Alf Jahnsen worked in the shipyard of Ernest Wright during the war years when Wright's Shipyard fulfilled major orders for wooden vessels for the US Army, the Australian Army and the Royal Navy.
At war's end, Alf started building vessels independently; his first being the auxiliary ketch Yola.
Built on the beach at Tuncurry, she was completed in early 1946.
The Cape Hawke pilot's log shows that she crossed the bar out of Tuncurry on Thursday, June 27, 1946 - "Ketch-rigged auxiliary fishing vessel - Owner J. A. Jahnsen departed for Sydney".
The Yola was built for Alf's uncle, Johan Anton Jahnsen (known as Tony Jahnsen).
The Yola was named after the Norwegian steel sailing ship YOLA on which Tony served prior to his emigration to Australia in 1924.
This was a beautiful boat - length 40-foot, breadth 12-foot and depth of four-foot, three-inches.
The hull was built from hardwood; the decking and planking obtained from a white beech log 60-foot long with a girth of six-foot, 11-inches.
She was fitted with a 21 horsepower Lister diesel engine and 600 square feet of sail.
Her ice boxes were able to store two tons of fish.
She was taken to Sydney and, shortly after, departed for Dunk Island, arriving in Townsville in early August, 1946.
The new owner, Tony Jahnsen, expected to become involved in mackerel fishing but, by December 1946, he returned to Sydney after an unsuccessful mackerel season.
She was sold in 1947 to three former members of the R.A.A.F. who wanted a change from city life.
She was registered YOLA J in 1947 (ON 178372) - Sydney 29/1947 - but the name Yola was the only name used thereafter.
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The new owners left on June 11, 1947 for North Australian waters, where they hoped to make enough money in shell diving (trochus shell) to be able to return to Sydney in 10 years and live in comfort.
With them was the former owner, Tony Jahnsen.
But just 12 months later, Yola was back in Sydney again and up for sale.
She was purchased by A.B.S. Pearling in 1948 but was re-sold in 1949 to Jack Shurmer (a former part-owner).
During 1949 she was based at Thursday Island where she operated regularly until 1953, when she was purchased by the Anglican Church (Lockhart River Mission) and based at 'Old Site' Lockhart River.
In 1956, responsibility of the management of the Mission boats was transferred to The Lockhart River Aboriginal Christian Co-operative Society Ltd.
By 1959 the engine of the Yola deteriorated to the point of being most unreliable, and although every effort was made to keep the boat at sea, it proved fruitless as the engine was worn out.
The co-op was able to purchase a new 58 horsepower Perkins Marine Diesel to replace the old one, and once again Yola was operating.
It was reported that trochus shell production on this boat rose immediately.
The end of the co-operative began in 1962, when repairs to the Yola led to a debt to the Diocese of £800 and the market for trochus shell suddenly collapsed.
The Yola was passed to the Diocese, and the debt was written off.
Abandoned on the beach at the Lockhart River Mission, the Yola broke up in 1963.
In 1990, John Warby, former manager of the Lockhart River Mission, visited the site where Yola was abandoned and took a video that is now on YouTube called 'Finding Yola'.
Chris Borough and his family had first visited the Lockhart River Community in 1976 and planned a return visit in 2016.
What follows is Chris' account of his journey some 40 years later.
"I didn't expect to find much evidence of the Yola after 53 years but I felt that just being there and talking with people (or relatives of people) who worked on the Yola during the 1960s would bring closure to the story of Alf Jahnsen's first boat.
"A year of planning saw my son Tim and my daughter Janet joining Robyn and me on a Cape York revisited trip in June 2016.
"One of the highlights of our trip 40 years ago was a visit to Lockhart River along a track that had not been used since WWII, when the huge US base at Iron Range was abandoned.
"By chance I met a group of aboriginal people camping by the Archer River.
"It turned out to be a wonderful experience as they were all members of the extended Pascoe family - all related to Arthur Pascoe who had worked on the Yola in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
"I was able to sit down with Ben Pascoe; he held my hand and told me stories of the Yola and even sang the Yola song that had been traditionally sung when the boat was leaving the Mission.
"Everything was organised.
"We had been given permission to visit 'Old Site' Lockhart but mother nature was about to defeat us.
"Unseasonal late rains meant the road to 'Old Site' was very swampy.
"After getting bogged a number of times and negotiating washouts that most people would think were impassable, we abandoned the trip and returned to Lockhart River.
"I did find one photo of the Yola tucked away in a mouldy box of old photos - some consolation, I guess, but I had tried my hardest.
"Despite the failure to find the Yola we met some great people who simply welcomed us as family.
"Maybe I can revisit Lockhart River when a 'normal' wet season occurs, make contact with my new 'family', and finally go with them to locate the wreck of the Yola."
More on the Yola here.
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