A Fine Romance

The Jane, a sweet 46 foot cruiser is as beautiful inside as out, thanks to the very personal involvement of designer Rodney Egglestone of March Studios.

The sun is caressing the horizon, the sea turning silvery grey as I hurry up St Kilda pier. Usually dotted with people, tonight the pier is emptying as an Arctic chill settles over Port Philip Bay. It’s hard to imagine I will soon be thawing out beside a fire blazing in a Sardine cast-iron stove, nestled in the lower cabin of a 46-foot Cruising Smack with a sprung keel.

The magic lies in the detail. A curved dining booth edged with brass, a snug writing nook with personalised stationery (a birthday gift to the captain), and a tightly packed bookshelf, secured with leather straps. It’s romantic; it feels like a miniature log cabin.

I am aboard the Jane, hunkered down below the waterline, sharing a tin of salty oysters and a tipple with boat-owner Chris Sinn and architect Rodney Eggleston, who designed the boat’s interior. The director of March Studio, behind projects like the stunning grand entrance at Canberra’s Hotel Hotel and Aesop stores from Paris to New York, says this has been his most satisfying project yet. For him, this boat holds deep emotional resonance.

The Jane was built to celebrate the life and memory of his mother and Chris’s wife, fashion designer Jane Hodgkinson, “a fierce and wonderful woman”, whose personality shaped the design. “It would have to be lean, yet slightly indulgent, functional yet absolutely beautiful,” Eggleston says.

The Jane sailed into existence when Sinn asked Eggleston to plan an extension to the family’s beach house, which was bursting at the seams with family staying over summer. Rodney’s response? Why not preserve the holiday house, avoid the chaos of a building site – and build a boat instead? Clip it to the house’s amenities over summer and, for the rest of the year, plan sailing adventures to Tasmania and beyond.

The idea was music to the ears of Sinn, former President of the Sorrento Couta Boat and Sailing Club, and the passionate owner of a Couta boat (traditionally used as a fishing boat) for about thirty years.

The Jane took four years to build and was a labour of love for all concerned. Tim Phillips, a long-time friend of Sinn and Hodgkinson, and owner of Sorrento’s Wooden Boat Shop – an unusual business, as most boats are now made of fibreglass – had designed the hull some twenty years earlier with the late Ken Lacco, his one-time mentor.

The main boatbuilder was Tim Helliwell, and it was he who hand-carved Jane’s blown up signature on the boat’s transom. It’s unusual for an architect to work with a boatbuilder, but the result is “a really special boat”, Phillips says, capable of entertaining in the harbour and working as a muscular sailing yacht.

Eggleston’s innovations included raising the cabin floor height to increase the useable floor space. He avoided the convention of filling the cabin with joinery and bunk beds, which can make the sleeping quarters feel cramped. Instead the existing joinery has multiple uses as seating, bunks and storage. Unusually, the hull is exposed on either side of the cabin, meaning any damage to the boat can be easily accessed. Continuous LED strip lighting reveals the hull’s curves and creates an intimate ambience.

Like all good design, the Jane has helped those around her re-imagine the possibilities. Sinn is planning a sea change. He intends to close the door on his city apartment and live lightly on the sea for six months. Crucial to that dream is a stow-away foldup bicycle for riding into town when he reaches port.


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