We are always looking for stories, pictures, history and information on the legendary Derwent Hunter. From former owners and crew to those who had an adventure, from her CSIRO days or as Pacific Lady in the ROVERS, we are writing her biography and would love to hear from you.
The Schooner Derwent Hunter was designed and built in 1946 by Walter Wilson for Mr Arthur Drysdale who was the owner of the Wrest Point Hotel on the Derwent River. The design brief for the Derwent Hunter was for a fast sailing vessel resembling a grand banks schooner that could be used for gentlemanly pursuits and to supply fresh fish directly to his Wrest Point Hotel.
The CSIRO purchased the Derwent Hunter to become Australia's first oceanographic research vessel. For over 12 years, from 1949 – 1962, she worked under sail roving from Antarctic waters in the Southern Ocean and as far north as Noumea and the outer Pacific basin.
Probably the more colourful 12 years, the Derwent Hunter was part of a commercial enterprise that also seemed to operate running adventure tours to interesting "voyages" from Darwin through Indonesia and Malaysia in the early 1970's. In 1969 The eye catching lines of the Derwent Hunter brought her fame and fortune in 1969 when she was chosen by Paramount Studios 0-Ten Network to become the “Pacific Lady” in the hit family television series “The Rovers”.
There was a period of 2 - 3 years when an unknown owner purchased the Derwent Hunter in Darwin in the water, without inspecting the hull. He lived on board and worked ashore, according to Bern Cuthbertson. This owner bought the ship in the water, had never seen it out of the water and Bern found out that it hadn't been out of the water for 3 years. It was put up for sale in early 1977 and was on the Cairns Slipway, full of Toredo worm and getting covered in lead tingles when Bern gave in.
Tasmanian Bern Cuthbertson travelled to Cairns after the Derwent Hunter was put up for sale in a very sad state. Bern took on the ship, patched her up as best he could and sailed all the way back to Tasmania where he undertook a major refit.
Purchased in 1980 by Mick Galpin, the Derwent Hunter was used again for fishing and charter adventures at Lord Howe Island and Middleton Reef. He also undertook numerous voyages from Coffs Harbour to Lord Howe carrying freight for the islanders with some interesting cargo which included livestock.
The Derwent Hunter went back South and was purchased by Ian McCormick who did another major refit, ready for the 1988 Tall Ships race.
Based on the Gold Coast for probably her most relaxing time, she even had her own wine label.
Purchased by Warren Ladd, the Derwent Hunter operated in the Whitsundays doing day and overnight trips with major refits in 2006 and 2015.
Mike Smith and Sonia Minniecon took over custodianship in 2020 with another refit in early 2021. The Derwent Hunter sailed back from Tasmania, to Cairns and on to Cooktown before coming back to Airlie Beach to run day tours, sunset cruises, school groups and private charters.
The Schooner Derwent Hunter Tall Ship Twilight Sunset Sails are currently unavailable due to annual slipping and maintenance. We expect to be completed by March 2024