The Princess Royal, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, visited the Cape Don museum and training ship last weekend on Sunday 10 April 2022. The Princess Royal was on a tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea. On her visit to the Cape Don, she was representing Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.
The Cape Don, a 1963 Newcastle State Dockyards-built lighthouse supply and navigation aids maintenance ship. It is the last surviving Cape Class ship that was purpose-built to service lighthouses around the coast of Australia. It is currently moored at Waverton, on the north shore of the Paramatta River in Sydney.
The ship is now a working museum and training vessel. The Sea Heritage Foundation, a charitable organisation, has developed a range of programmes to provide training to the community. The Sea Heritage foundation is focused on providing education on training to members of the Indigenous communities.
One programme is a Certificate I course, delivered by TAFE, that will enable anyone who successfully completes the course to register with AMSA as a general deck hand. This will enable course graduates to work as a general deck hand on a variety of near-shore vessels such as tugs, charter boats and ferries. Completion of the course also enables graduate to continue to train with TAFE and it represents the start of an ongoing professional development pathway.
“It acts as a window of opportunity into the maritime industry,” CJ Manjarres-Wahlberg, a director of the Sea Heritage Foundation told Shipping Australia.
The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, has long supported Australian charitable work and, in 2013, established the Prince’s Trust Australia to promote a variety of causes such as support for Indigenous cultural heritage and also for assisting disadvantage young people into employment. The Prince’s Trust Australia is providing funding for two-day taster courses so that anyone who may want to undertake the training can experience the course without having to commit to it.
Time has taken its toll on the Cape Don and it needs restoration. The vessel needs to be dry-docked. During the visit of Her Royal Highness, it was confirmed by Mark Hilton, the Vice President of Sales & Marketing (Australia and New Zealand), that the vessel has a dry docking date of 16 January 2023. Thales Australia operates the Captain Cook Graving Dock at Garden Island on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy. The dry docking is being paid for by the Sea Heritage foundation using funds raised from corporate donors.
Mr Manjarres-Wahlberg noted that the Cape Don needs a full scrape and clean, a new coat of paint on the hull and superstructure, and rust rectifications throughout the vessel. The aft mast to the vessel was lost some years ago and a replacement is to be made and installed on the vessel during dry-dock.
Also present during the visit were representatives of State and Federal Governments, the former master of the Cape Don – Captain Richard Island, the CEO of the Prince’s Trust Australia – Michelle Endacott, Commodore Charles Huxtable of the Royal Australian Navy, and the CEO of Shipping Australia, Captain Melwyn Noronha.
At the conclusion of her visit, Princess Anne, noted the importance of the Cape Don restoration project and added that she looked forward to seeing the ship in the future after restoration.
Mr Manjarres-Wahlberg commented to Shipping Australia that: “it was a significant day for ship and its future. We look forward to planning for the dry docking in 2023. It will become a living, working museum with an integrated training platform, providing maritime operations training, hospitality and integrated primary school education programmes for the community”.