WHILE the global coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of developing works to a screaming halt, one project that has not only continued, but also ramped up, is Bill Tober’s reconstruction of Onrust.
In early 2017 local fisherman Bill Tober travelled to Tasmania and purchased a 36-foot yacht, named Onrust.
For most keen sailing eyes, the rust-encrusted cruiser was beyond saving, and while being towed from Tasmania to Portland, Mr Tober was forced to stop multiple times to pump water from the slowly sinking vessel.
Despite the years of work that would be involved in returning the yacht to its former glory, for Mr Tober, Onrust was a boat worth saving because of some important family history.
In the 1950s, Onrust began its journey at the hands of Dirk Tober, Bill’s father, who sailed the yacht from war-torn Europe to Australia to start a new life.
Three years after the purchase in 2017 and Onrust is nearly ready to return to the water, with some minor work still to be done shortly before being decked out with a new interior and then painted.
It’s work that Mr Tober expects will take him less than two years to complete – a blink in the eye compared to the work that’s been done so far and in the overall story of the boat itself.
“In terms of the whole project, overall, I’d say that we’re almost there now,” Mr Tober said.
“I’m almost ready to start painting, and it’s going to be green – like it was when it first sailed from the Netherlands to Australia.
“The colour green seems to suit it well.
“It’s been painted black in the past as well, but usually when a fisherman paints his boat black, it’s to hide rust, and we won’t need to do that for this boat.
“Overall I’m thinking I’ve got maybe 18 months to go, but now that I’m semi-retired, maybe it will only be one year.”
In the early 1950s, much of Europe was still in a deep state of depression and recession following World War Two and Dirk Tober’s native country of Holland was no exception.
Seeking a fresh start after spending time in the navy, Dirk Tober, then 25-years-old, purchased the base of a yacht he named Onrust (Dutch for Restless) and once construction was completed, set sail for Oceania.
Dirk Tober sailed straight into the Atlantic Ocean and on to the Panama Canal before island hopping across the Pacific Ocean and eventually touching down in Auckland in New Zealand.
It was in Auckland that he met his future wife, Margo, although to this day, the details surrounding how they first met remain murky.
Margo was also from Holland and came from approximately the same area as Dirk, although it’s unclear if they knew one another prior to their first encounter in New Zealand.
In 1953, Dirk, with Margo by his side, left New Zealand and headed for Australia, landing in Sydney.
Once landing in Sydney, Dirk registered Onrust as a competing vessel in the 1953 Sydney to Hobart Race, which at that stage was a competition in its eighth year.
Once completing the Sydney to Hobart Race, Dirk and Margo decided to settle in Tasmania and their family grew in 1957 with the birth of their first son, and grew again in 1959 with twin boys Bill and XXX.
In Tasmania Dirk worked as a commercial fisherman before relocating the family to Portland in the late 1970s.
While the specifics of when Dirk and Onrust parted ways, Bill Tober believes it was around 1957.
“My father was a very practical man so I imagine there wouldn’t have been any nostalgia when he sold Onrust, he would’ve seen no further use for the boat and decided to sell it, and I think it would have been around 1957 or 1958.”
Following his retirement in the mid-1970s Dirk Tober then resumed his plan to sail around the world, purchasing Onrust 2, a 46-foot yacht and finally completing the circumnavigation – twice over.
Dirk Tober passed away in 2015 at the age of 89.
Three years after its purchase in 2017, Bill Tober is eyeing off the finish line of Onrust’s reconstruction and couldn’t be happier with how the project has unfolded.
“It’s all mostly gone to plan really,” Mr Tober said.
“I wouldn’t say there’s been any specific, major challenges, it’s all just been about gradually modernising the boat.
“Some parts have been more difficult than others, but that’s just work.
“The cabin is pretty new overall, and I’ve given the interior more headspace up top.
“The hull is more or less the same.
“It’s still a project I enjoy and feel passionate about.
“I’m semi-retired now and it’s just one of those projects in a shed, that I get the chance to work away at every now and then.
“It’s mostly been me working away at it on my own, although my sons (Jacob, Davey, Zak and Aren) have helped out a bit here and there, although they live in Melbourne and are all off living their own lives now, so I’m more than happy to just get a little bit of help here and there.”