A trip to the Maritime museum on Melbourne Cup Day was a good idea. No-one else was interested in wandering around old boats and lighthouses and we virtually had the museum to ourselves. When we bought our tickets we were offered our own free guide for the time we were there. They were bored with no paying customers and of course we didn’t want them to feel their time was wasted so we agreed. The knowledgeable young girl we went with showed us the light house, the SS Diamantina, the Capricorn Light ship, and a few other small vessels before taking us to Happy II.
You couldn’t help but smile at the little tin can sailing boat.It looked Happy. She told us it had replaced Happy I by Howard Wayne Smith, a Canadian who was intent on circumnavigating the world. He had to be mad. The boat was 4.3 metres long. He left from Florida, sailing through the Panama Canal and made it as far as Noumea (1982) when he hit a coral reef destroying his Happiness and Happy 1. Not daunted he had Happy II built by a local Noumean boat builder. Now totally mad he designed this vessel to be 2.75 metres in length. His cabin did not allow for lying down. He would have had to sleep sitting up. He measured 1.77 metres in length himself and I think even sitting he would have been cramped.
It took Smith 23 days to make the trip from New Caledonia landing in Mooloolabah (on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland). He was immediately pounced upon by immigration and customs and when it was discovered that Smith did not have visas or any other documentation for Australia the authorities impounded his boat and demanded $2000 import duty. He didn’t have this kind of money by this stage in his voyage and although he had been granted a temporary visitors visa he could not go anywhere. Happy II sat getting decidedly unhappier by the minute. By 1984 the lack of care was showing and cracks were beginning to appear and Happy II was probably no longer seaworthy. As by now Smith had overstayed his visa he was deported to Canada in September 1985.
Now customs was stuck with Happy II and eventually gave her to the museum.
Although Happy II’s tale was not all that happy it did bring a smile. Just shows – we have always been tough on people coming to Australia by boat (not that I condone our treatment of boat people).