May Queen Timeline

The SV May Queen is Australia’s oldest sail trading vessel and is one of only a handful of wooden vessels of its era still afloat in the world.

The following outline lists the historical milestones over the vessels 106 years of working life.  


Construction of ketch commenced at Franklin-based on wooden scale model by Alexander Lawson for William Thorp. Built of stringy bark and blue gum. Planks fastened with trunnels.

5  June 1867

May Queen launched at Franklin

13 Aug 1867

Owner registered as William Thorpe of Franklin

15 Aug 1867

Owner registered as John White tobacconist of Hobart

22 Aug 1867

Alexander Lawson died of heart attack

8 Jan 1868 &  1 Dec 1868

May Queen won first of many Hobart Regatta Trading Ketch races Master W Nichols and in December Master T Oldham.

25 April 1870

Owner registered as William Bell farmer of Franklin Island

23 Jan 1871

Regatta race 1st place master William Bell

29 Jan 1872 

Regatta race 2nd place master William Bell collided with a boat on davits of HMS Clive and progress slowed until disengaged 100 yards later.

27 July 1873

Between 9 and 10 o'clock the wind, which had been light from the west, suddenly shifted to S.W., and came up in a heavy squall, and catching several of the river craft bound down, they had to turn tail and run for shelter. One of them, the barge May Queen, got caught before she could round to, and her mizzen was blown out of the bolt ropes, her mizzentop carried away, and the crosstrees came rattling down on deck, striking one of the crew on the head, and for the time rendering him insensible; but he soon rallied, and with the exception of a cut and a bruise was none the worse. The May Queen, and other craft got safely into port.

18 Aug 1873

May Queen and Hero left Southport at 1100am and arrived in Hobart at 500pm laden with timber from Chesterman and Hay sawmill at   Southport.  6 hour trip.

7 Sept 1873

Officially purchased by Henry Chesterman sawmiller of Hobart

27 Feb 1875

MQ sailed for Garden Island Creek loaded with a 40hp boiler for installation in a new sawmill for Henry C and partners.

5 Dec 1877

Regatta race. MQ was leading when the passage boat Crystal Wave capsized and went to the assistance of her crew. The race was reheld on 7/12 in blustery conditions and after part of her rigging gave way May Queen (which was favourite) retired.

8 Feb 1882

Regatta race 2nd, master H. Chesterman, after Korunah, ahead of Coral. One and All, Tasman and River Chief.

4 June 1883

Collision with the steamship Esk in Storm Bay after leaving Port Arthur. Bowsprit broken off and the boom struck by the stern of the Esk. No serious damage but an inquiry conducted under the Wrecks Inquiries Act.

15 July 1883

After leaving Port Arthur with timber struck a strong Werly gale off Adventure Bay. The mizzen broke off at deck level going over the side with sails rigging and fittings and being lost. Stayed overnight in Wedge Bay and came to Hobart rigged as a cutter.

26 Jan 1885

MQ ran into the yacht ‘Foam’ off Lucas’ slip and caused the loss of her mast. MQ undamaged.

16 Feb 1888

MQ under Capt E McKavoy sank between Police Point and Huon Island in about 17 fathoms of water after being hit by a sudden squall. No loss of life and the vessel was dragged in to 8 fathoms by the ‘One and All’ and the ‘Alabama’ by the 16th March and raised without difficulty.

1896    Christmas Day photograph taken at Raminea on the Esperance River with Jim Miley, Alf Nicholls and Joe Connors.


Henry Chesterman dies and ownership transfers to wife Mary Chesterman

1 Sept 1924

MQ sold to Alan C Boxall and former truck engine fitted

19 Dec 1925

MQ had a collision near Princes Wharf with the ferry Kangaroo under Capt O’May. Hit amidships and the rail and several of the MQ stanchions were carried away


MQ used to carry coal from Catamaran to Electrona Carbide Works. Also other goods under contract.

29 Feb 1940

MQ repurchased from Boxall by Chesterman & Co

9th &12th Feb 1946 

2 Races (Victory Regatta). May Queen won both, helmsman W. Bluett   Enterprise second on both occasions.

Feb 1951

MQ last regatta win.

Feb 1954

Final sail trading ketches regatta race MQ second


MQ modified to utilitarian role with shortened bowsprit and topmasts.  Centrecase removed to allow greater timber stowage. Crew reduced to 2 instead of 3.

16 Aug 1966

Heading out from Hobart and off Taroona the stern of the MQ was lifted briefly out of the water by a whale that then surfaced alongside. It was about 21m long. Both entities proceeding on their way with no damage.

