The black painted Notorious boat

Notorious - replica of a 15th century caravel

Wylie, a carpenter and joiner, began salvaging Monterey cypress from bulldozed windbreaks on farms near his home in bushland Victoria, initially using the timber to make furniture.

“I am a keen sailor and with more than 300 tonnes of logs in my backyard, I decided to build a boat,” Wylie says.

The inspiration for Notorious was the legendary “Mahogany Ship’’, a Portuguese caravel supposedly wrecked on the coast, west of Warrnambool. “I grew up in Warrnambool with the legend of the Mahogany Ship, so it has always been something of great interest to me,” says Wylie.

According to a popular theory, the vessel was one of three caravels on a secret voyage of discovery down the east coast of Australia in 1522. Its wreck was discovered in 1836 by a whaling party who reported a vessel “of antiquated design” made from “hard dark timber, like mahogany”. In 1880, the wreck was covered by storm-driven sands and, despite numerous searches, has never been located. With no physical evidence to prove its origin, the Mahogany Ship remains a mystery.


Wylie spent two years researching the project. Caravels were a revolutionary design in ship construction, being the first European vessels with a transom and the steering board mounted at the rear of the ship. Rigged with a lateen sail, borrowed from the Arabian dhow, caravels were fast, manoeuvrable and easily handled by a small crew – characteristics much favoured by pirates, in their ships.

Notorious’s keel (an ironbark beam salvaged from the viaduct at the Warrnambool breakwater) was laid in April 2002 and she gradually took shape over the next 10 years – measuring 17.5m long, with a beam 5.5m, a draught of 2.1m, and displacement of 58 tonnes. For stability, she carries 12 tonnes of bluestone ballast.

The interior is an authentic period design, including a cooking fire, but is fitted with modern GPS navigation equipment and powered by a 170hp Detroit diesel engine. Painted black, Notorious looks every inch a corsair.


She was launched at Martins Point, Port Fairy on February 7, 2011 and set sail on her maiden voyage in January 2012 from Port Fairy through Bass Strait to Geelong. Since then, Wylie, with wife Felicite and Jack Russell terrier ‘Seadog April’, has sailed more than 16,000nm between Hobart and Port Douglas, through the Southern Ocean, Bass Strait, and the Tasman and Coral seas.

At sea, they live the dream on their very own pirate ship; in port, Notorious becomes a museum ship, open to the public for inspection. She left Hervey Bay marina in January, the Wylies setting their compass southward on a return voyage to Victoria.

Check out the full feature in issue #502 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.