John Deere Re-Power History Into A New Era of Sail – Duyfken

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Duyfken_websiteWho would ever have linked a 400 year old Dutch ship with the discovery of the Australian continent and an iconic American farming pioneer born 200 years later whose legacy included powering an authentic replica of marine history into 2018 and beyond?

More than 400 years ago a small Dutch ship called ‘Duyfken’ captained by Willem Janszoon made a voyage beyond the known world at the time. It was the first recorded European ship to reach and chart about 300km of the Australian coast on Cape York Peninsula. For the first time, all the inhabited continents of the world were identified to the European science of geography. It was also the first recorded time in history when Aboriginal Australians met people from the outside world.

Some 393 years later, in 1999, an authentic replica was built in Western Australia and most recently re-powered by John Deere marine diesels.

Built in 1595, the original Dutch-built Duyfken was “a fast, lightly-armed ship … small valuable cargoes”. As a ‘jacht’ or scout for the Dutch East India Company’s ‘Moluccan Fleet’ Duyfken played a key role in breaking the trade dominance in the region held up to then by the Spanish and Portuguese.

Impetus to build a replica of Duyfken in the 1990s came through an enormous community effort led by Fremantle shipping figure the Late Michael Kailis. Fremantle historian Michael Young gathered together a group of like-minded individuals, and that group, under the leadership of Michael Kailis, became the charitable Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation.

The Foundation constructed the ship at a cost of $3.7 million to help tell the little known story of Australia’s first recorded European visitors and to counter two of Australia’s popular historical myths: that Dirk Hartog was the first European to step ashore in Australia and that Captain Cook “discovered” Australia.

The WA-built Duyfken replica is as authentic as possible. It is built from European Oak sourced from Latvia, its sails are flax, and rigging – including the standing rigging – is hemp rope. However it was also built for practicality. Although launched with sail power only, Master Shipwright Bill Leonard had made provision for Duyfken to comply with Survey requirements; it soon had twin diesels installed below decks.

All went well for more than 17 years with the new Duyfken making several remarkable voyages in the wake of its revered ancestor before returning to Perth in 2012. As part of the Duyfken Experience, the ship locates to the Swan River for the summer, offering the opportunity for passengers to join the ship and experience the joy of sailing aboard a ‘tall-ship’. This popular option saw 1100 passengers booked on 68 voyages down the Swan River to Fremantle and back during the summer of 2017/18. Even before the sailing program had got into full swing… disaster struck!

Late in 2017 a storm pounded Duyfken with 45 knot winds and 1.5 metre waves side-on for 12 hours while moored. Flooding through the exhaust outlet resulted in the starboard engine being written off. A simple engine replacement was not feasible because the engines had to be ‘paired’ to ensure balanced power delivery to Duyfken’s two propellers; this is essential for consistent and predictable handling of the ship. Replacing the Duyfken’s propellers and prop shafts would have added unnecessary significant cost and complexity to the re-powering.

Experts from local Yanmar dealer Stem 2 Stern Marine Service, and Power Equipment’s specialist WA team were brought in. They determined that two John Deere PowerTech™ 4045T FM50 (105bhp, 78kW) marine diesels offered the most suitable engine speed and performance characteristics to match Duyfken’s twin props. Mis-matching results in loss or wastage of engine power, or an absence of effective power when needed for safe and predictable handling. Matching engine and propeller characteristics optimises propulsion, fuel efficiency and seaworthiness.

Stem 2 Stern met the challenge of installation with some tricky internal lifting was needed to get the old engines out, and to drop the new John Deere diesels in with as little as 5mm clearance between the main mast and the fuel tanks. While the engines underwent a changeover, the original gearboxes were also removed, reconditioned by Twin Disc WA, and re-fitted.

Already, Duyfken crew members have commented on the ship’s smoothness and lack of vibration since the installation of the John Deere 4045Ts.

Chief Executive of the Duyfken 1606 Replica Foundation Inc, Peter Bowman, himself owner and skipper of the 1960s mahogany Dragon Class boat ‘Aeolus’ (the Greek God of wind), said “we do need to keep the ship moving to keep up with maintenance. We lost 190 bookings as a result of last year’s storm damage. In the three months after repairs and repowering with the John Deere engines, a record 1,000 passengers were able to sail aboard Duyfken.

Power Equipment, its specialist WA team and John Deere are proud to be playing a key role in keeping the Duyfken story sailing into history.

The whole re-powering project was completed within three weeks. It cost about $140,000 which was crowd funded by more than 300 donations from across Australia and the Netherlands. This confirmed the widespread community support for the Duyfken replica which the not-for-profit Foundation holds ‘on trust’ for the community.