Sunday, 18 May 2014

The May Queen

The May Queen is Australia's oldest sail trading vessel still afloat and is only one of four wooden vessels of her era still afloat around the world.
Built in 1867 on the banks of the Huon River at Franklin, this beautiful ketch carried timber and supplies around south east Tasmania for over 100 years. Locally known as "barges", ketches like these were the workhorses of the fruit and timber trade. They plied their trade between Hobart and the isolated settlements of the Peninsula, East Coast, Huon River and the Channel.

The May Queen carried timber from the Huon for Henry Chesterman. Huge uncut logs were brought from the forest to a small bush sawmill then the roughcut timber was brought to Hobart. In her spare time, the May Queen raced with great success at local regattas. She won the first Royal Hobart Regatta trading ketch race in 1868 and was still in the field on the final occasion the race was run in 1954.

With the introduction of the river steamers in the mid 19th century and the development of road transport, the days of the barges were numbered. Some ended their days "wood hookin'' bringing firewood to town under sails patched with chaff bags. With the advent of the depression of the 1920s/1930s, some bargemen took to fishing or sold their boats for use as pleasure craft. Others continued working. The May Queen was fitted with an auxiliary petrol engine in 1924 and continued to ply her trade and became the last barge still working on the river before ultimately being retired in 1960.

At the end of her working life, the May Queen was given to the Tasmanian Government to be preserved as a reminder of the state's maritime history. She is now in the hands of a voluntary organization set up to handle her conservation and preservation.

The May Queen is currently moored on public display at Constitution Dock near the Tasmanian Maritime Museum.

Main Information & Text - Information boards at the site of the May Queen
May Queen Website -