BOAT CHRISTENING: Judy Robson christens The Challenger. Photo Jacquelin Robson.
BOAT CHRISTENING: Judy Robson christens The Challenger. Photo Jacquelin Robson. Jacquelin Robson

Boat's past a whale of a tale

WHEN you step on to tuna boat The Challenger you would never have imagined an all-female crew crawling across the deck in the dead of night clipping hooks and winching lines as they hauled in their catch.

Local builder Michael Robson has recently launched The Challenger, a refurbished tuna boat previously owned by Jim Driscoll, of Wollongong.

Over the course of three years Mr Robson devoted his spare time to turning this 10-year-old tuna vessel into a family "live-aboard".

Able to sleep eight people, powered by solar panels and holding up to 50 litres of hot water, Mr Robson hopes to take The Challenger up north to travel around the islands with his family.

Mr Driscoll said the boat held a lot of memories for him and his female crew - the good, the bad and the downright spooky.

"We had many crazy times on that boat," he said.

"One night when the crew and I were working on deck we went through a waterspout.

"The noise was unbelievable, like a big jet plane, lifting the lids on the iceblocks and taking them out to sea, but as soon as it came it had disappeared."

Originally Sydney-based, Mr Driscoll decided to change the vessel's base to Evans Head.

"We travelled up and down the east coast but found that Evans Head was the most co-operative base for us," he said. "The people were just so good to us and welcoming that we decided that this is where we should base the boat."

Despite it now being home for a young family, the boat still holds bits and pieces of the old tuna days with the original steering wheel, compass and barometer.



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