Jess and Damien Ashdown with their boat Brupeg.
Jess and Damien Ashdown with their boat Brupeg. Mike Knott BUN281217BRUPEG1

From a flood wreck to polar express

FULFILLING dreams of global exploration and a yearning for adventure, a Bundaberg couple will chart their journey of a lifetime.

From the salvage of a muddied sunken fishing trawler that went down in the Burnett River during the great flood of 2013, the 57-foot Brupeg was a kind-of "love at first sight" when they first set their eyes upon her in 2014 at the Burnett Heads Marina.

But it wasn't the case not when Damien and Jess Ashdown first saw her photos.

Damien and Jess Ashdown with their dog Mishka onboard Brupeg.
Damien and Jess Ashdown with their dog Mishka onboard Brupeg. Mike Knott BUN281217BRUPEG6

When Damien spotted Brupeg in advertisement photos - "I cracked up laughing, what fool would buy that. And one year later we owned her."

"We went and looked and it was terrifying as there was so much work to be done."

At the time, Brupeg was already a stripped-out steel hull about to be cut up for recycling until her saviours stepped in.

It ended their four-year search for a vessel that would be tough enough to sail the Kiwi-born pair to wild and far-flung places.

Damien and Jess Ashdown inside their boat Brupeg.
Damien and Jess Ashdown inside their boat Brupeg. Mike Knott BUN281217BRUPEG5

It will be no tropical cocktail cruise though, with Brupeg set to venture to the polar ice and to access some of the most remote places on Earth.

Brupeg will take them powered by recycled vegetable cooking oil - both affordable and more environmentally friendly than diesel.

Now three years on, their hard work to get the vessel ship-shape continues - the project being documented online through YouTube, videos and a website done by "third mate", Hervey Bay's Ryan Dennewald.

POLAR EXPRESS: Jess and Damien Ashdown with their boat Brupeg, which was salvaged from
POLAR EXPRESS: Jess and Damien Ashdown with their boat Brupeg, which was salvaged from Mike Knott BUN281217BRUPEG3

But with Jess's medical diagnosis of a long-term degenerative health condition, it became imperative that they get their project up and running.

It is also a story about their meeting of minds and a shared love of boats.

For 20 years, Damien was a competitive yacht racer while Jess always dreamed of living on a big boat.

"It will be a great adventure of a lifetime for us," he said.

"We are both kind of wild people and much rather be on a wild raging ocean than stuck in a shopping mall."

Taken back to bare steel and overhauled, they say they've converted Brupeg into "a 98 per cent carbon neutral, long-range, ice strengthened, polar expedition boat".

Built in 1974 in the front yard of a house at Tweed Heads for work as a fishing trawler by Bruce and Peggy Periott (hence the name), Brupeg has been strengthened and is being readied for the challenging times and adventures ahead.

"The places we want to go are often hostile and demanding and need a strong hull so it had to be steel to cope with the conditions," Damien said.

"It's likely we will be pushing through sea ice for days, or coping with 60 knots-plus pretty regularly."

Brupeg has been fitted with ice plating - an additional 8mm of steel starting at the bow and extending back six metres, running parallel to the waterline.

The first step of rebuilding Brupeg is nearing completion and the vessel should be launched by mid-2018.

Once in the water, the interior fit-out will be completed, followed by testing of its navigation and engine systems with sea trials.

"This is a story about ingenuity, perseverance, hard work and amazing friends and family helping along the way," Damien said.

"Their support has all been unbelievable."

The pair won't say no to any help from tradies or others interested in the project.

Even donations have been made by believers.

Engage with the couple at or find them on YouTube or Facebook.


Dimensions: Length 57ft, Width 18ft, Draft 6-8ft depending on fuel load

Hull Plating: 6mm mild steel all round

Ice Plating: Additional 8mm of steel starting at the bow, extending back 6 meters and running parallel to the waterline, extending 500mm up from the waterline and below one meter.

Main Engine: Cummins NTA855 Turbo Charged Intercooled inline 6cyl diesel. 350hp 1,340nm Torque.

Transmission: Advance HC138, 4:1 reduction driving a 46 inch four blade prop housed in a nozzle with protective guards.

Speed & Fuel Consumption: Cruising speed 7knots burning 18-22L per hour, Max Speed 10-11knots burning 63L per hour

Fuel & Water: Currently 9,000L of fuel spread over 4 tanks, 7,000L of potable water spread across 2 tanks

Future Fuel & Water: 23,000L of fuel split across 8 tanks, 500L of water and a large capacity water maker

Vege Oil: Any oil on-board will displace Diesel. Our main engine is capable of running at full capacity on Filtered/Dried Waste Cooking Oil. The reason we use waste oil is cost and environmental impact. Diesel is $1.30 per litter in Australia, waste oil is $0.28c per litter. It also is significantly better environmentally and has higher lubricating properties than low sulphur diesel, promoting longer engine life.

Accommodation: Brupeg can comfortably sleep 9 people. Three private double cabins and a crew bunk room with three single sea berths. Brupeg has an on-board media room so the crew can edit its documentaries, a commercial-sized kitchen and big lounge room that extends out to a large flat rear deck.

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