Originally from the pristine waters of the Tasmanian coast the Margaret Pearl, a classic beauty of the maritime world, underwent a transformation in recent years that not only preserves her legacy but propels her into a new era of reliability and sustainability. At the heart of this revival is the Yanmar 6HA2M-WHT engine, breathing new life into a vessel that has sailed through decades of history.
“I was never going to buy a big plastic boat,” announces Jim Woods of his decision to take on the Margaret Pearl, “I’ve always had wooden boats and I like them for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they’re built heavier and stronger in many respects.”
“The way wooden vessels move and sound, they have a particular charm of their own,” said Jim, “and the provenance of these older vessels and all their equipment, that’s part of the attraction to them as well.”
Launched in 1958, Margaret Pearl fished Bass Strait out of Tasmania until the 1990’s when she was converted for shark fishing. Displacing around 40 tonnes across a 17 metre deck she was constructed primarily from Tasmanian hardwood, (mostly bluegum). She was designed by the renowned RH (Dick) Thompson, (credited with designing literally hundreds of commercial and recreational vessels over the years), and built by Jack Behrends.
A classic Tasmanian cray boat design – small wheelhouse and lots of deck-space – practical, stable seaworthiness was the name of the game with these vessels.
A commercial fishing life for this 70-year-old workhorse ended around 2010 when she was left languishing in Portland Harbour on the western coastal extremity of Victoria.
“The beauty of Tasmanian cray boats is that they evolved from fishing, so they have a hull shape that is a mix between a sailing boat and a motor vessel,” says Jim.
That heritage has tied in nicely with the Margaret Pearl’s rebuild, with a sturdy and functional twin-mast sail re-rigging that caters for motor sailing, (or just wind power if the conditions are suitable and time or tide is not an issue).
“She doesn’t carry a large sail area, but the genoa rig up front gives a reasonable degree of sailing ability if the wind is in the right direction,” Jim says.
The proven working heritage of the model of Yanmar repower for the Margaret Pearl and the vessel’s hard-yakka background heralds a perfect match of old and new. The 6HA2M Yanmars are a commercial-focussed engine, (with high output alternators, helping Jim avoid the extra cost and maintenance of a generator along with PV panels on the cabin), and even boast a PTO on the front of the engine.
Not the first time Jim has repowered a wooden vessel with Yanmar, the engine brand for Margaret Pearl was an easy decision.
“I’ve always been a Yanmar bloke,” he says, “but I have to say the Yanmar people, (Power Equipment), were absolutely fantastic with this project.”
Jim reserves special praise for the technical expertise and engineering advice he received from Power Equipment in the process of pairing up the Margaret Pearl with her new Yanmar 6HA2M-WHT and YX120 gearbox combination.
“The exhaust system had us concerned for a while because my experience had been with wet-type exhaust options.”
While dry stack exhaust was “completely different to what I was used to”, Jim couldn’t be happier with the exhaust design, safety and quality from a Victorian-based exhaust specialist.
The six-in-line 6HA2 series are a mechanically controlled engine boasting the famous “long stroke” Yanmar advantage, (bore and stroke of 130mm X 165mm), yet still deliver an IMO Tier II emissions rating through that dry stack. They are a 13.14L dedicated marine diesel engine with an early torque peak – a real advantage in efficient displacement cruising.
“We can make 10 knots or better out of her but cruise comfortably at 8knots on the engine alone at around the 1200-1300rpm mark,” said Jim.
Keeping in mind this is 40-odd tonnes of boat, that is superb cruising speed for any displacement motor vessel of these dimensions. The fact that Yanmar’s 6HA2M engine hits a torque peak early in its rev range, (around 1,100rpm), it is little wonder such an efficient cruise return is possible.
“We’re using around 15L per hour at that cruise speed and we’re happy with that.”
The WHT variant chosen for Margaret Pearl is the 12-valve engine that delivers a maximum 350mhp (257kW) @ 1950rpm. A 24-valve, 405mhp version of the engine is available in its WDT variant.
Wooden boat rebuilds. . . not for the faint-hearted!
Jim is undoubtedly proud of his stewardship over the Margaret Pearl’s new lease on life, but he is definitely a realist and doesn’t deny any of the challenges that come with restoring wooden boats.
After purchasing the languishing hull from the Portland Harbour port authority in 2015, Jim admits “when we pulled her out of the water, all we could really do was laugh”.
Some 70 years in Australia’s southern seas had taken their toll on the old girl, thus beginning painstaking years of restoration that Jim is happy to say he left mostly to the experts.
The restoration project was a meticulous endeavor, (at no small cost!), that paid homage to the vessel’s history. Decaying timbers were carefully replaced, and every effort was made to retain the elegance of her original design.
Virtually all ribs and stringers were replaced “along with at least 30 per cent of the planking,” says Jim.
Perhaps a standout in the work above the waterline, (alongside her classic twin-masted sail rigging), is a larger re-imagining of the wheelhouse which allows comfortable room for the skipper and a handful of people whilst retaining beautiful heritage lines.
Now safe and secure in her new home at the St Kilda’s Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, this revitalised classic of Tasmania’s maritime world has a beautiful story both behind and ahead of her.
Having been relaunched in commercial charter in 2021, she stays functional outside of Jim and wife Sam’s summer cruising schedule with passenger and luxury fishing charters.
“I like the idea of taking Margaret Pearl north and have an ambition to cruise her up to the Louisiades ,(the Louisiades Archipelago off Papua New Guinea), because it is supposed to be quite an incredible area of water.”
And the most rewarding part of the Margaret Pearl’s restoration to date?
“It would have to be the connection with people who have been part of the boat’s history,” explains Jim.
“At the 2023 Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, literally hundreds of people were getting up close to look at her. I recall somewhere between 50-100 people telling us about some kind of personal connection or memory they had of the boat – that’s a really nice thing,” Jim says.
With some 700 faultless hours on the engine to date, the vessel’s refurbishment has been a resounding success and according to Jim “there’s really not much I’d change if we did it again.”
With her new 6HA2-WHT series Yanmar, renowned for its exceptional power, efficiency, and durability, Margaret Pearl can build another lifetime of fond memories into a new era.