Bringing the Narooma slipway into the 21st century

The Narooma slipway steeped in history is being brought into the 21st century to continue its function as a working boat repair and building facility thanks to couple Malcolm and Margaret Baddeley.

Repairs and retrofitting of the slipway on Forsters Bay are well underway but the Baddeleys are awaiting the necessary approvals from various agencies, ranging from Eurobodalla Council, Marine Parks and Fisheries and Crown Lands.

“Our intention is get it running as a fully serviceable slipway as its always been a working slipway with lots of building and repairs of boats,” Mr Baddeley said. “However it’s had very little work done on it over the last 20 years.”

Since being non-operational in recent months, local charter boats and other vessels have had to travel down to Bermagui or up to Batemans Bay to be serviced. Other boats, houseboats and pontoons not able to travel out of the inlet, including the iconic Wagonga Princess, have had nowhere to be serviced.

Mrs Baddeley said they instigated the repairs after purchasing the facility in March, to bring it into line with modern regulations. The couple in recent years also built the large three-storey house just south of the Narooma Bridge where they live today.

“We want to bring the slipway into the 21st century to ensure the pristine waters of Forsters Bay are kept that way and that the business of boat building and repairs can continue in Narooma,” she said.

Work completed so far include a new roof, new rails and logs, a new drainage system and also new fibreglass decking on the slipway ramp.

On board for the repairs is local boat building legend Jimmy Taylor, whose father took over the operation of the slipway boatshed in 1947. It was first built and used as a boatshed in 1937.

Then William Hutton Taylor took over and started hiring out boats from the original small shed that today serves as the winch room for the slipway. In the 1950s, the Taylor family built the larger shed adjacent where they started repairing and building large vessels up to 40 tonnes in weight.

Jimmy Taylor has worked on the slipway for more than 50 years starting out at just age 14 and said he was very happy to see the improvements happening to keep the facility working.

William or Bill Taylor had the Nola, the first boat in NSW licensed to take passengers out to sea, and also had the Number 1 Coxswain’s ticket in the State.

Most recently the shed adjacent to the slipway under its previous owners was used by a local group of wooden boat enthusiasts to build and repair classic and classic-style boats, earning it the nickname of the “Narooma Centre for Wooden Boats”.

The Baddeleys would like to see that boat building and repair tradition continue in Narooma and see it as a potential employer and even training facility for school students and young people.

While recently moving to Narooma from Sydney, they have a long connection to the town as their parents and family holidays at Easts holiday park all their lives.

Mr Baddeley also comes from a boat building family and his two uncles are also steeped in marine history. His shipwright uncle Percy Winter ran a boat building business at Palm Beach before becoming the general manager at Garden Island, while his other uncle sailed on the last merchant sailing ship the Pamir to round Cape Horn.

He himself is a qualified shipwright having worked on vessels and slipways in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea, before starting a building company in Sydney.

Boat building and repairs are his passion and they hope the Narooma slipway will be working for many decades into the future.

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