Not long after David and I first moved to the Huon Valley we were curious to see an old naval vessel berthed at Port Huon wharf. We found out that it was the former minehunter HMAS Curlew. I found a few old photos I had taken so I scanned them to share a little of her story.
HMAS Curlew was built in Scotland in 1953 for the Royal Navy and originally bore the name HMS Chediston. She was acquired by the Royal Australian Navy in 1962 along with five other ships of the same class.They were named Hawk, Ibis, Gull,Snipe and Teal. These Ton Class minesweepers, which are made of wood and aluminium, operated as a flotilla detecting and destroying old WWII mines around Papua New Guinea. Later the flotilla took part in patrols around Borneo and the Malacca Strait during a time when relations between Australia and Indonesia were rather tense. HMAS Curlew was one of the first ships to respond to distress calls during the Voyager disaster in 1964 and later took part in rescue activities after Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974.
Curlew was decommissioned in 1990 and commenced a rather colourful post naval career. In 1991 she was sold and her new owner used her as a dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef. Later she was relocated to Rockhampton. Some stories have her being used as a fishing boat, brothel and illegal casino over the next few years, eventually she ended up in Cairns.
Things looked up for Curlew when she was bought by an ex RAN cook who restored her to operating condition. She became a star of TV and film featuring in “Paradise Road” 1997 and “The Thin Red Line” 1998. Before that she had also appeared in the beloved Australian TV series “The Sullivans”.
However, the fun didn’t last and eventually Curlew found her way to Tasmania where she was laid up at Port Huon in 2006. I don’t know a lot about her time there but I know that the owner often allowed backpackers to stay there in return for work on the boat. I was bemused to often see a bus parked on the wharf until I discovered that a local bus driver often stayed there overnight after driving the long Hobart to Dover route in the evening.
Eventually Curlew left Port Huon, whether this was because she was sold again or because the owner needed to find another berth for her I don’t know but she remained in Tasmania for a few more years. In 2017 she was berthed near Margate in the south. Finally in 2018 Curlew was bought by Kris Mitchell who planned to restore her and sail her to Queensland to be used as backpacker accommodation in Brisbane. I found several news items about this but I imagine that Covid 19 has probably put a stop to that plan at least temporarily.
If anyone knows the current location of Curlew I’d love to know.
I’d also like to mention Flickr User Horatio J Kookaburra who had recorded a lot of the information above with his photo of HMAS Curlew. I suggest you check out his Flickrstream for the photo. I can’t reproduce it here due to copyright.