If you take a Brisbane City Cat to Hamilton, you’ll pass the Bulimba boat building sheds of the Wright Brothers, Ian and Bill, grandsons of the founder Norman Wright. These are the brothers who, with their team of high quality boat builders, built the Brisbane City Cat you would be riding on.
The Wright family was one of the earliest families to settle in Brisbane and remain tight knit today, all living within coo-ee distance of the boat shed.
If you see a beautiful old boat on the harbour and a bunch of bearded blokes bleary eyed on shore, sighing with longing, chances are it will be a Wright Brothers’ boat they’re watching – either Ian and Bill’s or their father Ron and Uncle Norman’s, or their grandfather Norman’s, for many motor or sail along the Brisbane River at regular intervals.
When they sail past, all those old sea legs wobble just a little.
As you motor further down the river you might also see some of the fine wooden boats the company has built over the past century, initially by the founder who became one of Australia’s leading wooden boat builders, with a worldwide reputation for design and building.
Tied outside the current boat shed, a few hundred metres from the original site next to the Bulimba Ferry Stop, you might see Jenny, the wooden sailing boat restored by his grandson, Ian, now managing director of the company. That boat was discovered by chance in an old shed at Nudgee Beach just a few years ago.
Across the river near the Hamilton Ferry wharf you might see one of the many modern composite boats the company has built.
The two brothers have survived the peaks of highs and troughs which the Australian boat building community has always experienced, because they continue to innovate and have taken on board the latest technologies using cold moulding and Dynel sheathing that has revolutionised boat building.
Looking back a little is the 108’ Barrier Reef cruiser “Elizabeth E 11” which moved the company into the modern era. It uses epoxy resins, and ply from Canada, techniques and materials that keep their quality boats cost-competitive in the face of lower cost Asian and some of the less economically advanced European nations’ boat building industries.
These new materials substantially reduce the maintenance required on the boat.
The Elizabeth E 11 was so cost effective for long distance travel, that orders began rolling in for more, and so in 1997 the brothers began work on Whistler, which you will also see tied up along the river. The light construction substantially cuts down on diesel fuel – a big issue when you are pay at least $8,000 to motor to the Whitsundays.
It also led to the construction of many luxury charter vessels, fitted out by international interior yacht designers who fly in at the expense of the new owners.
But you decided to stay on the City Cat and motor back to Bulimba, now you’ve discovered one of the city’s great treasures. Before you get off and wander up the beautiful Oxford Street, the village centre of Bulimba, you might also see several international yachts moored near the Wrights’ boat yard.
The word goes out throughout the Pacific Islands that this is the port to visit because of the Wright Brother’s international reputation for maintenance of boats as they traverse the Pacific Ocean, heading east or west.
And if you have a yearning for a classic boat but don’t want the workload of an old wooden boat, you might take a look at the Navigator 42’ which borrows its design from a US East Coast lobster boat. With teak throughout, the motor boat is designed for entertaining, and was built to celebrate the Wright’s 100 years of boat building.
No less than the Queen of England has stepped lightly onto a Wright’s masterpiece, as their boats include the 12 metre Royal Australian Navy’s Admirals Tender. Perhaps it’s now your turn to own a classic Australian boat – either modern or old (and don’t forget to give us a call if you need to arrange the boat finance!).
They can be hard to acquire as their owners hold on tight, passing them from generation to generation. But the Wright Brothers might know if one is available, or you might be tempted to have them design one especially for you – but be ready to hear the sighs of those bearded old men of the sea – and a fair few young stroppy ones as well!