Repaired, painted Defender heading home

THE Defender, the Bass Strait ketch that represented Tasmania in the 1988 Bicentenary Tall Ships Race, is coming home.

Owned by Launceston businessman Les Dick, Defender left the Tamar a decade ago for charter work in Queensland's Whitsundays but was damaged by fire in 2008.

It has been moored in Townsville where it has recently been repaired and painted.

Mr Dick said the historic ship was now in good condition and in about a month it would be leaving Townsville for the Tamar River.

"It's definitely coming home," Mr Dick said.

"It's all painted up and looks a million dollars.

"We're planning on a voyage of about eight days, we won't muck about, we'll bring it straight down."

The 36-metre topsail ketch was built of gum in New South Wales in 1895 for trade between Tasmania, the Bass Strait islands and Victoria.

In 1923, under Captain W.H. Etchell, Defender set the fastest Bass Strait crossing for a ship of its class when it completed a voyage from Smithton to Welshpool, in Victoria, in just 18 hours. It is the last Bass Strait trading ketch still afloat.

When Mr Dick bought the ship in 1982 it was basically a hulk and about $250,000 was spent restoring it for the 1988 Tall Ships race.

"I won't be chartering it out again. I'm just going to bring it back and use it up and down the river and do a few trips," he said.

Defender will join Mr Dick's other historic ships at his LD Shipping facility north of Kings Wharf, now named Port- Leslie.

"We've got the Lady Jillian (also a former Bass Strait trading vessel) in there now and it's in the throws of restoration," Mr Dick said.

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