Montagu Whaler 536 – lbt

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Montagu Whaler 536

The Living Boat Trust has been gifted this boat by the Wooden Boat Centre.  She has already proved to be ideal for expeditions.

Highly seaworthy, in emergency situations the Montagu Whaler could carry 27 persons and some were said to have covered voyages in excess of 2000 miles. Hundreds of Montagu whalers were built in dockyards, or under contract by local boat builders, around the world.  In addition to their official use, and on many harbours the crews of visiting ships would often compete in pulling and sailing races on the harbour of their hosts. On occasions these competitions were included in the programs of civic celebrations, for example, the Great White Fleet Regatta on Sydney Harbour on the afternoon of Sat 22nd August 1908. (ref:


Description from Martin Riddle (prepared for the 2017 Australian Wooden Boat Festival):

Montagu Whalers” were part of the standard equipment of all larger Royal Navy, and Royal Australian Navy vessels from the 1890s to the 1960s. [See the Royal Navy training films from the 1950’s: ]

(RAID ENTRY) This is one of the last Australian-built Montagu Whaler still afloat. The Montagu Whalers were a multi-purpose ship’s boat, able to be rowed or sailed, for utility or rescue purposes. After decommissioning of the host vessel they often found their way to Naval Cadet units. This example had been with T.S. Mersey before being restored by the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin and then transferred to the Living Boat Trust, Franklin where it will be used as an expedition and training vessel. The Wooden Boat Centre, Franklin partnered with Colony 47 and Huonville High School to undertake the restoration which provided a training environment for a diverse group of women, men and high school students. Cody Horgan, a very experienced shipwright from the Australian National Maritime Museum guided the restoration.

A brief history of ‘our’ whaler from former sea cadet Tony Lee:
I first became a crew member of a whaler in 1954 as a sea cadet. The whaler you have was originally issued to T.S. Leven. It was then sent to T.S. Mersey, was damaged there and sent to the channel via HMAS Huon, returned to Mersey, was later again damaged in flood waters and returned to Hobart.  It was then shipped to Wynyard, where they were unable to repair it so it reappeared back with you.

An important milestone was reached when cadets were able to sail the restored boat in 2017

See more specifications for this boat attached >>
Sail Plan>>

At the ‘Welcome to Fleet’ for the Montagu Whaler John Young gave a speech describing the restoration and particularly the role played by Cody Horgan.  Read it here
There is a ‘blog’ showing the latter stages of the restoration here

The Montagu Whaler is remembered in this ‘lament’ by Bernie Bruen.

Local Musician Sandy Pollard has recorded a wonderful version of this for us which can be heard at

Reminiscences about using Montagu Whalers from LBT Members and friends

From John Young:
I had considerable experience of these craft when doing national service in New Zealand .This included sailing races against teams from some of the Auckland Yacht clubs, and success in the Auckland regatta of 1954. Sea time in a minesweeper included being put in charge of the ship’s whaleboat with a crew of five, at the mouth of Milford sound and sailing the full length of the sound , where we recovered the ship again.

These are sailing vessels that can be rowed , rather than rowing boats that can sail, like Swiftsure. They were used by survey vessels for the detailed inshore work required for the production of the Admiralty charts, but are also designed for the open Ocean when needed.Their yawl rig provides work when sailing for all members of the crew, which means they all understand sailing theory very quickly. They have built in bouyancy in the form of copper tanks at each end. their steel centre-boards assist stability and sail carrying capacity, and make it easy for the crew to deal with a capsize by standing on the centreboard and righting her. the crew then climb aboard, bail her out and resume their voyage.

From David Budd:
I worked at an outdoor education  centre on the river Medway in the late 1970s. Sometimes we had groups from the youth probation service and used two whalers, together with sea kayaks, for expeditions.Occasionally we sailed them, but usually rowed, since it tired the kids out more effectively.  Chatham naval dockyard was closing down at the time and I recall we paid 150 pounds for each whaler,  together with lots of oars and sails. Our boatman fitted brackets to fit Seagull century outboards and they pushed them along very well.  In my long lost youth, my sea scout troop had a whaler and we raced it against other London sea scout groups. I don’t remember ever sailing that one, I suspect we did not have any sails.

From Geoff Heriot:
Recounting a conversation with an ‘old sea dog’ (‘In the South’, page 186):
‘… the most exciting boats he had ever sailed – 27 foot navy whalers.  “I thought those whalers were the bees knees” he recalled, “especially when you got a real blow on Sydney Harbour”.  They were powerful boats, strongly built with gaff rigs, which seemed to clear the lanes of other sailing boats when they charged under full canvas.’

From Bernie Bruen:
Seaboat drills for a Montagu Whaler; HMS Tenby, 1968 (with pictures) >>

Whaler 537
The sister boat to our whaler was also completed in Brisbane in August 1953. She has been restored and can be viewed aboard her mothership HMAS Castlemaine in Williamstown Victoria, a good example of how these boats were originally deployed.

Boat cover plansAWBF EntryDisaster: drowning of HMAS Sydney midshipmen

Navy Training (1950’s?)
Race (1925)

Before restoration
Early restorationLate restoration

Subpages (6):Cody HorganMontagu Whaler specificationsMontagu Whaler Work BlogMore Monty PicturesSail PlanWhaler drills, HMS Tenby, 1968