THE STORY OF BRUPEG
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Why take on a project that is so hard to achieve, like refitting a steel trawler and traveling to Antarctica or the Northwest Passage in the Arctic Circle? It was a project that would take just about all we had. We knew we’d have to work harder than we ever had before—and that we might end up struggling and having to give up the project altogether. So why did we decide to do it?
For me, this project started with a dream I had when I was six years old of living and traveling on a trawler. And for my husband, Damien, it stemmed from his love of boats and engineering. That’s only part of the story, though. We now realize that by taking on a project so challenging we have become more than we thought we could be: self-reliant, resilient, focused, and determined.
When Damien suggested we look
at Brupeg, a big steel trawler stripped out and sitting in a yard in Queensland, Australia, I thought, “It’s overwhelming and I must be mad to even think of it.” We had been looking for a trawler for years and had even looked at some wooden boats because the strength and size we wanted was expensive and scarce in this part of the world. Brupeg is a local boat that we found in Bundaberg, Queensland, that had been employed as a work boat for 40 years along the northern and eastern coasts of Australia. Brupeg was built by Bruce and Peggy Periott (hence, “Bru-Peg”) in Tweed Heads in 1974, as a prawn trawler. The boat survived a pair of cyclones before ending up on its side in the Burnett Heads River during a flood, after two weeks of heavy rain caused by Cyclone Oswald in 2013.
If we were to rebuild a 57-foot boat, we would have to get the hull for next to nothing to make it financially viable. So, after waiting months for the price to come down, Damien and I decided to at least go take a look at Brupeg. Because no one else was interested, the price ended up at “offers.” We drove five hours north from Brisbane to the boat yard. Through the locked gates of the marina we saw her down the back of the yard in long-term storage: blue hull, white cabin, covered in barnacles and grime. We talked to the seller and looked around for a couple of hours. The size of the vessel and amount of work it needed was formidable. We drove back talking the entire way about what a crazy idea it was, but also how gorgeous the boat was.
Ultimately we offered the seller the scrap value of the hull. This meant that if we couldn’t make it work, we could at least get our money back. The owner took the offer straight away, happy to finally be rid of it.
We knew three things when we bought Brupeg: It was the boat we wanted; we would do everything within our means to refit her; and failure was a possibility. Oh, and one more thing, we knew we would have to do it mostly on cashflow because we didn’t have a lot of money.
THE REFIT BEGINS
We traveled up to her only on the weekends, as it was a nine-hour roundtrip drive. Often we would sleep covered in mosquitoes and midges, the heat 95 degrees or more, working all day and into the night. Then we would drive back to Brisbane on Sunday in time to get to work on Monday morning.
We did this for about a year, then I was diagnosed with a condition that meant I was out as far as working on the boat went—on doctor’s orders, I was not allowed to lift anything, and I couldn’t stand for very long without fainting.
We realized how difficult a health problem like this could make things. Damien would be doing all the work if we continued, and it was at least a two-person workload. We had help from family and friends, but the schedule and the location