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"The steam tug Wattle is historically, socially and technologically significant at the national level as the only small harbour steam tug still surviving in Australia."

Back in the Water, 2015-Present

“Sometimes we despaired. Sometimes we were heavy-hearted. Sometimes we almost gave up. Sometimes we regretted what we had started and questioned our sanity in continuing. Sometimes we kicked the walls in frustration. Often we bickered. And complained. Sometimes we asked ourselves - why? But we stuck at it and got our answer and our reward at about 7.00pm on Wednesday 30 September 2015, when Wattle touched the water again.” (Tony Lewis, Board)


After much hard work by volunteers, Bay Steamers Maritime Museum returned Wattle to the water in 2015.

The lift, South Wharf, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley
The lift, South Wharf, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley
Off the low-loader, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley
Off the low-loader, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley

Lowering Wattle into the Yarra, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley
Lowering Wattle into the Yarra, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley
Wattle about to touch the water, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley
About to touch the water, 30 September 2015, Jeff Malley

Apart from relaunching Wattle, other jobs since 2009 included extensive de-scaling, repair, preparation and painting of many parts of the ship; re-installation of rudder/tiller, overhaul of steering engine, all shipside valves, fuel oil and sea water circulating pumps, boiler valves, all main bearings, both cross headbearings and LP cylinder bearing, replacement and refitting of LP piston cylinder rod, and steam pipe pressure testing.

Since lift-out in October 2009, volunteers had put in about 16,000 hours of labour. Applying the same rates that contractors use to those hours, work was contributed to a value of somewhere between $750,000 and $1,000,000. And the efforts continued.


Moving to North Wharf, February 2016, Jeff Malley
Moving to North Wharf, February 2016, Jeff Malley
Checking oil boxes and wicks, October 2016, Jeff Malley
Checking oil boxes and wicks 2016, Jeff Malley

The renovation site moved to another South Wharf site for some months, then in February 2016 moved again to Shed 2 North Wharf on Victoria Harbour, Docklands, where Alma Doepel is also berthed. Shed 2 had workplaces and storage, light and power, a dedicated office and a library, and after all the delays of moving, renovation was able to begin again in earnest.

Work began on seating, electricals and installation of a diesel generator, as well as many items of woodwork (re-installation of bulwark cappings, re-furbishing steering engine cover, commencement of wheelhouse lining and cabinetry, navigation light screens), and refurbishment of the helm stand, steering system and windlass.


Volunteer engineer and steering engine, December 2016, Jeff Malley
Volunteer engineer inspecting steering engine 2016, Jeff Malley
Engine room, boilers in background, January 2017, Jeff Malley
Engine room with boilers in background 2017, Jeff Malley

By the end of 2017 we had carried out major repairs and maintenance to the main engine, with works to bearings, valves and actuators, reversing gear, filters, lubrication system. We repaired tanks and valves, installed a new mast, overhauled the steering engine and gear train, installed a diesel generator, completed painting the ship and installed galley benches and dumb waiter trunk.

We finished steel deck repairs and timber deck caulking, installed toilet doors, bulwark capping, repaired the canopy and re-installed vents and companionways. We had the boiler inspected and passed, repaired the refractory, overhauled the registers and re-installed the gauge glasses. Importantly, we also prepared a set of operational and systems drawings to cover the engineering details of the ship.


Mast stepped and Alma Doepel restoration, February 2018, Jeff Malley
Mast stepped, beside Alma Doepel, February 2018, Jeff Malley
Plans and decisions, October 2018, Jeff Malley
Plans and decisions, October 2018, Jeff Malley

By the end of 2018, we'd tested the boiler, completed the repairs to the GS pump and other engine room machinery, prepared for steaming trials, and were very close to completing the fit-out of the wheelhouse, plumbing the galley and toilets, finishing the electrical installation and the diesel generator hook-up, and installing the navigational aids. Little remained to be done in the Engine Room apart from cleaning, polishing and touching up paint, and electrics, plumbing and fire warning systems were almost complete.


Builder's plaque and artifacts, February 2019, Jeff Malley
Builder's plaque and artifacts, February 2019, Jeff Malley
3 North Wharf with Enterprize (rear), February 2019, Jeff Malley
3 North Wharf with Enterprize (rear), 2019, Jeff Malley

In 2019 marine surveyors are assessing the amount and location of ballast required, then we are into trials and testing - and at last our new program of cruises and events will begin!


Reunion of 'Prisoners' series personnel, 19 February 2019, Jeff Malley
'Prisoners' TV series reunion, February 2019, Jeff Malley
Melbourne city sunrise and a new day for Wattle, 2016 Jeff Malley
Melbourne city sunrise and a new day for Wattle, Jeff Malley