The Register of Australian and New Zealand Ships and Boats





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The Kelpie was built in Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales in 1893 by master boat builder, shipwright and champion yachtsman, George Ellis.  A gaff cutter of 30 feet LOA and 21 feet LWL, she was believed to be designed by William Fife of Scotland in the traditional English classic tradition - clipper bow, counter stern, flush decks, with a narrow beam (6 feet 5 inches) and long lead keel of 5 feet draft.  She is teak carvel planked, copper roved, with bronze floors.  Displacement 5.65 tons  (4 tons Thames Measurement). 

The name “The Kelpie” is that of a mythical Scottish water faerie.  ‘The Kelpie’ haunts the waterways, and allows unsuspecting humans to board, but will then dash through the water to give them a ducking.  And this indeed is what she has given many a crew when sailed through storms on her many blue water voyages during the past 100+ years.   

The Kelpie is generally recognised as one of the oldest yachts surviving in Australia.  One of the reasons she has continued to be loved and sailed by her 14 or so owners is due to her fast sailing ability, classic lines, her compact size, and the fact that she was built with the best available timbers.  George Ellis operated his boatyard in Mort Bay Balmain, and built some notable vessels in the 1870’s - 90’s.  They include “Doris”, the first NSW yacht to compete and win an Australian inter colonial regatta held on Port Phillip Bay, “Volunteer”, which went on to win numerous Sydney races held by the RSYS, and “Thelma”, designed by Walter Reeks.  Ellis was a ‘crackerjack’ open boat sailor, who competed in all the Sydney regattas, racing boats from 6 footers through to 24 footers.  Ellis knew how to construct a strong vessel.  For Kelpie, he gave her planking of 1 inch thick teak in single lengths, copper fastened to sawn Blue Gum, with steam bent intermediate frames of Flooded Gum, locked into keel, stem and stern post of Lignum Iron Bark.  Her current deck, replaced in 1988, is finished to the original sprung/taper design.  All deck furniture is original, and is constructed in teak.  All spars are oregon.  Standing rigging is traditionally spliced wire rope, with bronze rigging screws.  She has a Yanmar 1GM10 diesel engine (fitted in 1991).

The British Registry of Ships has allowed a good documentary record of Kelpie’s early sailing owner/skippers.  British Registry No. 101126  (Kelpie has since been re-registered as an Australian Ship).  Her first two owners were Scotsmen - Doctor Eric Sinclair (Superintendent of Gladesville Hospital) and his brother Russell, an engineer of 97 Pitt St. Sydney.  There exists an early glass plate negative taken of her sailing off Lavender Bay in 1890, sporting her original varnished hull.   

The Kelpie is currently in excellent order, having undergone an extensive 'Museum Quality' restoration program during 1986-88, by shipwright  Rick Wood, and interior fit out in Australian cedar and casuarina by Larry Pardy providing accommodation for 4 crew.  The Kelpie can be sailed single handed due to her easy sailing ability and Cutter sail configuration, providing a true sense of yachting history once you step aboard.  John Wood, the present owner, has raced her for over 25 years, winning many races and accolades on Sydney Harbour 

Price: All genuine offers considered

Contact John by email:

Phone: 0418 246809 or write:

John Wood  Address: PO Box 150 Gulgong 2852