Duyfken replica bosun Andrew Bibby shares ship tales at Hillarys Boat Harbour

Duyfken replica bosun Andrew Bibby with the Little Dove at Hillarys. Picture: J Bianchini
Duyfken replica bosun Andrew Bibby with the Little Dove at Hillarys. Picture: J Bianchini

THE Duyfken replica is in Hillarys Boat Harbour until September 27 when it heads north to Dirk Hartog Island to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorer Hartog’s WA landing.

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The ship is open to the public and Weekender editor Justin Bianchini took the opportunity to interview the ship’s bosun Andrew Bibby.

Any trouble coming into Hillarys last Friday?

There is really no trouble getting in (under motor) but you just can’t come in under sail in a ship like this. Too many variables in it.

We draw too much water; there’s a lot of shallow spots around here, lot of ‘poky-outy’ bits; a lot of reef, rocks and this is the shipwreck coastline for good reason. We don’t need to add another ship.

This is a $16 million public asset so we need to look after it and sail it conservatively.

How long have you been sailing?

I’ve been with the ship now for about seven-and-a-half years. I found her over east and have been with her ever since. Found her in Brisbane; she was at the Queensland Maritime Museum.

What was your fascination with her?

I’m a woodworker by trade; so that was the initial spark of interest. I was alongside for about five months just doing maintenance before I went to sea on her. That was a five-and-a-half week trip; I moved all my gear on and I’ve lived on board for five years.

I noticed you’ve lost the top of three fingers on your right hand.
That was when I was 19 before I officially started my cabinet-making apprenticeship. I stuck it in a woodworking machine and made a lot of pink sawdust. It’s the nature of the beast.

It’s an industry fraught with risk and being young and bullet-proof these things tend to happen.

What do you personally call the Duyfken?

Depends on how naughty she’s been. You always refer to her as she.

What do you love about the ship?

Its constant challenges; there is always something interesting to solve. We’ve got a historic vessel in the modern world. And trying to make those two work is always interesting.

What are some of the problems you’ve had to solve?

The original vessel was essentially destroyed by the age of 13. This is already 17. So we’re having problems pop up now with ironwork especially in the hull that the original didn’t because it just didn’t reach the age where that became a problem. Woodworm had got into it first and destroyed it. We still have our fair share of trouble with woodworm; tropical marine borer Teredo gets in.

Even with modern anti-fouling as good as it is they’ll still get through it.

Every time the Duyfken comes out of water, you go over every inch trying to find any evidence of damage. Then it’s a case of probing it, seeing how far it is and removing and replacing timber; that’s all you can do. It will rot out if left alone. So even if the worm are long gone it will rot out.

Do you think you will be moved by the ceremony that is ahead on October 25 to celebrate Dirk Hartog’s WA landing off Shark Bay 400 years ago?

Oh definitely, yeah. I know in 2006 before my time on the ship, she was up in Weipa, in the Pennefather River to mark the 400-year anniversary of the original Duyfken‘s visit there, and the local Wik tribe came out and it was incredibly emotional.

They have been telling the Duyfken story for 400 years. Much like the Batavia, the local people still carry that story. I’m sure it will be quite emotional (on October 25). Four hundred years only comes around once. And I won’t be here for 500.

Any other highlights?

I’ve done about 12,000 nautical miles. I’ve been in most cities from Sydney to here over the top. Yeah the whole thing’s a highlight.