More about Kon Tiki – lbt

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More about Kon Tiki

John Young supplied the following information about Kontiki after a restoration in 2018.

‘Kon Tiki is the only Flying Fifteen yacht to be built in Tasmania, and the only one in the world to be built of Huon pine below the waterline, and King Billy pine for the topsides. She was built between 1950 and 1952 by Robert Atrill, in the backyard of his mother’s house in Glenorchy. In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl Built a raft in Peru called Kon Tiki after an Inca god, out of Balsa wood and sailed her with a crew of five to Tahiti, eventually, in an effort to prove that the Polynesians came from South America.(Later research using linguistics, blood typing, pottery, imported animals and Polynesian navigation etc does not support this theory). The average speed on that voyage was 1.5 knots, but it was a much admired and popular expedition amongst would be adventurers of that post- war world. Kon Tiki Number 2 was much faster. She raced with a mixed fleet of small boats on the Eastern shore, and was a consistent winner.

She was given to the LBT early in 1997 by The Huon Valley council, for restoration and community use. Ian Johnston, John Young and Doug Barton, who was the Treasurer of the LBT at the time, restored her with help from the Council’s Huon Challenge program for youth at risk. We started by removing a number of ribs in the mid-ships area to allow for a successful attempt to reverse the hogging, which had occurred by leaving her pulled out of the water some time before and left resting only on her central cast iron keel.

Adrian Dean advised us to take a lot of ribs and floors out of her midship area, jack up her ends , and then put in two over-bent and laminated bilge stringers , so that they could act as springs to prevent her sagging again. She was then put on a mooring and was sailed occasionally by several of our members, mostly by Peter Cook who taught sailing with students from Dover school, for a year or two. She then suffered from neglect again. She had been leaking, and was also full of rain water, in spite of having a cover, but no plans were made for her restoration, She was hauled out of the water and left to dry out in the sun. Her King Billy planks opened up. and we saw that she had been holed, probably, judging from the hole in her Starboard topside, by a rowing eight, at some speed, but since the beginning of 2018 she has been lovingly put on the road to a new life .

She is a vessel of considerable heritage value. She was designed by Uffa Fox, a very famous British naval architect, who was on visiting and sailing terms with the Royal Family, and taught both the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Charles how to sail. The cast Iron keels of this class are removable. and were loaded into the boot of Uffa’s Humber motor car while the hull traveled to regattas all over the country on a trailer. Uffa’s early career in the 1940s introduced him to planing motor boats, which turned his mind to the problem of how to design a sailing boat that could reach hull speeds, that with sail alone, could lift the bow up out of the water, reduce the displacement, and the wetted surface of the hull and thus dramatically increase the competitive ability of the boat. This was a very significant breakthrough in the history of naval architecture, which was made, according to Uffa, as the result of his meditations when lying in his bath. It was this brainstorm that led eventually, to the modern Sydney- Hobart super yachts that can reach up to 40 Knots in a good breeze.

So the LBT are the proud owners of a boat which demonstrated the educational value of a brilliant breakthrough in the history of naval architecture. As custodians of the Maritime history of Tasmania, we could do a good deed by coming to the LBT at about morning tea time, next Tuesday, 5th of June.We have removed the keel, temporarily, to mend the hole, and we have caulked the seams with a special, technologically advanced material, recommended by Peter Laidlaw, which sticks well in the seams, and will also compress as the water sucks into the wood and expands it when she goes back into the water. The plan is to turn her over once more, to repair the deck. Then we can finish the painting, replace the keel .Re-launch, and learn to sail this heritage vessel, in the next Tawe Nunnugah raid? What we need next Tuesday 5th of June at 10.30am, is a lot of people; who will be able to pick Kon Tiki up and turn her over, without hurting any-ones back. It will take hardly any time at all.’