In 1955 Don Lucas started his apprenticeship in sailmaking. There were then 20 vessels left in the ketch trade fleet (not all of them were actually ketches - that is, main mast for'rad, mizzen mast aft) but oldtimers remembered when there had been about 80. They plied the waters from Kangaroo Island - at 100 miles long, Australia second largest after Tasmania - to the two gulfs which split the South Austalian land mass, Gulf Saint Vincent and Spencer Gulf. Grain was loaded from jetties or from bullock drays on beaches, and lightered to waiting windjammers ten times the tonnage of the ketches, until the last such voyage by big square-riggers (Pamir and Passat were the final two) from Port Victoria in 1949, bound for the other side of the world
Don Lucas is one of a dozen interviewees in Gerry Kerr's 75 minute film The Trading Ketches of South Australia.
Today one ketch alone survives as a working vessel - much restored and re-modelled as a multipurpose ship for school student education, charter, adventure trips, shark and whale and dolphin watching, diving expeditions. She's the Falie, bought by the S.A. State government to be restored for the 1986 150 year anniversary of the State's proclamation, and key to the local historical re-enactments of 1986. Ever since then, Falie has earned her keep as a handsome and versatile ship, noted by Chris Frizell as the largest of the fleet - even when the fleet numbered more than one(!) The Nelsebee and Annie Watt survive at Port Adelaide but are in rather poor condition and await the will and resources to allow restoration. Reliance is said to be "falling apart" and her remains are somewhere up the River Murray.
Another ship is well-preserved and at Warnambool in Victoria. Is it the Reginald M? Darn! I'll need to watch the DVD again, but I just lent it to a friend. Need to get back on that one.
Here are names of ketch trade ships spoken about in Gerry Kerr's film:
Adonis, Amphibious (now THERE'S a name for a ship), Annie Watt, Capella, Crest of the Wave, Esther, Evalita, Falie, Free Selector, Gerard, Hawk, Hawthorn, Heatherbell, Hecla, Lady Doris, Leillateah, Lurline, Karatta, Mary, Morara, Nelcebee, Osprey, Reginald M, Reliance, Storm Bird, Tickera, Victor.