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ANTONIA's sistership ANNIKI A98 is currently on the hard stand awaiting relocation back to Cairns for her full restoration after sinking in 2016. A fund of $250,000 - $350,000 is required to restore her.
Built as a pearling lugger in 1958 by Harold Collis in Smith's Creek, Cairns, ANNIKI became the second lugger for Jack Zafer in unusual circumstances. Zafer had commissioned Ron Wright to design his first lugger ANTONIA, which was then built by Norman R. Wright where Ron worked. A Gardner diesel engine had been ordered for ANTONIA but was presumed lost in a ship wreck enroute from England, so ANTONIA was fitted with a second-hand Gardner sourced in Australia. Meanwhile the lost Gardner was somehow salvaged and sent on to Australia. When it turned up unexpectedly Zafer decided to build ANNIKI as a second lugger, to be fitted with this spare engine. The engine showed signs of its ordeal, the packing case and engine were coated in fine sand, but once the engine was stripped down, cleaned and reassembled it was in perfect working order.
Harold Collis was employed by Zafer to maintain his craft because of Collis's skill with small boats. Collis had doubts about his ability to undertake the construction of a 60 foot long craft, but the project was completed successfully with Ron Wright’s assistance. Ron sent up the plans and helped solve any building problems along the way.
ANNIKI and ANTONIA are sister ships, carvel planked on hardwood frames, with the typical sparse fitout of a lugger. Holds and cargo space used up the main compartment amidships, and the basic accommodation was located aft with a low cabin house. Instead of a long counter ending in a fine point, the craft had a shorter overhang that finished with a small transom board, which was easier to build and provided better ventilation to the aft area. Otherwise they had the elegant sheerline, slightly rounded stem profile and deep keel that was typical of a Thursday Island pearling lugger. The sturdy gaff ketch rig is also another standard feature of the type.
While ANTONIA had been named after Zafer's father in law, ANNIKI was a combination of Anne and Nick, the names of his two elder children. Both craft worked the pearl fields under Zafer's ownership. They were often seen over the 'Darnley Deeps', with the divers down to a 40 metre (almost 20 fathoms) depth. The area was commonly called a diver's graveyard. They also held the record for the greatest amount of pearl shell collected.
Jack Zafer sold the craft in the 1970s, and the boats went away from the declining pearl industry to become cray boats. They were then mother ships to another generation of divers.
ANNIKI had become a charter vessel in Darwin but sunk in 2016. In 2000 ANNIKI was chosen to carry the Olympic flame from Horn Island to Thursday Island, recognising the importance of the craft and the industry and their place in Australia’s maritime heritage.
We are looking at a possible relocation from Darwin on a Seaswift barge if plans go our way.
Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian South Sea Islander visitors to this site should be aware that images and information used on this site contains images of deceased members of our community.