Stephen L


Built by Mr Ron Bennetts of Adelaide, South Australia, in 1971 and registered in that State from then until 2008 under registration number QG48S.


The boat is an American bait boat, a style of open dory. Such boats were used for bait fishing (also known as pole and line fishing) to catch naturally schooling fish, which can be attracted to the surface. The method (called chumming in America and chunking in Britain) almost always involves the use of live bait (anchovies, sardines etc.), thrown overboard to attract the target species near the boat. Poles and lines with barbless hooks are used to hook the fish and bring them on board. It is particularly effective for tunas.

The original design was an 18ft boat. However, because the boat was to only be used for recreational fishing, the final build was shortened by two feet at the stern, producing a 16ft (5 meter) boat.


The hull is fiberglass. It has good freeboard and below the water line, the tunnel hull and the hard (square) chines provide good stability, such that several people can stand on one side of the boat without compromising balance. The bow is a deep vee with pronounced flare above the waterline.


Flop moulds for the boat were obtained from Mr Alan Nelson, a boat builder of Port Clinton, South Australia. Mr Bennetts collected the moulds on a trailer and took them to Adelaide where the hull was laid-up at a fibreglass firm located at Hindmarsh. The firm, which constructed fibreglass mouldings for the automotive industry, no longer exists. It transpired that a friend of Mr Bennetts was a neighbour of the factory foreman, through whom the materials were provided at the economical price of six cartons of beer. The free availability of materials allowed a very strong hull to be built of extra thick fibreglass, especially the bow, which is several inches thick.

The drive and steering gear are protected by a solid timber skeg. The bottom of the skeg is fitted with a very robust rail, which being of the highest quality stainless steel, has a complete absence of rust despite over 36 years in salt water.

Mr Bennetts, then a carpenter by trade, personally built the wooden components of the boat, which comprise the cockpit sole, engine box, karri gunwales, rear net board, and cockpit coaming. The woodwork took a few years to fully complete. Flotation is installed below the cockpit. Deck furniture comprises only a substantial aluminium bow cleat and two blocks for rowlocks.

Propulsion and steering

The engine transmission has three settings; forward, neutral and reverse.

The hull tunnel contains the drive shaft ending with the original bronze propeller. Behind the propeller is a thick and heavy bronze rudder steered by a simple traditional tiller.

The only possible failing of the overall hull/propulsion design is the ability of the boat to respond quickly when transitioning from forward propulsion to reverse propulsion. Given the overall weight, square stern and tunnel geometry, this might not be surprising. It is not much of a disadvantage for recreational use but was a greater consideration in the larger commercial versions, which needed to reverse frequently to tend to fishing nets.


A single cylinder Yanmar 10/12 diesel engine powers the boat. This motor was fitted just before Yanmar twin cylinder engines began to become available in Adelaide. However, the single cylinder engine enables a respectable top speed of about 6 knots (approximately 11 km/h), which is achieved at very good fuel economy. Two imperial gallons of fuel (about 9 litres) was usually sufficient for three fishing trips. The engine is equipped with an electric start but can also be started by hand cranking.


The open design of the vessel is ideal for fishing, enabling complete freedom of movement around the vessel.

Passenger comfort is almost non-existent; there being no fitted seating or other comforts. The engine box was used as a seat, as was the rear net tray. Due to the net tray having a ridge along its front edge, thick blocks of wood were provided to raise the tray height and so provide a more level and comfortable seat for the helmsman and passengers.

The four wooden cleats fitted to the inside of the gunwales were primarily used for attaching crab nets when at anchor.

Operational history

Until November 2007 Mr Bennetts used the boat as his personal recreational fishing vessel in South Australia, where catches included the famed King George whiting, and pick handle gar.

Approximately 60% of the time the vessel was sailed in Outer Harbour, Adelaide. The remaining 40% of its sailing was at Port Wakefield, which is approximately 100 km north of Adelaide.

Leaving shore for a day’s fishing was reportedly fairly straight forward on the flat seas of early morning. However, the return home was often more adventurous when waves had started to build up. This is due to the heavy bow, which causes the boat to tend to plough through waves rather than ride over them. Thus it is a very “wet boat” for passengers who would often sit four abreast across the rear of the boat, at just the correct distance it seems, for waves breaking over the bow to drench them. In spite of such a character building design feature, the boat has had a happy life providing many joyful days for Mr Bennetts and his family and friends.

In December 2007 the boat was brought to Canberra by its present operator who displays it on Lake Burley Griffin, as a floating tribute to its builder and its unique place in South Australian small boat history.

Commercial versions

After building the boat, Mr Bennetts returned the moulds to Port Clinton. On the way, he pulled over for a driving break at Port Wakefield. Although brief, the break was long enough for several professional fishermen to notice the design and decide that it would be perfect for their purposes. The moulds were subsequently used to construct a small fleet of commercial fishing boats to the longer 18ft configuration. The commercial versions were usually constructed with much more powerful engines. Several of these boats are believed to still be sailing in South Australia.

Place in history

QG48S is of special historic interest because it is the original boat which gave rise to a small fleet of similar commercial craft in South Australia. It is maintained in a completely unchanged configuration from when it was originally built, a testimony to the soundness of Mr Bennetts’ original build, and his subsequent care and attention for it for over 36 years.