14 Dec 1972

Technical piracy. Crewman W Evans was charged  when he took the MQ to sea without a masters certificate after a disagreement with the skipper T Tuttle. Fined $50

30 June 1973

Chesterman & Co sold to a consortium of Tasmanian based timber companies with sale condition requiring preservation of MQ.

1 July 1973

MQ ownership transferred to H Jones & Co

3 Jan 1974

Final commercial trip after 105 years of service

16 May 1975

MQ ownership transferred to Marine Board of Hobart and then Hobart Ports Corporation. Displayed in Watermans Dock

1976 -1985

Marine Board partial restoration by Jack Charlston, Wayne Berrins, Trevor Tuttle and others to sailing rig.  Old deckhouse and engine removed.  New chainplates, deadeyes and topmasts made. Bowsprit from Huon Chief fitted. Masts removed, repaired and refitted deck seams recaulked and pitch filled .  

10 March 1996

Headline’ May Queen Rotting Away’

3 June 1997

Formation of "Friends of the May Queen" (FMQ) to lobby for preservation program to be initiated.

Previous 10 years

Deck severely rotted, no through flow of air to the interior of the hull. Deck beams and lodging knees rotted especially at ends adjacent to covering boards. Significant rot through many of the frames especially fore due to fresh water entering through the deck.

Feb 1998

Completion of 'Staples Report' detailing the current condition of the vessel; and examining preservation options, and feasibility of rebuilding the vessel.

March 1998

FMQ apply a Commonwealth Govt grant under the Centenary of Federation Funding

April 1998

Saturated (12%) borate solution spray treatment of interior of the vessel using Polybor (sodium octaborate).by Bob Chesterman and Bill Foster.

28 Nov 1999

Hobart Ports Corporation passed ownership to non-profit organisation May Queen P/L as trustees.

26 April 2000

Ken Jones appointed as shipwright with technical input for the project from Bill Foster

May 2000 

Commencement of laying of temporary plywood deck cover to eliminate rainwater ingress. Receipt of grants of $20,000 from Hobart Ports and $20,000 from C’wealth Govt.

8 June 200

Removal of mizzen mast and rigging for refurbishment

4 Aug 2000 

Slipping,  cleaning caulking by John Harrod  and repainting.

13 Sept 2000

Completion of initial Conservation and Management Plan

Jan 2001

Removal of stern celery top pine deck. Forward mooring chains lowered to water level to reduce weight on weakened prow.

29 June 2001

Installation of temporary steel lifting gantry (crane) in the stern to provide support and lifting capability of hull planks whilst replacement frames are fitted. Port side stern corner lifted 50mm to return original sheer to vessel using gradual turnbuckle lift.

Dec 2001

Awarded Community Fund Grant of $50,000

11 March 2002

Mark Singleton started as replacement shipwright following excellent work by K Jones.

17 July 2002

Slipping to allow fastening of planks to new internal frames. Replacement of 2 planks below the waterline

Sept 2002

Install initial laminated deck beam and fit steel breasthook.  Install laminated frames and finalise stermpost

Dec 2002

Fit new celery top pine stanchions.

Jan 2003 

Three ‘ Work for the Dole’ persons commenced attendance. Repairs to masts and spars and wire rigging. Fit above waterline planks.

May 2003

Slipping to fasten planks to new stanchions and frames. Spline and recaulk seams, apply antifouling paint

April  - Aug 2003

Inspect, grease and serve wire rigging, refurbish blocks and running rigging. Refit main and mizzen masts and spars.

Dec 2003

Moved from Watermans Dock to Prince of Wales Bay for wharf side deck and cabin reconstruction

16 Jan 2004

Flagship at Sandy Bay Regatta

Feb – June 2004

Remainder of interior frames fitted,  deck fittings replaced or renewed

To end 2004

Completion of centreboard and winding gear. Slipping and 2 planks replaced.

9 Feb 2005

Moved from Watermans to Constitution Dock.

12 –14 Feb 2005

MQ featured in publicity brochure for Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Open for public inspections.   

Sept 2005

Slipping and replacement of underwater planks, caulking and painting


Coating of deck planks, preservation and finalising rope rigging, fitting of electrical switchboard for lights

May 2006

Open for inspection as part of Heritage Week

2006 to date

Regular Thursday maintenance day with volunteers attending

February 2007

Open for public inspection during Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Approximately  1,000 visitors over 3 days

February 2008

First wedding conducted on board with guests on Mawsons Place


Construction of replica MQ dingy by Bill Foster and Rose Bay High school students.

Feb 2011

Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Strong interest in May Queen. Annual slipping at Domain slip.

Feb 2013

Australian Wooden Boat Festival.  

March 2013

Commonwealth grant to remove and  refurbish masts

Sept 2013

Returned to Constitution Dock following major 10 year maintenance program.


May Queen