Above left: Huge fleets
are a common sight on Port Phillip Bay, a group of
boats raft up at the Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club
before a race. The Portsea Cup often boasts a fleet of
up to sixty boats in two divisions
Above Right: Muriel, Surprise and Sady racing at San Remo approx 1930. Surprise was victorious in this race under command of the famous Mitchie Lacco. The Muriel and Surprise are still racing today
Muriel - A fine
Muriel was a product of the turn of
the century engineless era and is very deep and
beautifully balanced. Designed and built by Mitchie
Lacco, she was launched in 1917. Her original owner, Gus
Johnson, sailed her for only eighteen months before
passing her on. The second owner, Andy Johansen renamed
the boat "Muriel" after his sister who loaned
him the money to buy her.
"Muriel" stayed with Andy until the 1980's, a period of over sixty years. In her working life, "Muriel" wore out twenty-eight mainsails and Tim believes that she has sailed well in excess of 300,000 miles - not bad for a boat that measures just 26' by 10' by 33". Like most of her type, "Muriel" is gaff sloop rigged with a loose footed mainsail. Her wooden mast is 5" in diameter, tall and stayed by a cap and lower stay. There is no running backstay. The jib is set on flying on a long bowsprit.
Boats of today
The new Couta Boats Built
at the Wooden Boat Shop are a very refined Craft,
having completed major rebuilds on countless
old timers and about 30 new 26 footers.
"Any new boat should have
good sailing characteristics, be well balanced, and not
too big down the stern. It should have good carrying
capacity, and obviously, it should sail fast. The hull
needs enough depth forward to drift well for flathead,
which was also quite a big part of the early
fishermen's activities. If the boat is too
shallow forward it will drift off at the
"Attempting to follow the
bottom-dwelling flathead fishermen would sail their Couta
boats under a loose sheeted, luffing mainsail. The boats
would drift along with tide and wind, lying ahull. They
would occasionally luff up into the breeze, and if a hull
was too shallow forward it would fall away, start
sailing, and move too fast. Thus hull shape was (and is )
Above C44 Jessie
went to Duarnenez in France 1988 and came home
with a whole swag of trophies."The Couta Boat is a sight to
behold, capable of holding her own and raising a crowd
among any fleet in the world" Photo(Steb
Muriel Racing, reveered as the best
Couta Boat ever buillt, she spent most of her life cray
fishing out of Flinders. "As I told you she
can get through the water alright. I often think of the
days when I was at the Cliff, how she used to walk
through the fleet, beating up from the easterly or
westward" - Andy Johanson.
The Wooden Boat
Shop have built and restored a huge
amount of Couta Boats.
It is largely from this experience that the construction
of these boats has been perfected, finding the weaknesses
in the old boats and seeing where they have failed.
Our Couta Boats represent years of
dedication to learning and applying the skills and
traditions of a bygone era.