Highway One: Port Fairy, Victoria

By Catherine Lawson 7 November 2013
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In a decade-long project, a boat builder has reconstructed a 15th century likeness of the Mahogany Ship, in Victoria.

Catherine Lawson and David Bristow, along with baby Maya, are doing a lap of Highway One, the road that circles Australia. 

ONCE I CATCH A glimpse of his magnificent ship, spotted by chance on a morning walk around Griffiths Island in Port Fairy, I know that I have to meet Graeme Wylie.

This amateur boat builder and timber furniture-maker from Bushfield, near Warrnambool, took on a mammoth decade-long project when he set out to recreate a 15th century sailing caravel, using 58 tonnes of salvaged cypress.

The result is Notorious, inspired by the legend of the mysterious Mahogany Ship, a sand-bound vessel thrown from perilous seas off Warrnambool about 500 years ago and spotted rising from the dunes by shipwrecked sealers in 1836.

Eyewitness accounts from that time describe an ancient ship, very much like a 15th century Portuguese caravel, which controversially raises the idea that Portuguese navigators were exploring Australia’s east coast long before the arrival of Captain James Cook.

In recent years, no-one has unearthed conclusive evidence that the fabled ship ever existed, but the Mahogany Ship remains a source of fascination and inspiration for people living and travelling along the Shipwreck Coast, which stretches from Port Fairy east to Cape Otway.

Notorious is a ship that ignites imaginations, a beautifully designed and authentically crafted vessel of the likes unseen in boat harbours around Australia.

When we met Graeme and his wife Felicite, Notorious was just weeks away from her maiden voyage. In the months since, Notorious has breezed through her sea trials and owners Graeme and Felicite now have the Pacific in their sights.

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