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When the Bounty mutineers found their way to Pitcairn Island, one of their first acts was to burn the ship Bounty to avoid detection. The community was soon to realize, however, that possession of seaworthy craft was to be important to their survival in a remote island. In the ensuing years, on both Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands, the descendants of those mutineers have enjoyed a strong bond with the ocean and with boats.

David Bigg is a young island family man who traces his roots back to both Fletcher Christian and Matthew Quintal of the Bounty. Today David earns his living from the sea and his boat. Like many Norfolk Islanders, he feels both a fondness and a respect for the sea, and believes it has shaped the Norfolk Island community in many ways. “It is part of who we are” he declares.

He also gives credit to his beloved Nan, Beattie Bigg, for teaching him to fish. When he was a young boy, Beattie would gather up her grandchildren in her small car and head down the hill to Cemetery Beach, with a big bundle of homemade bamboo rods projecting out of the car window. After a couple of hours of fishing from the rocks, they would build a small fire, fry their catch in a pan, and enjoy the experience of eating the freshest seafood possible! David recalls with a smile that their return journey was always via Store Road and Middlegate, so they could pressure Beattie into buying them all an ice cream for dessert. “For our grandparents,” says David, “fishing was more than recreation. It was about putting food on the table, and survival.”

Another early memory is one of being taken to the pier when the fishing boats had come in at the end of the day, and seeing piles of freshly caught fish everywhere. “That really captured my imagination” says David “and I decided that I wanted to be part of that scene one day.”

Dad Archie later got hold of a small dinghy, and David and his brothers learned the delights of “messing about in boats.”The first boat he operated in his own right was one that had belonged to master fisherman Ian Kenny. Later he upgraded further with a boat he purchased from another commercial operator Mike Simpson. With those early foundations, he gradually built up skills and knowledge. There was some mentoring from the older generations of fishermen, but David found that learning the best fishing spots and developing a proper respect for the ocean and its many moods is something you can only master for yourself.

By now David knew for sure that his life was going to revolve around boats and fishing. Early in the piece, he had the opportunity to do work for Parks Australia, transporting personnel and equipment out to Phillip Island. Meanwhile, it became apparent that many of our more adventurous visitors also enjoy the experience of taking a trip to this offshore island, and seeing first hand the abundant birdlife and natural vegetation. Phillip Island Treks have become an important plank in catering for the eco tourist.

David believes that many visitors coming to an island look for an opportunity to experience ocean-related activities, such as round the island scenic trips and fishing expeditions, and he has sought to cater for these needs and to enhance the holiday experience for many in
this way.

About four years ago, with his Charter Marine business firmly established, plans for a new boat, perfectly suited to his operations, began to develop. There were months, even years of discussions with John Christian-Bailey, of JCB Cabinets, about the design. John had many years of experience building and renovating boats for local fishermen, as well as building lighters and a launch for the Norfolk Island Administration. Between them, John and David had a good idea of what was needed. Above all, the vessel needed to be safe and stable, and would be fitted out with two engines. For the comfort and convenience of the visitors, it was to have shade and a toilet. Finally there should be enough room for fishing in comfort and for storage of the catch.

About the time the work was to begin, Dean Burrell came to work for JCB Cabinets. Dean had grown up on Norfolk Island, and had early experience with his own father’s fishing boat. He had gone on to gain valuable skills overseas with boatbuilding.

Over a period of 16 months, the boat took shape. Norfolk pine was used for the framing, and the finish was fiberglass over marine ply. The length is around 8 metres. Dean undertook the main work, with John giving advice and helping out between other jobs. David himself put in many hours in the evenings and weekends. He is full of praise for John and Dean, “They are real craftsmen, and should be proud of what they have achieved.”

The final fitting out took place at the Bigg home where brother Matt lent a hand. It was very satisfying when the task was finally completed. Between them, David felt all those who had worked on the boat had produced a real work of art.

The new boat was christened “Amberjac” This is the name of a fish, related to Kingfish, caught mainly in the seas around Central America, and parts of the Pacific, and occasionally in Norfolk waters. It is also a name that has been given to two U.S. Navy submarines (Each spelled “Amberjack“). However, the reasons for the choice of name were much closer to home, as it honours the two most important people in David’s life – his young daughter Amber and wife Jacqui.

The day of the launching seemed a little inauspicious, and the rain teemed down. However, just a short time in the water proved that the boat would exceed all expectations in terms of smoothness, stability and performance. The following day was sunny and fine, and many friends and family members took the opportunity to experience the pleasure of sailing in Amberjac.

Amberjac has become a valuable part of the Charter Marine business, offering a quality experience to visitors, as well as providing a valuable service to locals. Feedback and comments indicate that visitors greatly value David’s extensive local knowledge, and are inspired by his passion for his island home. The new boat has meant a considerable investment of resources for the Bigg family, but they are confident that they have gained a
wonderful asset for themselves and for the island’s tourist industry.

David sums it all up: “As Norfolk Islanders, the ocean is very important to us. It is in our blood. It is wonderful to be able to share the experience with our tourist visitors. I count myself just so fortunate to be able to earn my living doing something I love!”


Image Credit: Robin Nisbet


Article content disclaimer: Article first published in YourWorld, Volume 01 Issue 03, 2011. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.


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