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Community marks 20th anniversary of Geraldton’s beloved Batavia longboat replica

Headshot of Fraser Williams
Fraser WilliamsGeraldton Guardian
Original builders Geoff Sherlock, Felix Duebendorf and skipper Vince Nock on the Batavia replica.
Camera IconOriginal builders Geoff Sherlock, Felix Duebendorf and skipper Vince Nock on the Batavia replica. Credit: Fraser Williams/Geraldton Guardian

The Batavia longboat replica has officially been a part of Geraldton’s rich maritime history for 20 years.

The wooden boat has been moored in the waters behind the Museum of Geraldton since 2003, becoming a major tourist drawcard for the Mid West since it was first floated.

Commissioned in 2002, the boat’s build was community driven, being worked on by students of Central West College of TAFE in collaboration with industry professionals who gave their time and labour for free to oversee and assemble the mammoth project.

The vessel is a life-sized replica of the Dutch longboat that carried the survivors from the Batavia shipwreck across 3000 kilometres of uncharted waters, which remains an impressive feat to this day.

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Batavia Longboat Association president, and sole skipper of the boat, Vince Nock said it had continued to be a page in Geraldton’s book, with work being kept up locally.

“The people of town here, everyone seems to know the longboat . . . the movers and shakers of this town know this boat and they’re happy to contribute to it,” he said.

“We’ve used local timbers in the build of it, and the maintenance of it, and that’s something local businesses have contributed.”

“We want to keep it local . . . if it’s done here locally and costs a little bit more, that doesn’t matter, it’s all part of Geraldton and the Mid West.”

Looking back 20 years ago, one of the original ship builders, Geoff Sherlock said the process was hard but worth being a part of.

“By the end, my hands were that strong that I actually broke people’s fingers as I shook people’s hands” he said.

With the boat sailing two or three times every Sunday for the past 10 years, the hope is to keep it business as usual for the 20th anniversary on March 26.

“We’d like to sail the boat on Champion Bay, as much as we can, and give the opportunity for as many people of the district to come aboard, have a look at the boat and even come sailing” Mr Nock said.

The longboat plays an important role in not only the history of the Mid West but West Australia’s history as a whole. So much so, the Dutch foundation of Perth has tried to have it moved to the city, but the hope is to keep it at home.

“After 20 years, she is showing her age, but please keep the boat here,” Mr Nock said.

“This is the last Dutch replica vessel on the West Coast.”

For details on how to be a part of the celebrations, and ride on the Batavia, visit the Batavia Longboat Facebook page.

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