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SY Ena

SY Ena is one of the finest Edwardian steam yachts in the world.

  • Raised and Restored to her Former Glory

    Raised and Restored to her Former Glory

    Come aboard SY Ena, considered to be one of the finest examples of an Edwardian period steam yacht in the world. Tours are available weekdays.

    The Many Lives of the SY ENA

    Pleasure Craft

    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. 

    In the Navy

    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. 

    Salvage, Restoration and a New Home

    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 will be closed from Saturday 8 September – Tuesday 30 October 2018 for Dry-Docking.

    SY Ena InteriorSY Ena Archival PhotoSY Ena InteriorSY Ena Archival Photo on deckSY Ena at WarSY Ena Interior - EngineSY Ena Cross Section DrawingSY Ena Interior Engine SY Ena sailing in Darling HarbourSY Ena Interior Mast and BrassSY Ena sailing in Sydney Harbour
  • Detailed History

    Detailed History

    More Information about the SY Ena

    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.

    SY Ena Cross Section Drawing

    Built from Australian Timber

    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.

    SY Ena Archival Photo

    One of Only Two Surviving World War One Veterans 

    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.

    SY Ena at War

    Post-War Work Horse

    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.

    SY Ena Interior Engine

    Back from the Depths 

    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.

    SY Ena sailing in Sydney Harbour

    Further Adventures

    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.

  • Ship Specs

    Ship Specs

    Dimensions of the SY Ena

    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