The Register of Australian and New Zealand Ships and Boats


Alice Rawson

1907...send the lifeboat to the rescue!!!

2006...who will help rescue the

David S... is seeking support to preserve Sydney's famous Century-old lifeboat


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This is a story of what can happen if the planets don't align quickly. Despite the best intentions of an individual and support by others to preserve a vessel, the outcome can still be disappointment. In this case, a 100 year old lifeboat was lost. Plans to acquire and preserve the vessel were frustrated by time. There were delays convincing a previous owner to let the boat go, there were delays finding a place to store the boat, and after she sank, there were delays raising the boat.

David S... did all he could and we all feel for him. David wishes to thank all those who provided support and assistance during the course of the project.


On Sun, Oct 24, 2010 at 10:23 AM, David S... wrote:

I visited the remains of the Alice Rawson with Chris .... Sadly I have to report that most of the boat has been eaten out by toredo worms, the only possible salvageable items being the stem and stern posts and part of the keel. I am now faced with additional costs to dispose of the remains and clean up of the site at the boatyard....

My suggestion is to ask if you know of anyone or organisation that would accept the stem or stern. I will ask the Newcastle Maritime Museum people and also Wollahra Council tomorrow. Failing that I will instruct Chris soon that he start the disposal operation...

Regards, David


On Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:05 PM, David S. wrote:

Mori, I have spoken to our salvage people and they are confident that the water in Middle Harbour will be clear enough to work on the lifeboat next weekend even if we have few showers in the meantime. Their intention is to have it at the boat ramp between 1 pm and 4 pm which is the best they can do at this stage.


Message dated Mon, 16 Jun 2008 17:10:43

....The Alice Rawson sank at its mooring recently. Some of the superstructure came adrift, and was secured ashore, but it was later disposed of by persons unknown. The superstructure which has gone was built of plywood in the 1980s to convert the vessel to a cabin cruiser. The owner is trying to organise the vessel's salvage, contingent upon a commitment from Cockatoo Island that it can be stored ashore there pending restoration. It may be a couple of weeks before the vessel is raised, if all goes to plan.


David S... wrote:

"Sydney Harbour's pilot service was established in the early years of the 19th century and following the wreck of the sailing ship Dunbar a lifeboat service was formed during 1858 in the Watson's Bay area. Both the pilot service and the lifeboat were strongly associated with Watson's Bay during the 19th and 20th centuries although the lifeboat station closed during the 1950's to be replaced by the present pilot station in 1959.

"It is proposed to establish a maritime heritage centre at Watson's Bay which will provide for the public a historical display of both services, the centrepiece being the restored lifeboat Alice Rawson, Watson's Bay's last lifeboat. This vessel will reach its centenary in 2007 and will be able to take part in traditional lifeboat rescue displays and training, regattas and other special harbour events. When returned to its shore base it can then demonstrate at close view its special qualities and details.

"The proposed centre will bring to life an educational and colourful aspect of Sydney Harbour's history and will be able to involve the local community through school, sailing, surf and rowing club participation. To this end it is intended that a Pilot and Lifeboat Trust be established to assist in the long term preservation of the lifeboat, other suitable craft, and the historical collection and display that will be formed with volunteer participation.

"This project will be able to provide a unique opportunity to preserve the rich history of Sydney Harbour's pilot and lifeboat service in Watson's Bay.

"A dedicated group of maritime historians based in the Eastern Suburbs are proposing to restore the last Sydney Harbour rescue lifeboat which was built at Cockatoo Island and served as the Watson's Bay lifeboat in its own station at Gibson's Beach where the present Pilot Station is located.

"Remarkably, the 11.5 metre long vessel is still afloat and agreement has been reached for the local history group to acquire it and start the restoration process so that it can be returned to Watson's Bay in its original appearance.

"It is also proposed that the boat will become a local tourist attraction and take part in harbour regattas and support life saving training for youngsters in the harbour.

