Independence boosts American River

The distinctive RIG boatshed will soon be adorned with a large mural depicting the Independence project.
The distinctive RIG boatshed will soon be adorned with a large mural depicting the Independence project.

Independence rebuilds American River

Before the keel of an historic ship replica is even laid, The ‘Rebuild Independence’ project has already ‘rebuilt’ the waterfront at American River wharf, according to RIG committee member Trevor Hammond.

“From the seed of an idea, sown with the wish to revitalise the once busy and thriving maritime nature of this quiet town in one of Kangaroo Island’s most scenic locations, an impressive building has mushroomed up,” Mr Hammond said.

Credited with being the first ship ever built in South Australia – 33 years before the state was proclaimed – the Independence was built in 1803 by American sealers then based in American River.

“The locally-based Rebuild Independence Group, (RIG), formed three years ago as an offshoot of the American River Progress Association, will build a sea-going replica as near as possible to the original ship,” he said.

“The new Independence will then operate as a live exhibit of the island’s maritime ancestry, providing visitors the opportunity to experience a taste of life as it was 200 years ago.”

The large boatshed – built mainly with volunteer labour – that houses the RIG project is the first tangible sign of the group’s progress and marks three years of patient and careful preparation.

RIG stalwarts Greg Roberts and Tony Klieve hard at work.

RIG stalwarts Greg Roberts and Tony Klieve hard at work.

RIG acknowledged the generous support of the Kangaroo Island Council, as well as cash and in-kind support received from numerous donors.

“Vital fundraising has been greatly assisted by the granting of Gift Recipient Status, making donations deductible,” Mr Hammond said.  

A solid timber keel for the Independence has been donated by the Enterprise Trust in Melbourne, and machine tools and other equipment have been donated by a local retired engineer.

The building includes a café, which will provide an income to support the ship-building activities and be an initial focal point for locals and curious visitors.

As well as coffee, food and a range of souvenirs, the Deck Café will offer a stunning view over the picturesque waters of American River harbour, home to a growing number of watercraft.

“Visitors will also be able to view the progress of the ship-build at close quarters and observe many traditional boat-building skills in use.”

The first stage – boatshed and café – will be officially opened on Sunday October 4, less than six months from the initial site preparation. Boat construction will start immediately after.  

The RIG is seeking funding for an Interpretive Centre, to be housed within the boatshed.

This would enable visitors to learn about the Independence, American River, and their place in the birth of Kangaroo Island and South Australia.

The recent announcement of a major tourism development nearby will focus much attention on American River and provide a further boost the RIG’s project.

The distinctive RIG boatshed will soon be adorned with a large mural depicting the Independence project.

The distinctive RIG boatshed will soon be adorned with a large mural depicting the Independence project.

On Sunday September 6, Father’s Day, supporters in the community and anyone interested in finding out more about the project are invited to join RIG in an informal celebration to mark the completion of the boatshed structure. Good music and fine food supplied. (See advertisement in this issue of The Islander.)

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