Waratah, History

Waratah off Goat Island in Sydney Harbour
Waratah off Goat Island in Sydney Harbour

Waratah is a coal fired tug and was built at Cockatoo Island, Sydney. She was launched on the 21st May 1902.

Originally named Burunda, her primary role was to tow dredges and barges between the various ports along the NSW coast.

She is the oldest tug in working order in Australia. She carried a crew of 14, including six officers who were accommodated in separate cabins aft. Today sailing with the Sydney Heritage Fleet she still requires a crew of 14.

With raked funnel and counter stern, Waratah has the graceful proportions of a vessel of her era.

Her sea-going days nearly ended in 1948 when, due to her age and condition, she was restricted to Newcastle Harbour. In 1968 it was announced that the old tug was beyond economical repair and was to be disposed of for scrap.

The Sydney Heritage Fleet, realising her historical importance to Sydney Harbour, acted to save her and proceeded to purchase the vessel from the Department of Public Works. After a subsequent five-year restoration program by Sydney Heritage Fleet volunteers, she is now, once again, fully operational and regularly takes passengers on trips around Sydney Harbour.

The Waratah’s authentic restoration has gained the Fleet world-wide recognition for historic ship preservation.