LOOKING BACK: PETE THE RIGGER
Pete the Rigger is one of Port’s stalwarts of the sailing fraternity and spoke to Moya Stevens about his life, sailing and his Port Douglas
Born to a shipwright, Pete Greig was destined to spend his life steeped in his passion, sailing.
His early years were spent around the bays and waterways of Melbourne where his siblings and he would find old dinghies, “salvage” and restore them to sell and give to new owners.
“It has just always been the way, being around boats particularly with my father, Simon who ran a boat building business, Blockey the Boat Builder,” Pete said.
After finishing school, Pete took up his shipwright apprenticeship at his father’s boat yard under an Austrian master.
“It was a natural progression to do my trade in the family business,” he said, “and in those days shipwright apprenticeships involved all aspects of boats from wire splicing, rope work to sail making – as a shipwright you could build a boat from the keel up.”
In his early 20s Pete opened up his own business at Sandringham, Peter Greig Rigging, concentrating on yacht rigging, which proved very successful.
“I did a lot of sailing too – racing and cruising,” he explained, “including the Darwin Ambon race and the Indonesian circuit but never too long away from the business.”
By his late 20s Pete was delivering boats, working around Australia and the Pacific.
Establishing a mast building factory in Melbourne, Pete had a couple of men working for him and his business and reputation became more defined.
“The general shipwright work slipped away and we were doing all work from the deck up.”
And although Pete spent many hours sailing around Port Phillip Bay on weekends, he never actually joined a yacht club.
In his spare time, he would rebuild old boats at Western Port Bay in a small village, Warneet, and when a boat was ready to launch, they would dress it up and parade down the main street and all the locals would come out to join in the fun.
“We would have our own Carnivale,” Pete laughed.
About this time Pete also became involved with the building of a then state-of-theart, 43ft trimaran, Ocean Emu, in Tasmania. This vessel features later in Pete’s life in Port Douglas.
In the late ’80s the economic downturn changed the boating scene in Melbourne and there was a movement of people to sell up and go cruising – living the dream.
“Back then, Queensland was, for sailors, cheap and beautiful, but had few boat services, especially in the far north,” Pete said, “and after spending a little time in Cairns and Port, I decided to move up here in ‘89.
“There were charter boats in Cairns and businesses such as Quicksilver and Sailaway were starting in Port, and my services as a rigger were in high demand.
“Many cruising yachts would pull in to Port Douglas as it is the last place where you can check things like rigging before sailing off to Darwin, PNG or the Pacific,” Pete said, “and from the early 90s, I would attract about 40 boats a year.
“Port was a party town in those days – the Carnivale Festival started, the Clipper and Zegna Cup races were in full swing,” Pete said, “and the yacht races would attract the maxi yachts from Sydney and Melbourne.
“Everything was humming and the marina was full of cruisers and of course, I was busy.
“People would call in here to have their boats checked, stock up on provisions and many would end up staying – sometimes they never left,” he said.
“Billy ‘Boomer’ McNeil is typical of sailors who would call in and end up working here, making Port their home.”
By the mid 90s, the owner of the 43’ trimaran, Ocean Emu, wanted Pete to skipper the vessel to wherever he wanted it to be, which he did and ended up buying the boat in the late 2000s.
“I kept the boat for about 7 years, cruising around the islands whilst the business still boomed,” he said.
Pete loves the technical side of rigging. “It’s all about geometry, and I am a very organised person, so preparation for a job is the key,” he explained.
Pete has been flown around Australia and abroad to work on boats and he takes his trade very seriously.
He has some very strong views about the new Reef Marina Development. He is not convinced that all the boat servicing facilities will stay in the precinct and he believes that will reduce the visitation of the cruising fraternity to this destination.
Pete has five children, and the youngest, son McLeod is at school in Cairns.
Pete is in his late 60s now and when asked about retirement, he grimaced.
“I don’t like the word retirement,” he said, “but a change might be enough so we will just wait and see what happens at the marina.”
His partner, Kayo, has a 34’ sloop and Pete said that they have plans to “just go sailing”.
People would call in here to have their boats checked, stock up on provisions and many would end up staying – sometimes they never left
Port’s maritime stalwart Pete Greig, Inset: Pete Greig, father Simon and an Austrian Shipwright in 1968