The painting depicts the 300 ton Bass Strait trading ketch Loatta in 1955 approaching Cape Wickham on King Island as the sun sets. Sails are assisting this wooden auxillary ketch to make the best use of the favourable westerly winds to ensure a fast passage to Currie Harbour.
In 1954 Captain Robert Houfe set up the Houfe Shipping Company after William Holyman and Sons decided to quit the island trade in Bass Strait. Loatta was the first ship used by Captain Houfe’s Company with initial trade between Melbourne and Currie Harbour. At a later stage Captain Houfe played a major part in the establishment of an all weather port at Grassy, on the south eastern side of King Island and the commissioning of the roll on-roll off trader – Straitsman.
Loatta was eventually sold to Bismarck Shipping, Rabaul, for trade in New Guinea in the 1960s, but whilst awaiting survey in Rabaul Harbour she caught fire and burnt to the water line.
A very interesting account of the establishment of the King Island trade, and the infamous history of the Straitsman is provided in Neil Pollard’s book titled “Straitsman – Lifeline to an Island”
I painted this picture for some special friends who have a very close family connection to Captain Houfe.
Specifications and details of the Loatta:
Designed by William Holyman and Sons for Bass Strait Trade
Built by Edward A Jack in 1936 in Launceston
Type: Wooden auxillary ketch
Length overall 125 ft
Engine 330HP Crossley 2 stroke diesel
Sails: Ketch with gaff rig