Historical Boats Gippsland
The Gippsland Lakes has the richest history of boats and boating in Victoria. Steamers were the earliest and most efficient form of transport – opening Gippsland to early explorers, settlers, miners, and later tourists – traversing the 400 square kilometres of waterways – as well as shipping to and from Melbourne, Tasmania, Sydney and further afield.
Up until the early 1900's, sail was the only form of propulsion for shipping – sailing the trade routes around the world.
The advent of the steam engine, began the transformation to a faster, more consistent means of transporting goods and all sorts of cargo and people around the world.
However, the first steam ships were so inefficient, they were not able store enough fuel to travel any long distance – let alone cargo and passengers.
Hence the initial combination of Sail and Steam - The Gippsland Lakes was a focal point in our early history for all of the above.
Significant Historical Boats in Gippsland.
Our featured image is the new Paddle Steamer Curlip II, constructed as a local community project at Marlo, with over 16,000 hours of volunteer time. The P.S. Curlip II arrived with a fanfare, with much media coverage and public support, however it seems she has not realised her potential as a viable tourism venture at Marlo, down near the mouth of the Snowy River in far East Gippsland, Victoria. Classic Wooden Boat visited her in recent weeks and were saddened to see that she is in urgent need of critical maintenance and care.
STOP PRESS.... PADDLE STEAMER CURLIP.
Paddle Steamer Curlip has a new home on the Gippsland Lakes, visit THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE https://www.curlip.com.au for all the news and information.
The current board of management of the Curlip II have undergone the sustainability issues that many similar projects to the Curlip have experienced, all over the world. A small community, with many of the dedicated team, getting older, no real support for ongoing maintenance from locals. This should never denigrate or diminish the remarkable vision and endeavour of Gil Richardson and the people of Orbost. This link to a wonderful video on the Curlip II gives us an insight into the passion and dedication of dreaming, organising, building and funding a classic wooden historical boat of this magnitude.
Before any interested groups put their hand up to take on future maintenance and management of Curlip II, they should absorb this video link attached, because once the fanfare settles and life goes back to normal, the day to day grind of maintenance, and sheer hard work never stop. The video link https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjh79Srl5XOAhUI4mMKHfdVDv8QFggdMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.acmi.net.au%2Fcollections-research%2Fcommunity-engagement-projects%2Feast-gippsland-shire%2F&usg=AFQjCNFSygBnKiSd65-WlG5-pGHHSwnIHw
The Australian Centre for Moving Images produced a remarkable series of video / short films on East Gippsland in 2012. Scroll down and you will find the Curlip II.
P.S.Curlip ii Construction specifications.
Paddle Steamer Curlip II is 65’ (19.8m) long, 25’ (7.5m) beam (including wing decks) with a draft of 3’(900mm) and weighs upwards of 40 tonnes. She has a counter stern, a flared bow and a flat bottom, with a 1’ (300mm) square keel. She has carvel planking, 2” (50mm) thick decking fastened with silicon bronze screws, and is caulked with oakum hemp. Local bluegum (E. globulous ssp pseudoglobulous) is used for all except the central and sister keelsons, which are ironbark. The timber, felling, transport and milling were all donated by DSE and private contractors.
P.S. Curlip II, the first paddle steamer since WWII puts out to sea.
The first 'slipping' of Curlip for survey purposes in 2010 was achieved by craning the vessel out of the water. This technique can be fraught with danger and is expensive. High water in 2102, flushed the Snowy River mouth, and the 2012 slipping was at Paynesville. This made PS Curlip II the first Australian paddlesteamer to venture into open sea under steam since PS Weeroona was commandeered for service during the conflict that was WWII.
Curlip steams to Lakes Entrance.
Lake King and up Nicholson River to Nicholson, for lunch at Retreat Hotel.The planned transfer date was 1 June, but the weather was unkind. The boat moored at Marlo jetty overnight, and had reasonable conditions next day. It left on the slack of high tide, to have depth over the bar without a ferocious current. At 6 Knots (10 km/h), the journey took 6 hours around the coast, along the Ninety mile beach and came across the bar at Lakes Entrance on the slack low tide (this is a dredged entrance, so the depth was OK, and again a ferocious current was avoided).
Over Queens Birthday long weekend 2012, Curlip ran a few short local cruises. There was then a one-way cruise to Paynesville. While at Paynesville, a one-way cruise was made to Bairnsdale on Saturday 1 September to feature at the wharf opposite the rowing regatta, with short cruises there, and a one way back on Sunday 2 September.
In the time on the slip, the hull was recaulked. After slipping, three cruises were arranged:
Lake Victoria to Sperm Whale Head. Saturday, 29 September.
Lake King and up Nicholson River to Nicholson, for lunch at Retreat Hotel. Sunday 30 September .
One way to Lakes Entrance, lunch at Metung. Sunday 7 October.
