Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania
Donald J.W. Sutherland
Compiled by Erika Johnson
Donald Sutherland was brought up in Scotland and spent his early years "mucking about" in his father's boat.
Donald studied medicine at Aberdeen University in Scotland but war intervened in his medical studies and took him off to Burma and India where his second love, horse riding, became a daily necessity on the North West Frontier. Returning to his medical studies at Aberdeen he met his wife-to-be, Anne. They moved away from the sea to a practice in Yorkshire where horse-riding replaced sailing as their leisure-time activity. In 1960 they moved to Norfolk in England where they set up a small country practice and sailed an Enterprise dinghy and later a Fireball.
In 1966 they boarded the Canberra with their three children John, Deborah and Andrew for an assisted passage to Australia. The ship sailed via the Mediterranean and through the Suez Canal. The children excitedly pointed out bombed-out wreckage which was already evident from early forays prior to the Middle East War.
Arriving in Tasmania they went to New Norfolk where Donald took up a position as medical officer at the Royal Derwent Hospital. At weekends they explored their new country and Donald was able to indulge in some of his favourite pastimes - looking for a boat, horse riding and fly fishing.
During their explorations they found Boronia, a mansion of gargantuan proportions, set on the cliff top south of Kingston. Despite its ideal position they decided that, with about eight bedrooms, stables and a separate cottage, the property was far too big. However, some time later the owner rang to ask whether they would again be interested - the house was much smaller now, she said - half of it had been burnt down. Thus encouraged Donald and Anne and their family bought their first home in Tasmania.
There was much work to do before the house was ready for habitation. At weekends, Donald, Anne and the children drove to Boronia. Neighbours eyebrows may indeed have been raised to see a group of patients from the Royal Derwent assisting in the restoration - wielding hammers, saws and axes. Not long after they moved in, fire once more damaged the property. During the 1967 bushfires the cottage on the property was burnt to the ground. The fires also partially destroyed the stables and burnt out one of their cars.
With the sea at their doorstep it was not long before they once more got into boating. Their first forays into The Channel were in a small dinghy and outboard and later they bought the 18 foot Hartley Trailer Sailer, Chuckles. Their next boat, Hermione V was a bit bigger, 27 feet long and 6 ' 6" beam. She was a character boat, built of Huon Pine with a jaunty pig-net slung beneath the bowsprit. It was in her that they were able to sail further afield and forged cruising friendships which ultimately led to the formation of the Cruising Yacht Club.
Completing his stint at the Royal Derwent, Donald took a job at the Repatriation Hospital. Later he did locum work in the Kingston area before setting up in private practice at Channel Court, Kingston. He then purchased a vacant block of land in John Street Kingston where he built his own surgery with adjacent chemist shop. They also bought a cottage at Howden on the shores of North West Bay where members of the CYCT often congregated for convivial get-togethers.
Donald and Anne must have had a penchant for Hartley. In the first edition of Albatross, their new boat, the Hartley RORC, Calavon, is featured as Boat of the Month. They came to an arrangement with the builder, Ian McKay, to swap his partly finished concrete hull for their 27' Hermione V.
Calavon was 32'2" × 10'2" × 5'6" and displaced 7 tons. The hull was transported to Boronia and set up adjacent to the house. A telephone extension was installed inside the hull and Donald was able to continue with the fitting out while still on stand-by as a GP! In his article he described how to deal with visitors while you're trying to fit out a boat! "It is possible," he said, "to get almost anyone to give of his best if you start doing his particular thing badly. He will shove you aside and do it beautifully. You then do the same thing when the next visitor calls, and before you know it you have a gang working for you. Strangely enough, most of them come back for more. Figurin' time over flagons of Rose is never wasted."
Calavon was launched on February 14 1974 and after some teething troubles was ready for serious cruising. She was seen regularly on Club cruises and participated in racing round the buoys with the Channel Sailing Club at Snug. It was during one of these events that Calavon's solid hull came into conflict with the more pliable hull of fellow member Neptune who called for "starboard" just short of the finishing line. However, Calavon never faltered and 7 tons of solid concrete hit Neptune square amid-ships! Luckily little damage was done except bruised egos!
Donald's first mate, Anne, died on 17 February 1983 while cruising in Port Davey on the Eye of the Wind. An annual trophy for the Cruising Yachtsman of the Year, made by son Andrew, was dedicated by the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania in her honour.
The incentive to sail Calavon diminished but as an alternative Donald crewed on yacht deliveries to the mainland and overseas. Prior to completing Calavon, Donald's love for the sea saw him participate in the 1973 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on Utiekah IV.
Donald remarried in 1990 and retired from private practice in 1991. He had sold Calavon and was looking for a new boat. Together with his wife, Julie and John, Debbie and Andrew and their families, they purchased the wreck of the Farr 37, Silver Minx which had come to grief on the St Helens bar while returning from the Sydney Hobart race. They bought her and over the next 18 months repaired and refitted her, this time in John's backyard, before re-launching as Silver Mist. By this time illness had forced Donald to the side-lines but he came down to Constitution Dock to cheer in Silver Mist at the finish of the 50th Sydney-Hobart Race.
An era came to an end when Donald passed away on 26 March 1995.
Thank you to Donald's children, John, Debbie and Andrew for their help in compiling this article