Boat designer leaves hallmark
AUSTRALIA lost a boat-building pioneer and entrepreneur with the passing on Monday of Bill York, of Ballina, aged 78.
Although he spent many of his last years in that coastal town, Bill was best known in partnership with his brother, Bob, for starting York Marine at Swan Bay, near Woodburn.
The brothers were a dynamic duo, always having a go at the most difficult job and succeeding where many would have failed.
From the family farm-turned shipyard there was an amazing array of ships, yachts and trawlers that first touched water in the Richmond River at Swan Bay.
By the mid-1960s the brothers found themselves in the middle of a great demand for local trawlers and winch gear to go with them.
There were charter yachts to 32 metres, there was a 49-metre dredge, and there were numerous patrol boats built to the strict specifications of the Australian Ship Building Board.
Bill was chief designer on most of these projects. He taught himself mechanical drawing and he knew instinctively how to ‘eye-ball’ the lines of a good ship. In every build, it was Bill who drew by hand the hundreds of detailed engineering plans that were handed on to Bob and his team of tradesmen.
In 1975, the brothers took another gamble with their business and switched to aluminium production. The move was akin to their father buying the district’s first arc welder. Aluminium was a space-aged material whose time had come. Boats built from this material would fetch a fair price. Together they set out to create 16 new works from alloy.
The result was a fleet of the biggest and best aluminium trawlers built in Australia at the time, peaking with the build of two Britannia Class trawlers, designed wholly by Bill – there were more than 300 pages of drawings created by his hand. The launching of the great aluminium luxury yacht Mustique in 1987 culminated this period.
In between ship building the brothers diversified and becameinvolved in the mineral sand mining industry.
They designed and built a unique sand separator which kept quartz sand separate from the heavier and much more valuable mineral sands. Such determination, interlaced with a practical creativity, was Bill’s hallmark. His funeral will be held today at the crematorium at Goonellabah.