KATHLEEN GILLETT is a gaff ketch rigged cruising yacht built in Sydney between 1933 and 1939 and well known as the second Australian yacht to complete a circumnavigation of the world, undertaken from 1947 to 1948. During and after the voyage the owner and skipper, marine artist Jack Earl, became widely recognized as a result of the richly illustrated articles and logbook he created during the voyage.
Early in the 1930s Jack Earl and his wife Kath were inspired by stories about long sailing voyages and wanted to build a yacht for themselves to use to circumnavigate the world. Larson was Swedish and had been a ship’s carpenter on square riggers Construction proceeded at Larson’s shed over the six year period at a pace appropriate to Jack Earl’s resources. Larson’s team would often work on the yacht when there were no other projects needing immediate attention.
The yacht was eventually launched in 1939 and towed to Rushcutters Bay. Earl and his family, wife Kath and children Mick and Maris, lived aboard the boat and spent their spare time fitting it out and rigging it. During WWII the Earl used KATHLEEN GILLETT as a coastal patrol boat off the coast of New South Wales. KATHLEEN GILLETT also sailed in the first Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race in 1945, an event organised by Jack Earl and others who had formed the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia during the war
In mid-1947 Jack Earl departed for the circumnavigation without his young family, however they travelled with him on the first stage up to Thursday Island. In preparation for the KATHLEEN GILLETT had a shelter built around the cockpit to protect the crew, and the bright work was painted because it was easier and cheaper to maintain than varnish. They were away for exactly 18 months, leaving 7 June 1947 and sailing through the heads again on 7 December 1948. The voyage covered 26,000 nautical miles.
Earl sold KATHLEEN GILLETT in 1950, and it subsequently changed owners a number of times, and was located in Papua New Guinea for a long period. In 1975 it was badly damaged in a typhoon while at Guam, but later rebuilt by new owners. The yacht was restored in 1988-1991 as the Bicentennial gift to Australia by the Norwegian Government and now sails regularly on Sydney Harbour.