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SY Ena is one of the finest Edwardian steam yachts in the world.
SY Ena was designed by Sydney naval architect Walter Reeks and built by WM Ford Boatbuilders in 1900, just across from the museum in Berrys Bay, North Sydney.
Originally built for banker and yacht racing enthusiast Thomas Dibbs, it was named after his wife, Tryphena. It was used on Sydney Harbour for government functions, weekend entertaining and watching yacht racing in style.
The small number of vessels in the navy at the outbreak of World War One meant that private craft were sought out and requisitioned. SY Ena was painted dark grey and had a 3 pound cannon installed, to become HMAS Sleuth. She was used to patrol the Australian coastal waters on the hunt for armed German raiders.
At the end of the war, Ena went back into private ownership. After a stint as a Tasmanian trading vessel, she was renamed Aurore, and fitted with a diesel engine. Until the 1970’s, Aurore was used for trawling work, harvesting scallops, and fishing for sharks.
In 1981 the vessel sank in the D’Entrecasteau Channel when it hit an unidentified object.
Not lost from the imagination, the vessel was salvaged in the early 1980's by a business syndicate, and shipwright Nick Masterman fully restored the Ena in 1987 close to the yacht’s original specifications as a pleasure yacht.
In 2017 the Ena was generously donated to the museum by John and Jacqui Mullen.
Entry on board Ena is included in the price of your Big Ticket.
SY Ena is one of the very few classic luxury steam yachts extant in Australia, and alongside Lady Hopetoun is one of two designed by Walter Reeks and built by WM ('Watty') Ford boat builders, both preeminent in their fields in Sydney and Australia.
Only around 15 of Reeks’ craft remain extant, with probably a slightly larger number of Ford built craft also still in existence. The SY Ena respectively represents the highest quality of both their design and construction capabilities. It also demonstrates that a craft of this high standard could be built in Australia during that period (1900), whereas most other steam yachts had previously been imported or built locally to international designs.
Her original cost was 5800 pounds, a huge sum of money at the time.
The Ena was built largely with Australian timbers, the exception being the choice of lighter New Zealand kauri for the topsides planking. It was considered a light but strong hull at the time, and has proven to have been extremely durable, after more than a hundred years. The original machinery (steam engine) was made in Australia.
Ena was originally designed for daytrips and entertaining guests, and the layout provided for two cabins below the decks, fore and aft, a galley aft of the helm position, and a large open but covered deck area, perfect for parties.
The interior fit out was designed and built by Beard Watsons Ltd, another well-known firm in Sydney’s commercial and retail history. A few years after it was launched, an enclosed saloon cabin was added to the aft end of the superstructure.
Original owner Thomas Dibbs used SY Ena for over 10 years, entertaining guests as the Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, by day and overnight, cruising Sydney harbour and the Hawkesbury, before it was bought by the Royal Australian Navy in early 1917 for the then low price of 1000 pounds.
Renamed HMAS Sleuth, painted black and fitted with a Hotchkiss 3 pounder cannon on the foredeck, the ship was used to patrol for armed German raiders. Steaming in the Torres Strait, around Thursday Island and along the east coast during the final days of World War I, the crew were ever fearful of firing the gun, because it shook the entire ship.
Ena, however, proved unsuited for the tropics, and returned to Sydney to finish the war as a tender (ferry) for the training ship Tingira. Ena would take raw recruits out to sea to show them what being seasick felt like.
Ena remains as one of only two surviving World War I Australian war service vessels.
After the war it was bought from the Navy and returned to being a private yacht on Sydney Harbour and nearby. In 1933, the navy sold Sleuth for 1350 pounds. She went to Tasmania and operated out of Hobart to Bruny Island and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel as a trading vessel. It was later left idle for many years and became caught in a legal dispute before the Roche brothers, (well known in Hobart), bought the vessel in 1940 and used it for shark fishing, travelling as far as Queensland.
She was renamed Aurore, and fitted with a diesel engine in 1945. Aurore continued to work as a crayfish and shark fishing vessel until the sixties.
She returned to Tasmania and then hit an object in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and sank in 1981.
In 1982, the Ena was raised and towed to Sydney, where she was berthed at Pyrmont.
At this time a syndicate in Sydney was looking for a craft similar to the Lady Hopetoun for use as a charter vessel on Sydney Harbour. Shipwright Nick Masterman from Sydney suggested that restoring the sunk Ena would give them a craft equal to Lady Hopetoun. The wreck was purchased for an initial sum of $65,000.
The project was commenced under Masterson's guidance in 1984 and completed in Sydney during 1986. The structure and arrangement was restored or recreated where needed as accurately as possible to replicate how it was built originally, although changes were made to the proportions and it was adapted to modern survey requirements.
A new steam engine was made, based on the remains of an existing steam engine used in another Reeks designed ship Excella that had also been used in Tasmania.
The project cost over $3 million and created a restored vessel that was supplemented with modern requirements so that it could be put into commercial survey for passenger charter work on enclosed waters. The SY Ena was one of the first large Australian restoration projects and has helped the resurgence of interest and support for heritage vessels in Australia.
In 1986/87 the Ena steamed to Fremantle for the America’s Cup and then returned, completing a circumnavigation of the Australian mainland. In 1989 it was seized by the creditors for one of the syndicate and later sold to a private owner. It was well maintained, kept in survey, berthed in Berrys Bay and then Blackwattle Bay and made available for charter but was apparently only used occasionally.
It was sold in 2013 to private owners and taken to Melbourne to continue its use as a charter vessel, but returned to Sydney under new ownership in 2016. Before returning to Sydney, the Ena was prominently featured in an episode of the locally-produced Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. (Season 3, Episode 7: Game, Set, Murder).
On 1 July 2017, the SY Ena was officially donated to the Australian National Maritime Museum by Mr John Mullen.
SY Ena is listed on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (HV000605) and is available for charter.
LOA (Length Over All) 35.4 m
DWL (Design on WaterLine) 24.42 m
Breadth 5.05 m
Draught 2.30 m
Displacement 76 Tonnes
Speed 12 knots maximum
Date of building 1900
Place of building Berrys Bay NSW
Builder WM Ford Boatbuilders
Designer Walter Reeks, Sydney NSW
Extended to 6:00 pm in January
Last boarding time for Submarine and Tall Ships – 4.10pm
Closed Christmas Day 25 December.
+61 2 9298 3777
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© Copyright 2013
Australia National Maritime Museum
Every day 9.30 am - 5 pm
Extend to 6.00 pm in January
Closed Xmas Day 25 Dec.
2 Murrey Street
sydney NSW 2000, AU
+61 2 9298 3777