A PIECE of Whitsunday maritime history is now back in the water and floating after four-and-a-half years of repairs on the land.
The MV Jillian was one of the original Whitsunday fishing charter boats, bought in 1969 by Hayman Island as a service launch.
According to local historian Ray Blackwood’s The Whitsunday Islands, An Historical Dictionary, the 11.4-metre timber boat was initially named Little J, “because she was somewhat similar in configuration to the larger Jane, another of Hayman Island’s boats”.
Little J was a victim of Cyclone Ada, which hit the Whitsundays on Saturday, January 17, 1970.
According to Mr Blackwood’s book, Little J, her skipper Fred Harris and deckhand Stewart McGuinness took refuge in Hook Island’s Stonehaven Bay, where the boat capsized and her crew were lost.
“McGuinness’ body was recovered from the Whitsunday Passage several days later but Harris’ body was never found,” Mr Blackwood says.
It was after she was salvaged that Little J became Jillian, servicing Hayman Island until she was sold to well-known Whitsunday pioneer Bob Jenkins in 1986.
Since 1992, Jillian has changed hands a few times, coming to her current owner Arthur Mitchell in 2010.
Mr Mitchell bought the boat for $100 after she’d been shipwrecked for a second time in Repulse Bay.
Determined to see her restored to her former glory, Mr Mitchell trucked Jillian to his yard at Whitsunday Glass and Aluminium in Jubilee Pocket where he and his friends worked on her whenever possible during the following years.
After a complete re-build, the MV Jillian was finally ready to re-launch at Edges Boat Yard last week.
Bill Liddel, who was a deckhand on her in the 1970’s, was there at the momentous ‘splash’.
“You just wouldn’t think she’d get back in the water after what she’s been through,” he said.
Mr Mitchell now plans to run Jillian as a private fishing charter boat.
“She’s serviced the Whitsundays for all this time and she will stay here in the Whitsundays now,” he said.
“She’s a lovely old girl and there’s been too many of them destroyed.”