Cody Horgan – lbt

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Cody Horgan

When Richard sent out the message that we should invite all the people who have played a part in the resurrection of Monty, the first person I thought of was Cody Horgan who took unpaid leave from his job at the national Maritime museum to come here for a month to work on our whaleboat.

And the second person I thought of was Philip Myer, who financed Cody’s crucial visit from Sydney. The third was Anne Holst, who gave space and support for the whole job. Cody, was leading the management of the Heritage fleet, a job consisting largely of repairing and restoring a wide range of wooden boats.

When Cody applied for a place in the 1998 Diploma in wooden boatbuilding class in Franklin, he and his wife Heather, had just graduated from the University of Sydney as Geologists, so deciding to move to Tasmania for two years to qualify for a profession that a lot of people thought to be dead, was an enormous leap of faith. But they did bring with them a dog called Zac.

They rented a little dwelling at Castle Forbes Bay, and began to settle down .Heather continued her job as a science journalist, and looked after Zac while Cody started on a course that began with a cruise in various wooden boats down to Partridge Island and beyond. Then the students made their own tool boxes and started building clinker dinghies, and in the second year they built the Lyle Hess designed Ocean Cruising Yacht Wild Honey, led by Chris Burke and Pete Laidlaw.

The only trouble was that some Local threatened to shoot Zac, so each day began for Cody with some anxiety, but thankfully, Zac was always waiting for him when he got home. Sometimes Zac joined the other dogs who lived out their days in the workshop, where we knew he would stay safe and get as much love as he needed.

Ruth and I stayed in contact with the Horgan Family as it grew, with the births of their children Saskia and Beren. We found reasons to visit Sydney to participate in their Wooden Boat Festivals, and giving talks about wooden boats and their history to the supporters and Patrons of the National Museum.

Cody was also an officer of the flagship of the heritage fleet, The James Craig. a large 19th century Tall Ship which had been left to decay 50 years ago in Recherche Bay, and then floated and towed back to Sydney by an inspired crew of Sydney -siders who raised millions of dollars and put her back to work. So Cody has repeatedly used her as his ferry when she has sailed down to Hobart for the Australian Wooden Boat festival.

So when the Franklin Working Waterfront Association accepted the offer of the severely damaged Montague Whaler a couple of years ago, it seemed a good idea to call in the cavalry of the wooden boat fraternity to find someone with particular experience and expertise in authentic restoration.

Monty had been given, in a damaged state, to the wooden boat school for repairs at the beginning of this century, when STEPS was in charge. She was returned to her naval owners at Devonport, but she continued to be neglected, and eventually broke from her moorings and was badly damaged for the second time, driven up against a bridge by the tide. She then went to the Wooden Boat Guild in Hobart, who had fully restored the ancient rowing Ferry boat , Admiral and put her to work.

But once more she was neglected, and left out of the water to dry out. All the same when we went to look at her, we thought that she was still repairable if the project could be provided with the necessary leadership, commitment, courage and expertise.

This was where Cody came into the picture, after a long period of indecision and frustration. The first two days were amazing. Cody was faced with a severely damaged vessel. She had obviously been squashed broadside on, so that the majority of the ribs on both sides had been fractured. Some of the planks had only minor damage. Some Cracks could be splined, but many others had been scuffed, split or broken beyond repair. They would have to be replaced. With Cody around there were no debates about where to start.

First the vessel was raised and stabilised by anchoring her vertically to the rafters of the shed and the side bench. Then, reversing her Clinker building procedure, Cody took about 50% of the broken ribs out and then took about 35% of the planking out on the starboard side of the boat. Then we started replacing the Kauri planking with Huon Pine, one side at a time. starting with the Garboard strake. Cody had brought with him a wondrous device. like a very large piece of bicycle chain, that could be bent into shape after squinting along the laps of each plank as we worked up from the garboard strake to re-create the original curves around the bilges of the boat. She was fully planked again after a little more than a week.

The psychological impact on those who joined the team, and tried not to get in his way, was as powerful as the difference it made to the look of the boat. A sad neglected wreck had suddenly become a positive and practical demonstration of achievement. David Golding took over the completion of the re-ribbing a bit later on and we were helped by a crew of ex-prisoners from Bethlehem house, who worked hard and cheerfully, and learnt to row in Imagine at lunch time. The thing was that we now knew that complete resurrection and renewed use of the vessel by future generations was within reach.

I expect you all know the rest of the story, which has been a demonstration of truth and social chemistry; culminating in the wonderfully organised Crowd funding, run by David Hume, and the surge of public interest and voluntary labour to get her finished in the nick of time in order for her to join the raid.

It’s a story that exemplifies the spirit of the young couple, Chris Burke and Pip Gowen who founded the Living Boat Trust in 1998, and established the style in which it has conducted itself ever since. Sometime during that hectic year they put together a document as an appendix to a grant application. I think to assist the construction of this workshop. It is a document which asks questions, shows photographs of happy people and gives answers.

Question. “What do you build when you build a boat?

Answer number 1 : HOPE: A group of people who decide to build or re-build a boat, be she a St Ayles skiff ,a whale boat, a Danish fishing boat like Yukon or a trading schooner designed by Adrian Dean, to be built soon I hope, is faced by the problem of how to begin. So before you lay the keel you have to build HOPE.

2. SECONDLY, You have to build TRUST. Lofting is usually the first step, though a difficult thing to do on your own. To Measure distances as long as the boat, you need to be able to trust the person at the other end of the tape, or things won’t fit or work properly, and people could lose their lives.

3.THIRD You build skill, and accuracy. I remember the first time I met Athol Walter, who sold us the slipway and workshop at Port Huon which was the first home of the boat school. He told me about a boat-builder colleague of his who took a Sabbatical from Tasmania and went on a visit to some mass production boatyards in America. One place had a robotic saw, which, he was told, “Could cut a joint to within a two hundredths of an inch.”Can it now” said the Tasmanian. Back home we prefer to make them fit”.

Apocryphal as it may be, the point is that in wooden boatbuilding perfection has to be able to be taken for granted, and that goal is good value for most things in life.

4.You will build a team: Like a team, a wooden boat is constructed by joining a number of different parts together to provide mutual support. Like the different pieces of wood of which the boat consists, the human builders will work together towards the eventual goal and co-operate to achieve it. If they don’t she”ll never get finished.

5.When you build a boat you build History as well. Boats become significant indicators of the aesthetics and values of their designers and builders, of their aims and purposes in life.

6. Ultimately You build Community, How that develops depends on its members, but if you build boats like Monty and manage them in the interests of the community, you build persistence, You’ll keep fit, and provide education, and adventure. More good things will follow.

So Thanks Cody for your great contribution to this community. Without your timely inspiration we might never have succeeded in saving her.

John Young 8 May 2017