The MV Cape Don Society Inc. is a non-profit incorporated organisation which was founded to carry out the refurbishment and conservation of the historic Lighthouse
Supply and Nav Aids Maintenance Ship MV Cape Don as a part of the maritime history of Australia, in accordance with maritime heritage guidelines.
The MV Cape Don is an integral part of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Museum open for inspection to the public on an escorted basis. Once restored to
acceptable maritime survey standards, the Society will operate the vessel for all aspects of maritime training, disaster aid, research, and to the benefit of the wider
community. The vessel will be used by the Society to raise funds for the ongoing running and maintenance of the ship and the benefit of its members.
The MV Cape Don was commissioned in 1963, one of a unique class of ships purpose-built to service navigational aids (including manned lighthouses) primarily around the West
Australian coastline. She was built as a mini-liner, with the lavish passenger accommodation necessary to carry technicians, relief lighthouse crews (sometimes whole
families) and officials, often for quite prolonged periods. The Cape Don was retired in the late 1980's when Australian lighthouses were automated.
In late 2002, ex crew member of the MV Cape Don, Frank Allis was contacted by his daughter Brandi regarding an article in a newspaper. The MV Cape Don was
heading for the mid-NSW coast to become dive wreck. Frank hopped on a plane from WA to Sydney and arranged to be taken to the ship by NSW Maritime for
inspection. The inspection showed that apart from being rusty and a complete mess she could be saved. On arrival back in WA, he pleaded with museums to help
with restoration but was rejected. With no help for restoration of the ship in WA, Frank sent letters to maritime publishers and a letter in the Lighthouses of Australia
Bulletin in August 2003, caught the attention of Canberra resident Derek Emerson-Elliott.
Derek had the vision of saving the ship from the breakers (where her two sister ships had ended up). He purchased the vessel, formed the Sea Heritage Foundation
(to hold the ship in trust) and established the 'MV Cape Don Society' to carry out the restoration of the ship. The project is now underway in Sydney Harbour where
she is berthed at the Old Coal Loader Wharf in Waverton. The MV Cape Don is currently registered as the largest vessel in
private ownership in Australia.
To restore, maintain and operate the c1960's Australian designed and Newcastle (NSW) built heritage listed Lighthouse Supply and Nav Aids Maintenance Ship MV
Cape Don, as a working museum, training and disaster aid ship.
1. To restore the Lighthouse Supply and Nav Aids Maintenance Ship MV Cape Don to a fully operational seagoing vessel in accordance with maritime heritage,
conservation and appropriate survey guidelines;
2. To actively obtain, refurbish, maintain and display Australian maritime artifacts of the 1960's era, especially those associated with the work of the Commonwealth
Lighthouse Service and the ships that tended the lighthouses and offshore navigational lights of the Australian coastline;
3. To provide an operational ship to be made available to Aid and Government agencies, technical colleges, youth and other interested parties for training in all aspects
of maritime trades and team (crew) building skills;
4. To provide a research platform for schools, universities and research institutes for scientific, historical and archaeological projects and expeditions;
5. To form a Society, with membership open to the public, for professional (Marine) and nonprofessional people who share our objectives and from whom we can draw
volunteers to assist with the restoration and maintenance of the MV Cape Don, and crew the vessel as required;
How You Can Help
Participate with our extraordinary volunteers and get that wonderful sense of achievement and camaraderie in participating in taking a derelict ship with little or no
machinery operational, to a ship that is having a rebirth, a new sense of life and with great challenges ahead.
Join the Society, as a volunteer or supporter, to assist with the restoration of the largest maritime engineering project in Australia and or assist with raising the
necessary funds to carry out the restoration work. Members can visit the ship at Balls Head on Sydney Harbour. Come on board and hear the hum of machinery and
fresh air being carried throughout the ship, the sounds of chipping hammers and the increasing rumble of machinery from the engine room. The Society has a working
weekend every fortnight, check the calendar, we welcome community minded people from all walks of life and professions.
If you would like to become a MV Cape Don volunteer or contribute to funding the restoration in any way, please fill in the membership
form or contact us for more information.
Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Museum
The MV Cape Don Society is actively pursuing past memorabilia relating to the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service and is interested in any items from all Cape ships to
be placed into our CLS Museum on board the MV Cape Don.
The Museum is open to the public, dates and times will be published on the web site.
If you have any memorabilia, photos, parts of the ship, log books, anything at all pertaining to the Lighthouse Service Cape ships,
please contact us or our
Thank you for your support and we look forward to welcoming you on board.
MV Cape Don Society Inc.
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