WA Maritime Museum
"Any boss who sacks his worker today for not coming to work is a bum" chortled Australia's jubilent Prime Minister, Robert J Hawke.
The reason for the joyous outburst was Australia's winning of the America's Cup ending the 132 year grip of the New York Yacht Club. The 12 meter yacht, Australia II, used to achieve this feat is now displayed in the West Australian Maritime Museum.
Located in Fremantle, Perth, it is easily reached by taking the train to Fremantle. Located a few hundred meters south of the Fremantle railway station, it resembles a billowing sail.
The entrance fee is $10. An optional $10 is paid if you wish to tour the Oberon class submarine, an external exhibit. Some patrons, myself included, are entitled to a concession which allows entry to both for $8.
Exhibits are grouped into a number of sections. The first section I come upon is dedicated to the maritime history of the 15th century Indian Ocean. There are a number of Dutch and Indonesian vessels on display.
During this period boats from the Celebes, now in Indonesia, would sail to the north west coast of Australia and the western coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Outside to the Oberon Class Submarine
Outside, on display in a dry dock is the Oberon Class submarine, the Ovens. Ninety meters long, it was commissioned in 1968 and decommissioned in 1995, and gifted to the WA Maritime Museum. The dry dock was built in World War II when Fremantle was a major submarine port.
Entering the submarine through a port in the top deck I feel I am climbing into the innards of an engine. Even now almost nineteen years after decommissioning, oil scents the air. The central isle, barely wide enough for one person, is the conduit from the bow to the stern. After inspecting the micro-bunks, cramped navigation room, gallery and Captain's quarters I emerge into the sunlight convinced that I am not suitable for the submarine service.
Returing from the submarine tour I continue in a section dedicated to the Western Australian fishing industry. One display case houses aboriginal implements, boomerangs, spears, and a bulbous device made from bark, an aboriginal float perhaps.
Also on display are boat building implements used in past times, cray pots and several boats.
Nearby is a display of an unusual looking shark called Megamouth. Very rare, they grow to up 5 meters, have a bulbuous head and very tiny teeth. Shrimp feeders, they are able to dive to depths of 200 meters.
Wandering along pass Megamouth I come upon Australia II, the 12 meter yacht that won the America's Cup in 1983. Actually I am underneath it, up close and personal with Ben Lexion's famous winged keel.
Near by is a working model of the winch, know as the organ grinder, used to hoist the sails. Three conditions are simulated, a light, moderate and heavy breeze. You can try your hand at being an organ grinder. A scale is provided which measures your performance. There are three broad categories, excellent, not bad and try harder. If the simulation is correct, it demostrates that a successful organ grinder needs endurance more than excessive strength.
Another exhibit with a history is the Parry Endeavour, a 14 meter yacht which Jon Sanders used to circumnavigate the world three times. His journey lasting 658 days started at Fremantle on 25th May 1986 and ended on 13 March 1988. During that period he never set foot upon land nor did he have any visitors on his boat. He survived on three and half tonnes of provisions loaded aboard before he left Fremantle.
The exhibit is mounted at the same angle the yacht would have been pitched when riding larger waves. Asked why he took such epic journeys, he answered: " I enjoy the sea!"
Another group who enjoy the sea are the surfing fraternity. They discovered a very useful vehicle in the humble panel van. Originally conceived as a vehicle for tradesmen to carry tools such as electrical equipment, spanners, screwdrivers, paint, paint brushes, and other tools, it was long enough for people to sleep.
The surfer fraternity quickly realized that if roof racks where attached to the top, they would have a vehicle that could be used for surfing expeditions.