‘Nautilus’ is a wide stable safari style riverboat with a hardtop roof and open sides allowing great views of the river and surrounding country. The vessel comfortably seats up to 36 passengers in a casual cafe style arrangement allowing plenty of room undercover or on the foredeck for taking in the beauty of what is arguably one of Australia’s most famous rivers. Boarding the vessel involves one step up onto the foredeck and two steps down to the seated area amidships. Wheelchair access is easily accommodated.
Passengers are loaded from the Cooktown Public Boat Ramp with priority given to guests with limited mobility.
In 2013 we accidentally stumbled across the boat hidden in tall grass in a paddock on the outskirts of Mossman. It had been built in Cairns in the early 1990s and spent most of its life on the Daintree River. By the time we spotted it, it had been sitting in situ for four years, unloved and waiting for a new lease on life. Although a little rough around the edges we immediately recognised the potential.
The boat came on a huge tri axle haul out trailer and we used this to tow the whole show up the winding range road at Julatten, complete with police escort and on through to Cooktown overnight, arriving at its new home parked in a vacant block opposite our house in January of 2014.
We thought we had accomplished great things. We failed to realise that the journey had only just begun.
We spent the next 18 months re-fitting the vessel. We re-clad above the waterline, removed and replaced seating, built tables and bars, toilets and consoles. We built handrails for the foredeck. We replaced the deck covering. We installed PA systems, interior and exterior lighting, lifejackets, carly floats, life rings and fire extinguishers. We replaced start and house batteries, added a VHF radio, plotter and transducer. It was a team effort, pretty much from the ground up. We learnt a lot along the way.
Krissy was back at work at Cook Shire Council during the days leaving me to wrangle kids and boat. I would lug a porta cot across the road, set it up in the shade and gently coax a two-month-old Jesse to sleep. I would then wonder how I could quietly operate angle grinders to cut sheets of aluminium checker plate. It was a daily juggle.
For the next little while we spiralled down into the world of survey requirements, National Standards For Commercial Vessels, naval architects and AMSA compliance and almost lost sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.
By mid-2015 we had jumped through the many hoops of compliance and the refit was near complete. Early in the morning on the 12th of June, with vessel survey and marine park permits in hand we towed the boat down the main street and launched at the public boat ramp.
Once again, we sat back and reflected on our great accomplishment. It took a day or two for us to realise that this wasn’t the end of the journey. It was just the beginning.
Here we are, years down the track and I still very much enjoy every night I spend exploring this spectacular river.
The gallery below shows some of the photos of our restoration process.