EMOTIONAL LAUNCH: Margaret Brown and Felix Holmer prepare for last weekend’s launch of the Rondo III, which Margaret’s last husband, Doug, began building in Ballina more than 30 years ago.
EMOTIONAL LAUNCH: Margaret Brown and Felix Holmer prepare for last weekend’s launch of the Rondo III, which Margaret’s last husband, Doug, began building in Ballina more than 30 years ago. Graham Broadhead

Vessel with a long history sets sail at last

WHEN the 43-foot steel vessel Rondo III slipped into the still waters of Emigrant Creek last Saturday, it marked a big milestone in its 33-year history, and an emotional one for Wollongbar's Margaret Brown.

Mrs Brown's late husband, Doug, began building the vessel all those years ago with dreams of the couple sailing to Europe.

Unfortunately, Mr Brown passed away in October last year, aged 90, from melanoma.

But his friend, Felix Holmer of Knockrow, bought the vessel and is completing its construction.

"It's wonderful seeing it going in the water, but it's the end of an era," Mrs Brown said.

"She (the vessel) is very much a part of my life."

Mrs Brown said Doug "just loved boats".

He was a keen sailor from his youth, and sailed solo around the world from 1972 to 1976 in a 28-foot wooden vessel he designed and named Rondo.

He met Mr Holmer in Panama during that voyage, and 10 years later, was surprised to see him sailing into Emigrant Ck.

Mr Brown started building the Rondo III at a Smiths Dr property in West Ballina

He had to call it Rondo III as another vessel had registered Rondo II. The steel motor cruiser has a tabernacle and drop mast, designed specifically to be lowered for sailing through Europe's canal system.

Mr Holmer is finishing construction of the vessel as much out of respect for Doug as his fondness for sailing.

"If I didn't know Doug, there is no way I'd be doing this now," he said.

He doesn't have any particular plans for what he will do with the vessel.

At this stage, he wants to see the project completed.

The Rondo III has timber which was salvaged from the famous Manly ferry, South Steyne, when it was refitted in Ballina.

Mrs Brown's uncle, Clive Henderson, brought the South Steyne to Australia from Scotland. As an accomplished artist, Mrs Brown painted a pastel of the vessel before it went into the water.