"To that end a support facility will be needed that will ultimately become a lifeboat and pilot boat museum so that the history of the boats and their service can be more fully appreciated.

"The lifeboat group is therefore seeking some financial support to start the restoration of the boat and its ongoing maintenance as well as assisting in the provision of a shore based facility.

"....I foresee that this project will play a major part in bringing to life this important part of Watson's Bay's heritage.

Details of Alice Rawson

Name: Alice Rawson
Type: Lifeboat/Training/Houseboat
Year Built: 1907
Builder: Government Dockyard, Biloela
Where built: Cockatoo Is, Sydney, NSW
Material: Wood
Propulsion: Sail & Oars
Decks: Cockpit

PORTS AND OWNERS: SYDNEY@'07b36 NSW Dept of Navigation: '36b38b46b49b54 Maritime Services Board of NSW: '54 Sea Scouts (Boy Scouts Association): b84 private owners: b02b05 Si Lawson

Dimensions: 37' 4" x 9' 6" x 3' 8"
Stem: Round
Stern: Canoe

Status: Stationary 2005 Houseboat at Cammeray.

History and details: Named after Governor's daughter. Turtle-back raised decks at ends. 6 pairs of oars. Double diagonal construction. 1907-38 lifeboat for Port Jackson stationed at Watson's Bay. Cost 606 pounds. 1908 attended stranding of barque Vincennes at Manly. 1909 Alice Rawson taken up to Newcastle to replace Victoria II (qv) while Victoria II being refitted after Alpena rescue. 1921/06 request by Navigation Dept for crane lighter Samson (qv) to put lifeboat cradle on rails at Watson's Bay. 1937/03/07 usefulness of lifeboat under scrutiny after not used at wreck of launch Voyager (qv). 1937/05/11 now that Endeavour (qv) is completed, recommended that Alice Rawson be transferred to Newcastle & Victoria II (qv) be replaced. 1938/02 reported that 2 valves in ballast tanks have carried away & that centreboards are difficult to lower. 1938 replaced by Endeavour. 1938/12 under overhaul at Goat Island, senior shipwright surveyor reported that repairs were required to hull planking in way of copper fastenings, also defects in buoyant tanks & corrosion in iron centreboards. 1939/04 reported that vessel completely overhauled & repaired at Goat Island, now in good condition. 1945/05 coxswain reported that centre-board required attention. 1946/02/07 Treasury advised that maintenance of lifeboats at Sydney & Newcastle is not warranted owing to availability of pilot steamers. 1946/06 paid off from lifeboat duty after never saving a life, largely redundant because of pilot steamer always at readiness for rescue. 1946/11 withdrawn from active service & is of no further use to MSB, boat to be sold. 1949/06 hired to D.Luckett, agreement expired 1949/09/11. 1954/07 donated to Boy Scouts Association for training Sea Scouts. Fitted with 2 mis-matched engines nd, and operated for some years by Sea Scouts, only one engine had astern power, other may not have had even a clutch. 1950s used by the sea scouts at Ryde/Abbottsford? c1959 towed by Sea Ranger. 1961/04 attached to 1st Manly-Seaforth Sea Scouts. 1963-64 with Manly sea scouts. Became houseboat at Cammeray. 1984/06 for sale for $10,000. 1990 houseboat at Cammeray, Sydney, NSW. 2004/10 sighted at Salt Pan Creek, Middle Harbour, extreme sheer, large deckhouse. Rudder fell off when pintles rusted through prior to 2005.

References: AllAboard^5/1979(P):Ash^67,70:DavidSheedy:Dt^1937/3/11:Fla1: GraemeAndrews:MSB19293,48355,19294(P):MSBM:MsbM:Sighted(P):SundaySun^9/6/1946:TomHughes

If you have any information about the history of Alice Rawson or have a home for the Alice Rawson artefacts, please
email Mori Flapan at: ...
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