me that night. It is a responsibility I have carried gladly ever since.