One of the most beautiful boats in Australia, previously owned by Rene Rivkin, is up for auction

The Ena, built in 1901 for a Sydney banker.

This is the Ena, built in 1901 for Sydney banker Sir Thomas Dibbs, who ran the Commercial Banking Co (which merged with NAB in the 80s), and was commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Dibbs named her after his wife, Tryphena and enjoyed plenty of Great Gatsby-like moments aboard entertaining guests on Sydney Harbour. The Heritage-listed yacht was originally sail only, and converted to steam in 1919.

Ena was restored in the 1980s

Ena is described by the International Register of Historic Ships as “perhaps the finest vessel of her type in the world”. She was restored in the 1980s by the late stockbroker Rene Rivkin and led a pretty adventurous 114-year life.

She was designed by the English-born naval architect Walter Reeks, who, in the late 19th Century, pioneered the double-ended, screw-propelled ferryboat design for Sydney Harbour that lives on to this day and spread throughout the world.

The Royal Australian Navy requisitioned Ena in 1916 after World War I broke out. She was renamed HMAS Sleuth, and became a patrol boat in Torres Strait, then a naval cargo ship. After decommissioning in 1919 and the conversion to steam, William Longworth used her as his commuting vessel between his Newcastle home and Sydney. The Depression saw the Ena head south and downmarket for a new life as Aurore, a cargo ship in Tasmania, shipping apples to the mainland, before, at her lowest ebb, she was converted into a fishing trawler, with a diesel engine added in 1945.

Her final indignity came in 1981 when she hit something in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, between Bruny Island and Hobart, and sank. Then came a stroke of luck when Hartogen Energy boss Pat Burke – known for having a private sauna in his office – salvaged the boat a few months later and, along with Rivkin and lawyer David Baffsky, spent five years restoring Ena to her former glory, complete with gold leaf scrolls, carved woodwork, inlayed timber tables and carved glass murals.

In her new life as a charter boat, she chugged over to Perth for Alan Bond’s doomed 1987 America’s Cup defence, and circumnavigated Australia before the wheels of fortune turned again and Burke’s company went belly up (and was acquired in 1990 by Boral). Liquidators seized Ena and she was sold again in 1991.

Ena is currently berthed on Port Phillip Bay and auction house Mossgreen is putting her up for sale in Melbourne next Tuesday, May 19. CEO Paul Sumner describes the Ena as “the jewel in the crown of Australia’s charter fleet, an exquisite example of maritime craftsmanship and engineering”.

Ena was restored in the 1980s

She’s licensed to carry up to 49 guests and six crew and is expected to fetch between $1.2 and $1.8 million at auction.

But there’s one small hitch if you’re a Silicon Valley tech billionaire who likes the idea of being able to seat 20 people at a formal meal on the aft deck of a 100ft (29.76m) boat, before everyone retires to the ladies’ cabin or gentlemen’s saloon – the Ena has Cultural Heritage protection and must remain in Australia.

If you’re keen, she’s current moored in Melbourne’s Docklands. Contact Nicole at Mossgreen on [email protected] if you fancy stepping aboard going from captain of industry to ship’s captain.

The auction details are here. In the meantime, here’s Paul Sumner taking you through the Ena.

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