Julie Burgess


The Julie Burgess is the last of the nearly 150 ketches built or operated by five generations of the Burgess family.  It was built in Ned Jack’s yard in Launceston in 1936 for Harry Burgess who named the vessel after his wife Julie. 

The Burgess family’s connection to Bass Strait began in the 1840s.  Although centred on the northern coast of Tasmania, the family operated vessels to Sydney, Melbourne, Port Adelaide, most Tasmanian ports and even ventures to the further reaches of New Zealand, California and Mauritius.  Their interests extended to all aspects of the maritime industry – shipbuilding, trading and yachting.  

The Julie Burgess was a fishing vessel, its larger size a response to the economic gains to be made from being able to get fresh seafood quickly into the Melbourne markets. Harry Burgess understood that if he had boats of the right size with deep wells which could carry up to 10 000 live crays at a time he could bring the spoils to Stony Point, load them onto the train and deliver them into the Melbourne markets. 

With the exception of World War II war service where she was used as a cable ship in Bass Strait supporting John Johnstone, the diver who walked the sea floor of Bass Strait in 1941 to check for cable repairs, Julie Burgess was a fishing vessel for all her working life.

On Harry Burgess’ death, the vessel passed to his son, Captain (Dick) Burgess as operator. In 1988 it was restored and took park in the nation’s celebrations on Sydney Harbour. She eventually fell into disrepair and the Devonport City Council purchased and restored the vessel that is now a working representation of the maritime heritage of both Devonport and Bass Strait.

In late 2020, the Devonport City Council handed operation of the vessel to Julie Burgess Incorporated, formed by the volunteers who restored and sailed the ship. The ship is moored at Reg Hope Park, East Devonport. Click the link below for more information, sail times and bookings.


  • As a result of the Global Financial Crisis, the Federal Government launched two programs supporting training and employment in the restoration of projects of significant heritage value.  As a restoration project the Julie Burgess fitted these terms perfectly. In 2009 a successful application was lodged by the Devonport City Council and the following year restoration began.
  • The Julie Burgess Trust Special Committee was appointed in 2009 with four community members and two aldermen. 3 Skilled shipwrights were employed over the length of the project. 2 trainees worked along side the shipwrights as well as volunteers, labour hire and work experience participants.
  • The shipwrights used traditional methods where possible e.g. in the re-planking of the hull such as steaming of the planks and caulking. Replaced the original ‘dumps’ (nails) with screws and then plugged the holes, these plugs were made with a drill press with well over 14,000 made and individually glued and tapped into place.
  • It took 18 months on the slip including two cold winters working under tarps in all weather.
  • More planking replacement was required than initial surveys indicated which meant additional timber had to be sought. The original replacement of the deck was changed to laminated marine ply with Celery top timber finish due to the delay and loss of a quantity of deck timber which was caught in a fire in a kiln.
  • Another challenge was time frame of the actual project itself which had to work within the constraints and Milestones of the Funding available – there was no luxury of time to work through the issues that emerged. There were extensive changes required internally to meet current MAST standards which presented challenges in placement of tanks, bulkheads and ballast.
  • Removing the wet well required significant ballast to trim the vessel which was difficult to source, the lead then had to be melted and put into ingots and placed in the vessel, this meant valuable time in trying to find the lead, time consuming and tedious in the melting process and extra expense.

Sometimes we are asked: “Is the Julie Burgess still the Julie Burgess?”

Many groups around the world are restoring old vessels for a variety of reasons – display, offering passenger experiences or as a working vessel. Some restoration projects can use the existing and original fabric, some are being modified, some need new materials, some need so much new material that you could ask when does a refurbished boat become an entirely new boat?

There are four broad approaches to restorative work:

Preservation – retaining existing fabric and arresting any decay.

Restoration – returning vessel to an earlier state, removing additions and using minimal new material.

Reconstruction – returning the vessel to an earlier state but using significantly new material in fabric.

Adaptation – modifying to meet a new use such as improved safety.

The approach in restoring the Julie Burgess has been reconstruction and adaptation.

Like many ship renovators and repairers Joshua Slocum, the first around-the-world solo sailor (1897 – 1900) considered this issue when he was rebuilding his craft the Spray. In his famous book Sailing Alone Around the World he puts it this way:

“Now it is a law in Lloyd’s that the ‘Jane’ repaired all out of the old until she is entirely new is still the ‘Jane’. The ‘Spray’ changed her being so gradually that it was hard to say at what point the old died or the new took birth”…


Photography Credits

  • Banner Image 1: Jimmy Dalton, 1950s
  • Banner Image 2: John Williams, 1960s
  • Inset Images: Ian Martin & Brent Cox