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

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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

Pic­ture: MOYA STEVENS

Port’s mar­itime stal­wart Pete Greig, Inset: Pete Greig, fa­ther Si­mon and an Aus­trian Ship­wright in 1968

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