25 August 2023
If ever the cliché “labour of love” applied to the restoration of a vessel, then the 67-foot sailing yacht, Dreamtime takes the title. For never was a yacht, once abandoned on ‘death row’, so fortunate to find an admiring owner with the determination to bring her back to her beautiful best.
Designed by German Frers, 67-foot Dreamtime is an icon. Once described by boat builder, Ken Swanson as his “all-time favourite boat”, Dreamtime was one of the custom orders built for Graham O’Neil in 1983.
Shipwright, Iain Smith, Director at Everything Marine Australia at The Boat Works was in charge of the original restoration project, which had fallen through after the owner pulled out.
The vessel has a certain mystique, as Iain explains. “It has had a good racing history, several famous owners and has cruised the pacific and the Mediterranean. Alan Dart sailed it to Alaska and back over three years.”
The former owner commissioned a refit in 2020, which was then paused, leaving Dreamtime languishing on the hardstand at The Boat Works.
One fortuitous day in December 2022, Iain was discussing a different project with a contact who recognised the yacht and the two of them found a shared admiration for her achievements and her well-deserved place in yachting history.
The contact, Findlay Andrews, an experienced yacht owner, had known of Dreamtime since its second owner in the 1980s. “I’d always thought she was magnificent,” he says.
“I caught up with Iain and he happened to mention Dreamtime, so we walked the 300-metres to see the yacht, and she was exactly as I remembered, except with a hard top added and considerably run down.
“He told me the owner was interested in selling it and I couldn’t resist. I knew the commitment, and it has certainly grown in scope and investment, but I am committed to see it through. So be it!”
Iain, who describes the union of new owner and Dreamtime as “a match made in heaven”, got to work on the restoration in December inside one of The Boat Works Super Sheds.
“The scope of works included removing the teak decks, and because teak is difficult to acquire and expensive, we replaced them with sheath plywood and fibreglass, which was then painted with traditional cream non-skid paint, then a gloss coat for a modernised take on the traditional look.”
Every bit of stainless steel which was brushed originally, had to be polished to mirror finish. All cap rails were replaced. The new Goiot deck hatches from France had to be modified to fit, and Iain and his team worked meticulously on every detail of the port lights and cabin windows.
“We took every single deck fitting off the deck, much of it could be restored. We’re waiting for a furling boom from the US for the mainsail and we’ve reduced the number of winches from seven to three for a more efficient, simplified, improved electric hydraulic push button rather than manual operation.”
From the 2020 attempted restoration, the yacht had been equipped with all new navigation gear, including B&G, GPS, radio, new standard rigging and running rigging, a new genoa and gib tracks , plus deck hardware from Ronstan. A bowthruster, watermaker, washing machine and microwave were installed, and the generators, engine, air-conditioning, pumps and toilets were serviced.
Inside, Iain and his team installed all new headliners, redid the upholstery, restored over 100 doors and dozens of drawers, all teak, all reworked, and tapware was replaced throughout the yacht.
“For the interiors, we stripped back the teak, and repaired any that was water damaged, then revarnished it. Some of it was in good enough condition to lightly sand and recoat, but 50 percent of them had to be taken back to raw timber and then coated with eight to 10 coats of varnish.”
A full topside respray was undertaken including painting the mast “Hatteras white”.
The restoration took six months. During that time, up to a dozen tradespeople worked on the yacht each day. “We used many of the trades on site at The Boat Works and other contractors from around south-east Queensland,” says Iain. “If you’re going to do a complex refit project, this is the place.”
Iain also relied on adhesives and epoxy resins from ATL Composites, who he has worked with for 20 years or more, including WEST SYSTEM 105 and hardener, and Techniglue R60.
“Their products are consistent, easy to work with and never let us down. The team from ATL is always on hand for any technical advice or product information,” Iain stated.
For new wooden boat construction, WEST SYSTEM provides the means to build a beautiful and efficient, wood, composite craft, and the same components can be used for wooden boat repairs and restoration with excellent results.
Chosen by professional boatbuilders around the world, WEST SYSTEM epoxy products used in restoration projects will allow the primary functions of the boat’s structure to be restored, while reducing flexing, providing moisture protection, reducing maintenance and prolonging the life of the vessel.
Just having arrived from the US, the boom mast and sails from North Sails will be fitted and the project will be complete.
“They’re working on the benches and settees now. Not long and Dreamtime will be back to her former glory, as she should be,” says her proud owner.
For her maiden voyage, Findlay is planning to cruise Dreamtime to Lord Howe Island.
“It’s only 360 nautical miles, so that’s a good run. There have been a lot of hands up to join me. Iain is on board. I really appreciate his craftsmanship and dedication to restoring Dreamtime. The trip will give us some insight into how she’s travelling and what still needs to be done.”
With her large keel, Dreamtime is an ocean-going yacht, and won’t be comfortable confined to Moreton Bay or the Broadwater.
“She can certainly sail at the top end of the Bay, but she’s going to be more at home on open waters,” states Findlay. “She has a 2.5-metre draft with the keel up and 5.5-metres with it down. Passing under bridges is another issue. The mast is 35-metres high!”
At her core, Dreamtime is a racing yacht and a Sydney Hobart may be on the cards. Findlay attended the 2023 Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart and an appearance at the 2025 edition could also be in her future.
“I am proud to say we’ve done an incredible job,” says Iain. “We bought Dreamtime back to her former glory, and she will be around for many, many years to come. It’s beautiful. It really is.”