GALLERY, VIDEO: Love, the sea and a boat

Hugh Murdoch is working on a labour of love with his wife. CHRIS PEDLER writes.

HUGH Murdoch's love of boats shows in his latest project.

The 35-foot boat that Mr Murdoch is building in his front yard is set to take him across Bass Strait to Tasmania.

He started building it last year after his wife, Pauline, was told she was terminally ill with congestive heart failure, diabetes and stage four renal disease.

"We realised Pauline was pretty sick a few years ago and we were trying to think what would be the best thing for me to do when she's gone," Mr Murdoch said.

Together we thought about what I should do once she's gone and she knows I have had a love for boats all my life. - Hugh Murdoch

"The cruising lifestyle is something I've always wanted to do."

Mr Murdoch said he had put about 2100 hours into the project. 

"I'm probably at about the half way mark now," he said.

"The total project looks like being about 4000 hours of work."

VIDEO: Leigh Sharp

The boat is easily recognisable in Hargreaves Street with traffic and passers-by often stopping to have a look.

"I get a lot of people stopping and it's slows down a lot of traffic in Hargreaves Street.

"But I get a lot of joy and satisfaction out of building and being self sufficient."

Mr Murdoch said he and his wife of 43 years decided the project was a good release for him.

The couple met when Mr Murdoch was working as a school photographer and Pauline was a principal.

"My wife is terminally ill and I guess I needed something to keep my mind occupied and to keep me physically active," he said.

"Together we thought about what I should do once she's gone and she knows I have had a love for boats all my life so the logical thing was to build a boat I could live on.

"I'm 68 now and while I look after her, this is something I can do at home."

When the boat is finished, Mr Murdoch plans to sail to Tasmania where his brother and two sisters live.

"There's family there so I have that extended support once she's gone," he said.

"This seemed the best way to deal with it.

"I've done quite a bit of boat building in the past, as well as furniture restoration and custom cabinet making, so it's a natural extension of skills.

"It's an emotional release, something else to focus on rather than just thinking about Pauline's situation. And it keeps me fit."

"I need a home to live on once Pauline goes and we thought it would be good to live on a boat and be self sufficient."

Self sufficient living and escaping to cooler climates are two other motivations for Mr Murdoch's journey.

The heat waves Bendigo experienced last summer did slight damage to the boat and Mr Murdoch believes next summer will be even hotter.

"Central Victoria is going to become very hot over the next few years," he said.

"Bendigo had 11 days over 40 degrees this January and February (and 20 days over 35 degrees) - way over the averages.

"The government predictions for the effects of climate change on central Victoria are way shy of the mark."

This boat is the third Mr Murdoch has built in Bendigo after growing up on the Derwent River.

"The first boat I built was a 15-foot sailing dinghy," he said.

"I have been sailing for 50 years. I helped my brother sail a big boat from Hobart to Sydney and have worked on off-shore rigs in Bass Strait.

"The sale of the last two boats (I built) helped to fund the building of this one.

"When I eventually set sail there will be a mixture of feelings.

"There will be some trepidation.

"It's always scary starting something like this."

See Hugh's boat up close on www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au

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