top of page

It's a Small World Article

Last November I had the privilege of heading off on an adventure with Brian Wilson.  We towed his Starlight Dory Trailer Sailor named “Indian” to Narooma, NSW for the Narooma Boats Afloat.  It is a relaxing and social weekend and I had been looking forward to our trip south since earlier in the year.  

Brian had snuck me away for the weekend in 2013 and I had a great time meeting like-minded people with a love of wooden boats.  I also heard some great yarns about cruising and working in the South West Pacific in the 1960’s from Brian and a great customer of ours, along with entertainment by the then resident seal. 

Figure 1 – Indian on trailer ready for Adventure

Brian built “Indian” which is the Starlight design by David Beatty from Elliston in South Australia.  She came to life over a three year period in the mid 1990’s and has performed well ever since with road trips to Bribie Island and Toronto Wooden Boat Festival each Easter that is a favourite of Brian’s along with the pilgrimage to Narooma most years.  The Starlight tows easily on the dual axle trailer and we were able to sit on 90 to 100 kms when the road permitted and made a timely trip to Narooma.  It is a relaxed coastal town in southern NSW between Batemans Bay & Bega with a magic little harbour and waterway.  Brian spent many a school holiday there “many moons ago” with family and it brings back many fond memories.  During the visits to Narooma, time was spent mucking about on boats as a kid and helping his uncle on his oyster lease.

Indian on trailer ready for Adventure

Figure 2 – Indian in Parade of Sail at Toronto

On the weekend of the Boats Afloat, people come from all over the place to enjoy a social weekend with like-minded people and to show off their pride N joy.  The fleet included three steam launches & Brian Jones towed his masterpiece from Smiths Lake near Forster for the weekend.  I love all things steam and Brian’s boat has magnificent lines and all hand crafted by him as shown in Figure 3 & 7.  I spoke to a bloke from WA in 2013 who is building a 30 foot Steam Launch and I am looking forward to seeing it at Narooma down the track.

Indian in Parade of Sail at Toronto

Figure 3 – Brian Jones Steam Launch In Action

The weekend started off with a BBQ on Friday night in Jim’s boatshed in Forsters Bay with a great crowd in attendance and catching up with old friends telling tall stories of their adventures afloat. 

Saturday morning was a slow start with a mustering of boats on the inlet with locals lining the shore to check out the spectacle of a heap of silly boaties going round the inlet in circles, supposedly in line astern.  When given the signal, the flotilla of sixty odd boats from Kayaks to 30 plus footers headed up river to the classic tune of Putt-Putt engines and steam whistles.

Brian Jones Steam Launch In Action

Figure 4 –The Flotilla heading up River

The destination was Paradise Point for tea & scones and more social interaction.  There was great interest in all of the craft lining the foreshore as it was the first time for inspections to be carried out.  After a break, it was back down river to the marina and a casual afternoon of checking out boats and in our case too many Dark N Stormies with interesting yarns with fellow woodies.

The Flotilla heading up River

Figure 5 – Crowded Foreshore at Paradise Point.

Over the weekend I quizzed Brian more about “Indian”.  Including how he came to pick on the Starlight design to build and where the plans were from.  In a flash, Brian produced a well-read copy of Australian Amateur Boat Builder Issue 34.  Sure enough, on the cover was Brian’s Dory, only in different colours and the story about the Starlight was the magazine centre fold.  I proceeded to read the adventure of how David Beatty designed the Dory to meet his requirement for coastal cruising in the formidable Great Australian Bight, as there was no design readily available that met all of his criteria.  When satisfied he had it pretty right David then proceeded to build his Dory called “Starlight.  From his Pen N Ink drawings David developed a set of hand drawn plans that rival any I have seen.  Brian explained how easy the plans were to follow when he built “Indian”.

Crowded Foreshore at Paradise Point.

Figure 6 – Cover Shot of Starlight on AABB #34

Anyway back to Narooma; the sail past was on Sunday morning with a similar ritual to the Saturday morning round up.  Only this time, we turned to starboard and headed down along the inlet to the ocean side of the bridge.  What a buzz, 60 odd boats of various shapes and sizes in line astern and hundreds of people lining the bridge and Boardwalk clapping all boats as they passed by with Figures 3 & 7 show a small portion of the crowd.  One of the interesting sights was the crowds’ reaction when Brian set off his steam launches whistle directly under the crowd standing on the bridge as depicted in Figure 3.

Cover Shot of Starlight on AABB #34

Figure 7 – Part of the crowd on the Boardwalk

The Parade finished back at the boat ramp to load the old girl on the trailer in time for more socialising.  This occurred at the other end of the inlet at the Boat builder’s group boatshed and hardstand.  The volunteers had put on a scrumptious BBQ lunch with prize giving and raffle draw.  What a weekend, which was finished off with an easy drive back to Sydney.

I wonder what the organisers will come up with this year?  If you have not been to Narooma for the Boats Afloat then put it in your calendar now for the 2nd Weekend in November.  More information, video’s and photo’s are available at .

Now back to Brian’s Dory as it is a lot of boat for her size.  I was so impressed with the room inside and lines of the Starlight at 19 feet long which proved comfortable and cosy to sleep on.  I was beginning to think why aren’t there more of these great Trailer Sailors around?  So, on the way home, I quizzed Brian further and he convinced me to contact David.  I borrowed Brian’s well read copy of AABB #34 as it contained contact details for David.  I telephoned the number when I got back to Sydney but it was disconnected.  So, I did it the old fashioned way and wrote him a letter hoping he had not moved.  

Part of the crowd on the Boardwalk

Just before Christmas and to my surprise, I received a beautifully hand written letter from David explaining his love of building boats and that he has designed and built eight different boats with most being dinghies. He now owns an Alan Payne “Koonya” which he has taken from Elliston to Vanuatu & back.

David made special mention in his letter that he gained his boat building bug reading Boden’s Boat Building book as a kid in the early 1960’s. The story that caught his attention was reading about Brian Wilson building his first yacht the “Morning Sun” as a young bloke.  It was the first Boden “North wind” with the design concept developed by Brian as a strip plank on steel frame yacht. 

Figure 8 – Brian’s Morning Sun Framed up

The reason for the steel frames was because Brian was a boiler maker by trade and this made it easier and faster for Brian to make the skeleton.

Brian’s Morning Sun Framed up

Figure 9 – Morning Sun Ready to Launch

When finished, Brian headed off into the Pacific with twenty pound in his pocket.  How’s that for coincidence!!  It just goes to show “it is a small world”.

I could write another three or four pages on Brian’s boat building & cruising adventures but you will enjoy them more by coming to Narooma in 2015 and collar him in the cockpit of “Indian” for a good yarn.

Morning Sun Ready to Launch

Figure 10 – Brian’s Morning Sun at launching

By the way, David has agreed for DRIVE Marine Services to promote Starlight plans for sale to builders.  She is a great little boat for the young & not so young who is after a great coastal cruiser to go short term cruising and racing.  I also consider there is scope to lengthen her out to about twenty two feet to improve the waterline length and provide more cabin space.

Brian’s Morning Sun at launching

There is more information available on the Starlight Trailer Sailor @ under Kits & Plans.  The plans cost $250.00 including Instructions with the Bote Cote Boat Building book and unlimited product support from the DRIVE Team.

At this stage we have already sold a set of plans and a customer is building a Starlight at Blackheath in NSW.  He developed the boat building bug from building a Bellinger canoe which is featured in AABB Issue 90.

©  DRIVE Marine Services 2015

bottom of page