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The Heron

The Heron is a traditional gaff rig sailing dinghy designed by Jack Holt, who also designed other popular one design classes like the Mirror and Lazy E. 

Heron base statistics:
Length 3.43 m (11' 3")
Beam 1.37 m (4' 6")
Minimum Weight 63 kgs (140 lbs)
Sail Area 6.5 m sq (70 sq ft)

As a dinghy the Heron is: compact, stable and easy to manage; has a roomy, comfortable cockpit, with a high boom; and as a family boat can take two adults plus two children. The gaff rig handles well under sail, and you can also row the boat, or proceed under power with a small outboard. The Heron class was quite popular in the early 1970s.

Heron under construction
Heron under construction in the shed
at 23 Wood Terrace, Whyalla (1971)

I helped Dad to build the Heron as much as I could. While most Herons were built purely with one-design racing in mind, that wasn't uppermost in Dad's mind. Our Heron was built solidly, with provision for a small outboard motor and two oars. (Indeed we raced the first season with the oars stowed onboard!) The sails were cut rather flat so that they'd last. (Others more interested in racing would get full cut sails and when the sails stretched out of measurement, would simply replace them.)

Jurra on trailer
Jurra heading to the sea
for the first time.

Eventually one Sunday we were ready to journey out to the Whyalla Yacht Club and launch the Heron, now named Jurra, for the first time. Dad hadn't yet made a boat trailer so Jurra was eased out of the shed and placed on Uncle Doug Farrar's wooden box trailer with bags stuffed with seaweed as padding.

On arrival at the yacht club, then located out on the southern side of The Basin, Dad decided to "launch" Jurra off the beach (now part of the tailings dam), rather than down the club ramp into the Basin. Thus she was carefully carted out on to the mud flats and rigged with all due care and attention. Then we waited for the tide to come in. And waited!

Jurra waiting for water
Waiting for the tide to come in.
 

This doesn't exactly make for a spectacular launching. Keep in mind that Whyalla was then in its prime as the ship building capital of Australia having launched 80,000 plus tonne ships. In the scheme of things the launch of .066 tonne Jurra doesn't really measure up. But it was a special moment for our family.

The maiden voyage was most successful. Later that week we went out again in a bit of a blow. Well actually the sirens were going off in the shipyard and steelworks warning that the cranes had to be locked down. We went out anyway and broke the mast! "Always thought there might be a problem with those knots in the wood," said Dad as we were being towed in.

Dad & Sue in Jurra, Nov 1973
Dad and my sister sailing Jurra
(November 1973)

Sunday mornings in summer would see us out being taught to sail by Dad. In the afternoons I'd crew for him in the racing. As Dad was often away interstate or overseas during those years, he set up the Heron, its trailer and jinker such that Mum could drive me out to the yacht club and I could rig and launch the Heron by myself.

Saturdays were often spent sailing off to explore Point Lowly to the North, or the mangroves south of Whyalla with David and Grant Beaty.

My cousin Grant Farrar would often crew for me in the Sunday afternoon races. Grant still refers to the time, on a very rough day, when we capsized three times before the start of the race, another handful of times during the race, but won. In fact we were the only boat in any of the classes to finish that day!

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Last modified: Monday, 01 April 2013

 
 


 
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