This is a new Government Launch "in the making" at JCB Cabinets, our son's Joinery next door. The bare bones of the hull are almost complete, and all those things you can see sticking up are clamps, very necessary when the timber ribs have had to be bent as much as they are.
We were quite proud when John was awarded the contract to build a new launch. He did his apprenticeship in Joinery, but over the years has learnt for himself a great deal about boat-building. He has built a number of fishing boats, and restored many others. In the past 3 years, he has built two new lighters for the government also.
The government launch and lighters are in many ways a lifeline for Norfolk Island. We have no harbour or sheltered anchorage, and any cargo brought by sea has to be carried on the lighters from ship to pier. The sea conditions need to be right to carry out the lighterage task and there are often long delays. At the moment, a cargo ship has been waiting almost two weeks for sea conditions to improve enough for unloading to commence. When there is a particularly large piece of cargo -such as a bus or large truck -two lighters will be strapped together, and the launch will tow them to the wharf.
Probably the most important cargo or passenger who has ever travelled in our Government Launch was the Queen, who with Prince Phillip, Princess Anne, Capt. Mark Phillips, and Lord Mountbatten, visited the island in February 1974.
The seas were rather rough that day when the launch brought its royal passengers from the Britannia through the gap in the reef to the Kingston wharf.
Local seaman "Uckoo" Douran was in charge of the boat that day.
As the launch came alongside the wharf, bobbing about in the waves, it was somewhat precarious for the passengers to leap from the boat to the wet steps beside the pier.
"Uckoo" is probably the only person who has ever had the opportunity to say to Her Majesty (more or less)
"Now when I say 'jump' - you JUMP!!"