Lacco Family Boat Builders
The Lacco family are arguably, one of the most famous wooden boat building families in Victoria. The image above of Lola, built by Alex Lacco in 1939, typifies the great design and sea keeping abilities of a Classic Wooden Lacco Couta Boat.
LACCO FAMILY WOODEN BOAT BUILDERS
Mitchie Lacco, FOUNDING CLASSIC wooden boat builder.
Their founding boat builder / father, Mitchell Lacco, (more often known as Mitchie) was descended from a lighthouse crew family. He was born at McCrae on the Mornington Peninsula in 1883.
Mitchie served as an apprentice to Anders Hansen, a boat builder who emigrated to Australia from Denmark in 1890. Mitchie started his indentures in the early 1900's at Point Lonsdale. After marrying his wife, Lucy Marie, they had four children, three of whom also followed in their father's footsteps and became boat builders (Ken, Alex and George). The Lacco family moved to Queenscliff from Rosebud in 1916, and established a sail making and boat building business at 31 Beach Street.
Like almost all of the early Queenscliff boat builders, their close proximity to the water allowed them to manhandle their completed and repaired boats directly into Port Phillip Bay. Their allotment which stood at the high tide mark gave the Lacco's great water access. Larger wooden boats were launched with the help of many willing assistants, who were rewarded for their efforts with a keg of beer to celebrate the successful launching. Historically, and possibly due to long held English superstitions, launchings were never carried out on a Friday. A similar superstition in the 1880's kept the Queenscliff fishermen from putting out to sea on a Friday. It was usually reserved for boat maintenance.
Mitchie Lacco and his daughter and daughter in laws also operated a small sail making business in a loft at the side of their house. Lacco worked closely with the Queenscliff fisherment to improve the sail designs for the couta boat fleet. He was largely responsible for replacing the original dipping lug rig with gaff rigged sails which were easier to handle in windy conditions.
Another well known boat builder, Peter Locke, who had been working for Lacco since 1924, took over the business in 1926. At 43 years of age, it wasn't long before Mitchie Lacco established another sail making and boat building business at the south west corner of Hobson and Learmonth Streets.
This new boat yard was just opposite the boat yard of Anders Hansen, Mitchie's old boss. Hansen is credited with fitting the first boat with an engine in Victoria, he grafted an engine from a lifeboat off RMS Australia. He was also famous for being able to build a clinker boat in one day, where he charged by the foot to build a boat.
He was certainly an accomplished boat builder to learn your craft from.
Sady, Surprise and Muriel, racing at San Remo approx 1930. Surprise in the centre, was the winner of this race, skippered by the famous wooden boat builder Mitchie Lacco. The Muriel and Surprise are still racing in the Classic Couta Boat fleet today.
One of Mitchie Lacco's most enduring boats, Muriel was a product of the turn of the century engineless era and is very deep and beautifully balanced. Designed and built by Mitchie Lacco, she was launched in 1917.
Her original owner, Gus Johnson, sailed her for only eighteen months before passing her on. The second owner, Andy Johansen renamed the boat "Muriel" after his sister who loaned him the money to buy her. "Muriel" stayed with Andy until the 1980's, a period of over sixty years.
In her working life, "Muriel" wore out twenty-eight mainsails and she has sailed well in excess of 300,000 miles - not bad for a boat that measures just 26' by 10' by 33".
Like most of her type, "Muriel" is gaff sloop rigged with a loose footed mainsail. Her wooden mast is 5" in diameter, tall and stayed by a cap and lower stay. There is no running backstay. The jib is set on flying on a long bowsprit. Her current owner Tim Phillips has lovingly restoered her to better than her former glory.
The Lacco's move back to Rosebud.
The Lacco family uprooted from Queenscliff in about 1928 and returned across the bay to Rosebud. Between 1928 and 1934 boat building continued at Rosebud. Later, Lacco's son Ken began building shark boats with the Pompei Brothers in Mordialloc.
The original Boat building shed constructed in Beach Street, Queenscliff in 1916 by Mitchie Lacco was removed from the site by Peter Locke, after the completion of many wooden shark and cray fishing boats. The last boat out of the original shed was for local fisherman Mr N Zanoni in 1939.
Locke relocated the shed to his new site on the slipway in the Queenscliff creek. The shed is still there on the corner of the building and was used for many years to manufacture cray pots fom tea tree collected from the Rosebud foreshore.
Mitchell Lacco died in 1974.
A beautiful classic wooden 28ft Ken Lacco motor sailer built in the 1930'3, now at Sandringham Yacht Club.
Built before World War 2 this boat like many Lacco boats worked commercially as a pilot boat, Only drawing just over 3 feet she is repowered with a 12 hp Yanmar diesel for economical cruising, she is a perfect classic wooden weekender and a credit to her builder ken Lacco.
Built in 1931 she worked as a fishing boat out of Rosebud, Apollo Bay, Williamstown and later Mordialloc Creek. She is an excellent example of a Tim Phillips classic restoration, that Tim discovered being used as a children's playground. Lucy is probably the best performed Division 2 Couta Boat in Australia.
Alec Lacco, wooden boat builder.
Lacco classic wooden boats on the Gippsland Lakes
The Gippsland Lakes have a fantastic heritage of well preserved and maintained Lacco boats. Here are just a few images of some of the boats. If you have a Lacco classic wooden boat and would like to feature it on this site, please drop us an email and we will arrange photos and a story...we look forward to hearing from you.