Our Operational Vessels
The Fleet’s vessels range in age from 1874 to the 1960s – among them five more than 100 years old. What makes them exceptional is that each and every one is fully restored and in operation.
Since 1965, Sydney Heritage Fleet (the trading name of Sydney Maritime Museum) a not-for-profit, volunteer-led organization, has worked to preserve and present examples of the ships, artefacts, literature and art which tell the story of Sydney’s maritime history.
Nowhere else in the world can you see – and sail on – a collection of historic vessels of this age; all saved, restored and kept operational by volunteers. It makes Sydney Heritage Fleet unique.
Please click the links below to learn more about our operational vessels:
James Craig, 1874 Tall Ship
Lady Hopetoun, 1902 Steam Launch
Waratah, 1902 Steam Tug
Protex, c1908 Motor Launch
Harman, 1943 Motor Launch
Berrima, 1955 Motor Launch
Sydney Heritage Fleet also operates two ex navy tugs, Bronzewing and Currawong.
Current Restoration Projects
Sydney Heritage Fleet has a number of restoration projects currently underway. Much of the work is carried out by volunteers using traditional trade methods and materials which are no long in daily use.
The Fleet’s workshop houses all the facilities required to restore, operate and maintain the fleet of heritage vessels. Currently the major restoration project is Steam Ship John Oxley, she was built at Paisley Scotland in 1927.
Work is also being carried out on the last of the original wooden pleasure speedboats Kookaburra II.
In addition to this, restoration work is also being carried out by volunteers on a number of small wooden boats.
Volunteers working on John Oxley
Historic Small Boat Collection
Boats, skiffs and launches dating from the early settlement of New South Wales
Sydney Heritage Fleet’s small boat collection is representative of craft seen on NSW waters since the early settlement of Sydney.
Some of the Fleet’s most significant small craft are on exhibition in the Maritime Heritage Centre at Wharf 7, Pyrmont. This exhibition, curated by the Australian National Maritime Museum in association with the Fleet, is considered to be one of the most comprehensive exhibits of historic small craft in the world.
In addition to the exhibition at Wharf 7, the Fleet has further small craft in storage and plans to make them available to the public – some of them in sailing condition – once suitable facilities become available.
Since the early days of the colony in Port Jackson open sailing skiffs, of local design and manufacture, have been immensely popular. The best known of the skiff classes is the ’18-footer’, but 16ft and 12ft classes were also popular.
The SHF collection includes representative examples of craftsman-built wooden skiffs from the heydays of the above classes. The best known of these is the 1924 18-footer Yendys (Sydney spelt backwards), completely restored and on display fully rigged.
Local skiff designs
The collection also features a number of highly developed local sailing skiff designs such as the Vaucluse Juniors and Seniors (VJs and VSs), and other small sailing and racing yachts.
Click here for some detail on two of the most well-known sailing craft in the collection.
Rowing and motor boats
Rowing and motor boats also have a place in the collection, including types commonly made by local builders and used on regional waterways, and as the earliest harbour ‘ferries’.
Click here for some detail on some of the Fleets rowing and motor boats.
Replicas with a history
Prior to 1800 the boats of Royal Navy ships for the time being in Sydney Harbour, and a small yawl built in Sydney Cove were the only means of water transport available in the young colony. All of the early exploration of the Parramatta, Hawkesbury and Georges Rivers, and the coast as far south as Port Hacking and Lake Illawarra, were undertaken in these small but rugged craft.
The Fleet has a unique collection of replica boats, which were built to re-enact early voyages. These include the longboat used by Captain Bligh on his epic voyage to Timor after the Bounty mutiny in 1783; Tom Thumb II in which Bass and Flinders explored the NSW coast as far south as Lake Illawarra in 1796; and a First Fleet jollyboat based on plans of 1781.
Click here for details of three of the historic replicas from the collection.