AUSTRALIA’S oldest sail trading vessel, SV May Queen, is undergoing essential maintenance at the Domain Slip in Hobart to ensure its continued preservation.

The 19th century vessel is one of the few wooden ships of its era in the world still sailing, largely due to the efforts of dedicated volunteers.

Transporting the May Queen from its home at Constitution Dock in Hobart to the Domain Slip proved a challenge, despite only a few hundred meters distance separating the two, as without a motor the vessel had to be towed and carefully maneuvered into berth using punts.

For two weeks the May Queen will stay at the Domain Slip while a team of four volunteers undertake necessary repairs and maintenance onboard.

Spearheading the preservation efforts are two longtime volunteers who have been helping keep the May Queen afloat for decades.

Graham Roberts and Phillip Calvert, both in their 80s, have helped upkeep the vessel for a combined 30 years.

“With two new young guns volunteering on the crew, we hope to repaint the 21.5-metre Tasmanian blue gum and stringy bark hull with antifoul paint from the rubbing strip to the keel after using a high-pressure wash to blast mussels and other debris off the hull and sealing any identified leaks,” Mr Roberts said.

The May Queen will then return to Constitution Dock where the volunteer crew intent to sand the deck floor and seal it against the rain, while also replacing an existing canvas hold cover that has been in place for more than 30 years.

Mr Calvert underlined the team’s need for further help, “We would greatly appreciate more volunteers to assist with the May Queen’s preservation – if anyone is interested, please come and visit us when we’re back at Con Dock!

“Your support can make a significant difference in our preservation efforts.”

TasPorts, the corporation responsible for the operation and management of Tasmania’s ports, is partnered with the May Queen Trust, providing berthing facilities at Constitution Dock for the historic vessel and contributing to annual maintenance to help preserve this existing piece of Tasmania’s maritime history.

Built in 1867 on the banks of the Huon River in Tasmania’s south, the May Queen worked for a century carrying timber and general cargo along the River Derwent, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the Huon.

It was gifted to the Tasmanian government in the mid 1970s before she was turned over to the Marine Board of Hobart, after which the vessel underwent crucial repairs and restoration.

In 1997, Hobart Ports Corporation passed the May Queen to the newly formed May Queen Trust to ensure the financial stability and ongoing costs of the vessel’s maintenance.

In 2003 the May Queen was awarded the prestigious Maritime Heritage Award by the World’s Ship Trust.