Hobart affords Julie the rare opportunity to pursue her passion as a registered nurse and sail-cruise tour operator
Just a 10 minute stroll from Julie Porter’s workplace at the Royal Hobart Hospital to the waterfront, is the tall ship SV Rhona H that she operates with partner Charles Burns. Few cities could accommodate Julie’s joint interests so perfectly.
Julie and Charles are originally from New Zealand and the United Kingdom respectively, and they fell in love on board the majestic Lady Nelson, a tall ship moored in Hobart.
Hobart’s oldest working tall ship, SV Rhona H also captured their hearts, and in 2014 the couple bought the historic gaff-rigged ketch and established the not-for-profit enterprise Heritage Sailing Tasmania – an organisation with a philosophy combining traditional sailing, conservation and health promotion.
The pair’s primary mentor was (and still is) Captain Sarah Parry from the STV Windeward Bound. Sarah’s experience was invaluable in building the new business in a niche tourism market.
Julie and Charles now operate traditional sailing tours from Hobart’s Elizabeth Street Pier and have a crew made up entirely of volunteers, with 27 people on the books. The youngest is seven years old and the oldest is 78 and include nurses, conservationists, an ex-miner, timber worker and a high school teacher who doubles as a snake catcher.
“It’s amazing to think we’ve grown from just two people, into a large, committed team who are passionate about sailing and marine conservation,” says Julie. “These people are testament to our success and Hobart lends itself perfectly to what we do.”
In 2017, Julie and Charles were awarded Sailing Company of the Year for Australasia and Asia and in 2018, Sustainable Tour Company of Hobart by UK-based Luxury Travel Guide.
“We love what we do. I’m a registered nurse and Charles is a diesel mechanic by trade. The Rhona H is our child,” smiles Julie. “She’s the oldest operating tall ship here and our rigging is almost identical to the original. She’s on the historic vessels register and turns 76 this year.”
The tall ship was built at Trevallyn in Tasmania’s north in 1942 by well-known shipwright Ned Jack. Crafted from Huon Pine and Celery Top timber it was originally used as a fishing vessel and was instrumental in Tasmania’s early crayfish industry with the Hardy family. In 1988 it was converted for sail training and charters, crossing Bass Strait countless times.
These days most of the SV Rhona H’s passengers are either from Melbourne or overseas and the income from sailing tours goes back into maintenance and restoration work for the tall ship. Sailing trips are typically at the weekend or during summer evenings. Guests can enjoy short sails on the River Derwent or longer voyages down the D’Entrecasteaux Channel to Bruny Island. In 2019 the team are planning a trip to Port Davey in Tasmania’s far south west.
“We just love the lifestyle here in Hobart and being out on a tall ship in the fresh air. If I have a really stressful day at the hospital, I come down and jump on the boat and all that stress goes away. Running a tall ship has its challenges but being on the water, under sail, reminds us to live in the moment.”
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