Unfortunately there was no time to head up Tambo River.
The original curlip
The original Curlip was built by Sam Richardson and his sons Mark, Albert and Frank, at their sawmill at Tabbara, a small pioneering settlement on the Brodribb River, a tributary of the Snowy River. The keel was laid on 14th October 1889 and PS Curlip was launched in 1890. The diary entry for 6th February 1890 “at 12 noon she was launched without a hitch and very little leakage. Length was 48’ x 19’ displacement 10 tons – 2 paddle wheels rated at 2 horsepower.”
The PS Curlip was finally registered in 1893 and the Passenger Certificate issued on 30th January 1903 to Captain Alan Richardson by the Marine Board of Victoria. She was registered to carry 25 passengers and only 10 passengers when engaged in towage service. However,two children under 12 years of age were treated as one adult passenger.
PS Curlip was capable of towing five barges at a time, traveling upstream as far as Bete Bolong, 20 km upstream of the Snowy River mouth to collect produce to be transferred to schooners offshore from Marlo. She towed vessels in and out through the Snowy river entrance and was also used for social functions such as Sunday School picnics. She was the primary method of transport for imports and exports on the Snowy River for almost 30 years.
This all came to a sudden end on Friday 28th February when a flash flood carried her and 2 barges down river and out to sea, where she washed ashore at Marlo and broke up.
The Gippsland Lakes -the early days
Enter the Paddle Steamer . . . literally
The first of the strategies adopted to propel ships by steam, was by paddles.
The design of the Paddle Steamer (PS) meant that the mechanisms and penetration of the hull lay above the water line – this simple but ingenious design removed the danger of water leaks, through hull fittings.
The paddle steamer design harnessed the power generated by the steam engine from above, with the engine easily adapted to directly drive the shafts – which would, in turn, drive the paddles.
Although paddles were perfect in calm conditions, their efficiency when the water level of the steamer varied (e.g. if it were heavily laden), varied dramatically.
Paddle Steamers (PS) were well suited to bar work, particularly river mouth entrances, as they did not draw much water. If they were to get stuck on a sand bar, they would keep the engines running and the paddle wheels turning. The effect of this action would shift enough sand to open a channel for the steamer to pass through.
Paddle steamers were often used as tugs to tow the schooners and ketches over the sand bar that separated the Gippsland Lakes from Bass Strait – before The Entrance was completed in 1889.
In 1881, the Tambo, only the second steamer ever to be built on the Lakes, was built in Paynesville by Captain Archie McAlpine for the trading all over the Gippsland Lakes.
When her keel was laid in between the Paynesville and Pier Hotels, the Tambo became the township’s chief topic of conversation. She was launched to great acclaim and generated huge public interest on Thursday the 18th July 1882. A Public Holiday was declared in Bairnsdale and large crowds gathered to watch the event that was celebrated long into the night with a ball at the Paynesville Hotel.
The Gippsland Lakes Sale Steamboat Company
With the population of Melbourne burgeoning, the economy was good and city people wanted to travel. The opening of the Oakleigh to Sale railway line on the 1st March 1878, Gippsland at long last had a fast, comfortable, safe and reliable link to Melbourne for both passengers and freight. The rail connection to the growing population centres of Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo ushered in the dawning of a new economic era for Gippsland.
The new railway links meant that the renowned abundance of fresh fish and game in the Gippsland Lakes would at last be available to the people of Melbourne. The railway opened up new horizons for Melburnians, to visit this "Lakes Paradise" The commercial expectation is that the city would finally have access to a sustainable fishery that could meet the growing demands of that city.
This new industry created by the rail links attracted fishermen and their families from Port Phillip Bay, Western Port, Geelong and Port Albert who migrated to the Lakes to take advantage of the lucrative work offered here. They bought their boats and equipment with them. They established fishermen’s camps known as fishing stations, dotted in numerous sheltered locations around the Lakes’ shores.
J C Dahlsen interest in opening up the Gippsland Lakes.
In the late 1870s, J C Dahlsen foresaw the advantages of shipping as a means of transporting goods and people, especially between Bairnsdale and fast growing township of Lakes Entrance. The flagship of the Dahlsen fleet was the JCD, named after its owner John Christian Dahlsen. Another member of the fleet was the SS Gippsland, featured in the slide show above. J C Dahlsen's retired from shipping in the late 1930's. The references for Captain Alfred James Legg below, confirm this date.
FOOTNOTE: The authors wife, Julie is a fifth generation, descendant from some of the original Lakes Entrance families, She was a Bates and directly related to Palmer and Farqhuar fishing families. Her Great Aunty "Molly Palmer" used to recall and tell the children, fascinating stories of the fishing camps and family history, along the silt jetties on the Mitchell River. We are working on further instalments on historical aspects of boats and fishing in Lakes Entrance and the Gippsland Lakes. Any contributions will be most welcome.