Tasman Whisky Distiller's Release - The Vigilant

Iron House - Vigilant Distiller's Release Whisky

The Vigilant has faithfully served Tasmanians for 50 years and we wanted to celebrate the service of this amazing offshore and rescue vessel. We sent a barrel to sea - it visited the most far flung areas of Tasmania before it returned to Iron House for a very limited release bottling.

Image of Tasmanian Police Boat, The Vigilant

Built by Ray Kemp of Woodbridge, The Vigilant has served Tasmania for 50 years as an offshore patrol and rescue vessel. She has witnessed major moments in Tasmanian history first hand including diver support in the aftermath of the Tasman Bridge collapse.

She has attended countless rescue and towing jobs, many a Tasmanian boatie has been very glad to see The Vigilant in their time of need. She is the only timber police vessel in Australia. We thank her her crew and many contractors, as we celebrate The Vigilant’s role in Tasmania’s maritime history.

Image of Iron House Special Release Whisky - The Vigilant.

Bottle Details - The Vigilant Special Release Whisky from IronHouse


Vessel History.

In the late 1960’s plans were made for a new 50 – 60 ft offshore patrol/rescue vessel for Tasmania Police to replace the ageing vessel Premier (launched 1922).  Tenders were called resulting in Ray Kemp of Woodbridge being awarded the contract in March 1970.  Kemp was well known for building beautiful huon pine vessels including the Dennison Star, Mac David, Lullaby, Born Free, Kemway Star, Barralee and later the Lady Nelson to name but a few.  It took just over twelve months to build the vessel and on Saturday 18/9/1971 the Vigilant was launched from his shed at Perch Bay with speeches from Max Bingham (later Sir Max), Minister of Police and Commissioner of Police Mr Phil Fletcher.  Mrs Bingham (later Lady Bingham) broke the customary bottle of champagne on the bow.  The contract cost was $56,246.66.

Since then, the vessel has been based in Hobart and has patrolled all Tasmanian waters enforcing MAST, AMSA and Tasmanian Fisheries Rules and Regulations, usually at sea for 50 to 60 days per year.  It was an integral part in the aftermath of the Tasman Bridge collapse as a dive support vessel, something it still does to this day.  The protests on the Franklin River in the 1980’s and the Tall Ships departure from Hobart in 1988 were other significant events.  Also, in the 1980’s the vessel rescued a disabled yacht 150nm east of Tasmania and towed it to St Helens, thus showing its offshore capabilities.  It was the command vessel for numerous nuclear-powered warships week long stop overs in Hobart, monitoring radiation levels and protestors as well as assisting with many Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races.  The Tasmanian Government National Parks and Wildlife Service has used the vessel for many years to transfer their field officers to remote Islands and areas along South and West Coasts.  In 2011 whilst on patrol on South Coast the Vigilant came across craypots set illegally in recently formed Marine Parks.  Subsequent enquiries and later prosecution lead to $130,000 fine for a Tasmanian fisherman.  This detection and conviction were the very first by any agency Australia wide relating to the new marine parks.  The Vigilant has undertaken countless rescues/towing jobs, most in less-than-ideal conditions and in 2006 a call was received from the STV Lady Nelson who was in Storm Bay with a group of school children and their minders.  The vessel had engine trouble and was trying to sail back to Hobart in 15 – 20 knot north westerly winds, which were expected to increase, was proving more than difficult for her.  The Vigilant towed the vessel to Hobart at an average speed of 5.5 knots.  The Lady Nelson, apparently under power, travels at 5 knots thus underlying how proficient the Vigilant is as a rescue/tow vessel.  She was also a regular safety vessel at numerous yachting events and fishing rallies, as well as participating in AUSAR offshore safety exercises for many years.

Vigilant is still powered by two V8 Cummins diesel engines (original) and these give her a service speed of 10 knots with a top speed of 12 and a half.  She is equipped with the latest navigation equipment, radios, sat phones and has a diesel generator.  A domestic size fridge, freezer, microwave together with LPG oven and hot water to satisfy most chefs/cooks.  She can sleep 6 in two cabins and a saloon but is normally crewed by 4.  A 7.5 metre RIB powered by twin 115 4 stroke outboards compliments the patrol package (the RIB cost approximately $200,000). Vigilant carries 2000 litres of fuel and 680 litres of water enabling her to undertake extended patrols for 6 to 7 days.

In the early 2000’s a model maker from Brisbane Mr Rod Grimes saw the vessel whilst he was in Hobart and was so taken by her classical traditional lines, he contacted Tasmania Police requesting all her details and the resulting “Museum Class” 1/12 model was presented to Commissioner Darren Hine in September 2011 to commemorate her 40th birthday.  This superb model can be viewed at the Tasmania Police Museum in Hobart.  In 2007 the then Curator of the Historic Ships Register at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Mr David Payne, contacted Tasmania Police and suggested that the Vigilant be listed on the register because of her, again, classical and traditional lines, craftsmanship involved and her significant ongoing role in Tasmania’s maritime history.  Even though she was technically not “old” enough to comply.  The historic vessel certificate was presented to Tasmania Police at the 2009 Australian Wooden Boat Festival and is proudly displayed in her wheelhouse as a testament to Tasmanian timbers, Ray Kemp’s immense boat building skills and the many crew and contractors who have worked on her and treasured her over the past 5 decades.  She is the only timber police vessel in Australia and to still be a working vessel after some 50 years of distinguished service and to be in as good, some would say better condition than when she was launched, is indeed quite remarkable.


LOA. 55 feet 8 inches    LWL 52 feet six inches

Beam 14 foot 6 inches   Draft 5 foot 8 inches

GRT 24 tonnes              Twin Cummins V470 x 185 horse power diesel engines twin disc gearboxes

Blue gum keel               Hard wood ribs

Hard wood stringers      Huon pine hull 1 1/2  and half inch by 6-inch, carvel planked

2 and half inch stainless steel shafts and 4 blade austral propellers

220 feet half inch galvanised chain

80LB CQR anchor.

 All profits donated to Police Legacy Tasmania - Supported by Ironhouse & Onetonne

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