Hugh Counsell, Mechanical Engineer from our Melbourne, Australia team, shares the fascinating story of restoring Merlin, an almost 90-year old teak boat, and how the project led to a career in mechanical engineering.

Before tackling the immensely complex and demanding five-year restoration project, Hugh was a sound engineer. The project sent him on a new career trajectory – which eventually led Hugh to Invetech.

Hugh shares the story of finding and rebuilding Merlin

Back in 2009 I went looking for a sailing boat called Merlin. Originally built in 1934, she had belonged to my parents who had sailed her from England to Australia in the late 1970s.

I found her after a six-month search, 2000km (1200 miles) away in a backyard in Caboolture, an hour north of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Unfortunately, she’d fallen into significant disrepair, and the task of completely rebuilding and restoring this classic teak cutter to her former glory consumed much of my life for the following five years.

I was particularly fortunate to find mentorship in some very experienced shipwrights from whom I gained a wealth of knowledge and skills in timber and metal work. They provided an invaluable benchmark for meticulous work, efficiency, ‘can-do’ attitude and ingenuity.

Hugh and his wife Cindy with Merlin at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

The constant stream of challenging problems, while often frustrating, created opportunity to expand these skills more rapidly and was ultimately the most rewarding part of the project.

A desire to understand the engineering concepts behind many elements of the rebuild led me back to university to study mechanical engineering. There a door opened into the world of medical device development and microfluidics, eventually leading me to Invetech where thankfully there’s also no shortage of challenging engineering problems to tackle. I’m extremely grateful for the project, which set me on my mechanical engineering path.

Read more: Wooden Boat Magazine recently covered the restoration story beautifully.