Historical information

In 1952 the subject surf boat crewed by Geoff Scott, Ron Blackney, Wes McLaren, Jim Tibb, and Stan Stephens, won the Victorian Surf Boat Championships. When the club had finished with the boat Mr. Harold Stephenson paid one shilling and it eventually found its way into a garage where it remained for over 20 years before being donated to Flagstaff Hill. This boat is regarded as a unique example of craftsmanship, closely resembling Bay whaleboats used around the Warrnambool area in the 1800s. This timber caravel surf boat was named “Aeroplane Jelly” and was built by N & E Towns a Newcastle boat builder in 1949 Aeroplane Jellies and David Jones as sponsors of the Sydney Surf Carnival of 1950/1951 donated jointly the vessel.

George Towns started his boat-building business in 1869 on Dempsey Island on the Hunter River, NSW. George's sons took over the business as N & E Towns (Norman and Eldrid) and continued until the early 1950s. The business made a variety of small craft including fishing boats, launches, and flood boats. In 1928 they built their first surf boat it took about six weeks to build with cedar planks and hardwood frames. After World War II surf boats became their main focus and they became well known for the lighter and faster designs. Many “Towns built” craft have won events at state and national surf championships.
They were renowned Boat Builders producing a much lighter and faster running boat than anything previously made, with a buoyant type bow design giving it the lift necessary to get out and through heavy surf. while its sleek lines from amidships aft provided very fast running qualities. Either side of its bows, it bore the bright silver aircraft transfer of the Aeroplane Jellies Company.

After a surf competition at Narrabeen NSW, the competing Warrnambool surf lifesaving team returned home to Warrnambool their club committee decided to purchase the "Aeroplane Jellies" Surf boat if and when it became available as the team had been so impressed with the boat. On 30 October 1951 a cheque for £207-2/6' was raised, £180 for the boat, balance for oars. Transport was arranged and the boat was delivered in November 1951.

When the "Aeroplane Jellies" competition days were over in the early 1960's due largely to changing surf boat design, Warrnambool Club's Secretary, Mr. Harold Stephenson, sought permission from the Committee to purchase the boat for the nominal sum of one shilling thus preserving the vessel for posterity. The boat had been stored for many years at the Nullawarre Bakery where it remained until Mr. Stephenson died in 1985. After Mr. Stephenson's passing his family donated the vessel to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum in 1986.


A very rare example of a surf lifesaving boat that for its time was a unique creation that revolutionised small vessel design in Australia. It was made by a renowned maker that today unfortunately many of his examples of boats he made, especially surf life-saving boats no longer exist making the Flagstaff Hill boat very significant to not only surf lifesaving history but to the part it played in our social life for all those who went to the beaches in 1960s Australia.

Physical description

Surf boat named "Aeroplane Jellies". Timber, double ender carvel, built in 1949 by N & E Towns, Newcastle, NSW. Only a few are in existence. She was a trophy prize at Sydney Surf Carnival 1950/1951, donated by Aeroplane Jellies and David Jones Dept. Store, Sydney. The boat was won by South Narrabeen Surf Club. Warrnambool Surf Club purchased her on 30/10/1951 for £207-2/6, and she was sold to Harold Stephenson in early 1960's for 1 shilling. Donated to Flagstaff Hill by the family of Harold Stephenson around 1985-1986.

Inscriptions & markings

The name Aeroplane Jellies was lettered in gold across the boat's coaming and there is a remnant of some of the gold lettering still there.