Today's Paddle Steamer Curlip was conceived in 2002 and completed as a community build project in 2008 and operated as a tourism venture until 2015.
She has been a focal point and engendered great spirit for the communities of Orbost and Marlo and is much loved by the people of East Gippsland.
THE DREAM TO REBUILD a replica of P.S.CURLIP STARTED IN 2002.
Gil Richardson a local farmer, and the great grandson of the designer and builder of the original Curlip, Samuel Richardson was talking with other members of the Orbost community, Max Reynolds a timber miller from Orbost and others about the need to rekindle the spirit in the local community.
The idea was hatched to attempt to design and build a replica of the original vessel, destroyed in the great floods of 1919. Once the idea gained traction the community came together, with the spirit and never say die attitude, so typical of remote Australian communities.
Once underway, modern regulations prevailed and the design was increased from the original 45 feet length to 62 feet in length. This additional size was to accommodate the safe transport of a complete bus load of people who would be amongst the most important visiting tourism groups to travel aboard Paddle Steamer Curlip ll.
PS Curlip II was constructed as a local community project, with over 16,000 hours of volunteer time. The project was made possible by substantial funding from the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development and the Federal Department of Transport and Regional Services, as well as support from East Gippsland Shire Council and other agencies. Many private business and individuals have generously donated time, equipment, materials and money.
With great local knowledge, from lifelong careers in the timber industry, the original Friends of Curlip, including local timber industry, icon Matt Donchi, identified tracts of suitable Blue Gum and other timbers to source for the building of P.S.Curlip.
It must be remembered that most of the original team were already well into their 70's, an amazing feat of the power of senior citizens and their community spirit, to bring a spark of life back to their community.
Once the timbers were selected and milled, a location to build the Paddle Steamer Curlip was needed. The old Butter Factory above the original Orbost wharf was availed for the purpose of housing the timbers on a racking system and had the advantage of the open space dimensions to build a 62 ft long paddle steamer (20 x 8 metres wide) undercover, in a secure lock up.
The ultimate Men's Shed was soon in operation....
With the Keel and Stem timbers located and in the shed, work could begin in earnest. The project had truly gained momentum, more volunteers, administrators and grants applications were all in progress, it seemed all of Gippsland were getting behind the plan to build this Paddle Steamer.
The wood for construction is bluegum (E. globulous ssp pseudoglobulous), except the central and sister keelsons, which are constructed from ironbark. The timber, felling, transport and milling were all donated by DSE and private logging contractors.
The early inspiration and reference to build Paddle Steamer Curlip were utilised from these charming old pencil lithographs. Many of the features and detail match her current design.
Paddle Steamer Curlip II is 65’ (19.8m) long, 25’ (7.5m) beam (including wing decks) with a draft of 3’(900mm) the vessel weighs upwards of 40 tonnes. She has a counter stern, a flared bow and a flat bottom, with a 1’ (300mm) square keel. She has bluegum carvel planking, 2” (50mm) thick decking fastened with silicon bronze screws, and is caulked with oakum hemp.
She is massively engineered, to withstand the forces of being lifted in and out of the water by crane: there is no slipway facility on the Snowy River, (this factor ultimately led to the need to relocate the vessel to the Gippsland Lakes). Twenty seven inch (810mm) aluminum bronze bolts through the keelson, floor timbers, hog and keel form a massive rigid girder along her length. She is ring framed, with uprights, floor timbers, deck beams and diagonal strapping all bolted every which way to make her hull and structure, absolutely rigid.
Her 11’ (3.3m) paddle wheels are chain driven on a four to one ratio by a twin cylinder steam engine, powered by a fire tube boiler. Above decks there is a compact cabin housing the galley while the engine and boiler are visible to the passengers, in an open bay covered by the hardtop awning.
The Paddle Steamer Curlip construction project would not have been possible with out the generous help of the following partners:
The Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development
The Federal Department of Transport and Regional Services
East Gippsland Shire Council
East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority
The Orbost Community
The Department of Sustainability and Environment
Orbost Secondary College
James Yeates Printing
The many other businesses and individuals who supported Paddle Steamer Curlip.
We have more 40 CD 's with literally thousands of images of the documented build of Paddle Steamer Curlip, a heart felt thank you to Gil and Heather Richardson. It seems the keeping of accurate records and diaries is definitely a hereditary trait of the Richardson Clan of Tabbara, Bete Bolong and East Gippsland.
Without your families' long term attention to detail and record keeping, we would not be here today, recording the history of Samuel Richardson, his family and descendants, boats and the future potential of Paddle Steamer Curlip, for future generations of East Gippslanders, the people of Victoria, Australia and the many international tourists who will gain much satisfaction and joy from their contact with this vessel.
We will only include a snap shot of images, of the 2002-2008 rebuild of Paddle Steamer Curlip, a detailed library will be on display on view at www.classicwoodenboat.com.au as will a history of the other boats who formed and were a part of the rich heritage of the early vessels that shaped the Gippsland Lakes.