A magnificent piece of Royal Australian Navy history will grace the South Australian Wooden Boat Festival at Goolwa Wharf on February 21-22 with the arrival of Bincleaves.
It is not a destroyer or even a battleship, but the last of a fleet of torpedo recovery craft that was decommissioned in 1988 having served a crucial role in Sydney during the Second World War and beyond.
Basically, the RAN was no different to other countries when it tested its unarmed torpedoes for submarines, and the Bincleaves would recover them.
Built in 1945, and named after the torpedo testing base near Weymouth, England, the Bincleaves was recognised as the pride of the RAN’s torpedo recovery fleet in a story written by Ross Gillett in The Navy, the magazine of the Navy League of Australia, in July, 1983.
The Bincleaves is part of the Maritime History Trust, and is currently owned by Samuel Cutajar, of Inglewood, in the Adelaide Hills, who is passionate about military history and has a 1945 US Army jeep featured in a military vehicles museum in Edinburgh Park.
“The boat was owned by Geoff Battersby at Morgan and it caught my attention, and being into military history I felt that I had to just buy it,” Samuel said. “Bincleaves has been in Swan Reach for the past 18 months.
“We have been doing a lot of restoration work… the usual maintenance, repainting, repairing the hull and altering the deck slightly. It was grey with white patches, but now it’s all navy grey.
“The boat certainly gains a lot of attention. It’s 38 feet long, has a 10ft 10in beam and twin Perkins diesel motors. There is mainly Oregon timber, and it is unusual because it’s twin-skinned, meaning it has horizontal planking on the outside and 45-degree planking on the inside.”
Magazines have suggested the Bincleaves cruises at 27 knots, but Samuel is not so sure. “There have been conflicting reports,” he said. “I recently purchased a 1983 military magazine that says she does 16 knots, which I think is about the mark. You could ski behind her if you wanted to, but so far we’ve just gone for leisurely trips. My wife Lorraine and I are looking forward to being part of the Wooden Boat Festival and making the long trip from Swan Reach to Goolwa.
“The Bincleaves was the last torpedo recovery boat to be sold by the Navy. It had add-ons to provide living quarters on the top deck. It’s not exactly how it was when it was in the Navy, but it still looks the part. We are trying to bring her back to how she was as much as possible.”
Samuel, a fitter and turner by trade who ran a motor repair business before retiring, said he has no doubt people will be intrigued by the Bincleaves when they see her, especially the ex-Navy characters from the Goolwa RSL sub-branch when she is docked at the nearby Goolwa Wharf. It’s what makes the SA Wooden Boat Festival so special – there is a great story behind every wooden boat and you never know what you are going to see next. But definitely not a destroyer or a battleship.