Cleaning up Homebush Bay

I occasionally ride my bike out to Parramatta for exercise, coming back to Mosman via the Rivercat to Circular Quay. It’s a good way to get an overview of the river/harbour system, and time to refl ect on solutions for what needs fixing.



 Passing Homebush Bay, you get a brief glimpse up into a long, shallow bay. The entrance is quite narrow. On the left side of the bay, construction of apartment complexes presents a growing scar. On the right, west side of the bay, are remnants of old factories that used to dump a dangerous and sometimes toxic range of waste-products and pollutants directly into the water.
Unspeakable chemical pollutants from Union Carbide; arsenic from plywood factories; waste lubricants and industrial hydrocarbons from industry in general, plus polymers, paints, sewage, even runoff from the nearby abattoir ran down the stormwater drains into the bay, as did a range of other pollutants from further afield; with layers of silt from the Brick Pit and runoff from urban development to keep it there percolating on the bottom.
At the top end of the bay, mangroves survive.
Over the many years of industrial pollution, a sludge on the bottom of the bay developed and deepened, mixed in with black mud and silt deposited from the brick pit and from urban development. Additionally, until the area was superficially cleaned up for the Olympics, Homebush Bay was the dumping ground for old and useless barges, small ships, ferries and boats. It was a boneyard.
Some of their bones remain on the bottom, out of sight.
We’ve read that Homebush Bay has been credited as the source of the toxic poisons that have made our fish unsafe to eat.
Homebush Bay being a long, narrow, shallow bay with a narrow entrance, why not run a temporary dam across it and pump it out to enable a thorough cleaning? Dredging it would only stir things up.
Once temporarily empty, scrape out the rot as far as the mangroves. Then let the harbour in again.


Gary Jackson,


Captain Mike Downes
I wish to offer my congratulations and best wishes to Captain Mike Downes.
Captain Downes served in World War Two on a range of naval craft including the very dangerous business of working ‘Q’ Ships.
Post war he was commanding officer of HMAS Kookaburra, a small boom ship that rocked on very small waves. Still later he was surveyor/compass adjuster for ships of the (now) Sydney Heritage Fleet and many more.
About 20 years ago Mike allowed me to copy onto 35mm film some of the amazing naval pictures he had from WWII.
I have them still.
I wish him a long and relaxing ‘make and mend.’
Graeme Andrews, (Ordinary seaman, HMAS Kookaburra, 1956-57).
What a character! We recently needed an urgent compass swing. Who should turn up at Church Point on a bus from the City but Capt Downes … kitted out with his musty old sea coat, hat, Wellingtons and compass-swinging knick knacks.
Job done. Luverly cuppa and back to the city by bus … 85 years old what a legend.


Chris Morgan, Coordinator,
Broken Bay Water Police.


Rebirth of interstate sea transport service
I am very pleased to see the east-west sea transport service resurrected after nearly 31 years being dead in the water.
ASP’s parent companies McIlwraith McEacharn and Adelaide Steam merged in 1960 to form ASP. ASP instigated a door-to-door container service using fi rst 3-ton D-containers then larger 20-ton units.
In 1964 they commissioned the fi rst custom-built cellular container ship MV Kooringa and started the Melbourne- remantle-Melbourne service handling the same amount of cargo in one and a half days with nine men as was handled in one week with 300 men 24 hours per day.
From that, two new ships Kanimbla and Manoora joined the service in 1969. The three continued to operate until 1975 when the service was killed by the railways’ aggressive cutting of freight costs and by road freight forwarder TNT who had by then bought into ASP.
I was part of the initial container stevedoring planning team under Captain Bob Leggatt but I left ASP in 1973. I took up an academic career in 1988 after 40 years in seafaring, stevedoring and shipping administration. My Honours thesis was entitled “Scuttled or Shipwrecked; the closure of the east-west sea transport service in 1975”.
This may be of interest to all engaged in the new PAN Australia service and make them wary of unfair governmentbacked rail competition. I wish Mr Paul van Oost and his Boomerang I the very best of luck.


Dr Tony Fletcher, Master Mariner & PhD,
by email.





Why do we not have uniformity in describing the number of hulls on any vessel? It’s simply inconsistent to refer to mono-hulls and multi-hull vessels. There should be use of either only Greek origin prefi x (‘mono’ and ‘poly’) or Latin (‘uni’ or ‘multi’). If we wanted not to specify the number, say, ‘a few’ hulls, then we could use the Greek ‘oligo’ or the Latin ‘pauci’.
The origin of the word ‘catamaran’ is less clear but the prefix ‘cat-’ is most likely Greek in origin, with its reference really relating to the nature of the ‘cat-rig’ rather than the two hulls. The ‘tri-’ of trimaran is certainly derived from Greek.
But then again, there’s probably no need for uniformity for this issue, as blokes (and sheilas) of so many different types and backgrounds are drawn to the sea, and all have one thing in common, in any language … just muckin’ about in boats.
Your monthly magazine is a terrifi c source of information and is too good to be free.

John M. Feller,
Rose Bay.


Myrna’s chicken coop
I was very interested to read the letter by John Books on the Myrna (Afl oat Sep’06). I remember the Myrna well from my apprenticeship at the Adelaide Company Waterview Yard. I remember Captain ‘Baldy’ McLelland quite well with my fondest memory being of Capt McLelland slipping and falling into the Harbour at the old wharf at the bottom of Erskine Street. I can only assume that the good Captain slipped and not that he might have been ‘tired and confused’.
Sometimes the Marine Engineering Apprentices were allowed to go on the Myrna on their way to evening classes at Sydney Tech.
In the early weeks of my apprenticeship I worked as deck boy on the Koorie with Harry Porrit of ‘Golden Rivet’ fame. I wonder what became of Koorie?
The other Adelaide Company boat was the Burra who had an Engineer who was known as ‘Nasser’ and who I believe was Egyptian and spoke on politics at The Domain.
The engines on Myrna, Koorie and Burra were Gardners. I think the Myrna was a much prettier boat before the addition of what appears to be a poultry residence.
I was at the yard from 1962 until 1967, before moving on to a seagoing career.

Mel Atack,
Fleet Manager Engineering,
Sydney Ferries Corporation.




‘Baldy’ McLelland

Mention by John Books of the Adelaide Steamship’s Master Mariner, Captain Colin McLelland took me back to Colin as Master of the Adelaide Steamship’s SS Allara (Aboriginal for day or dawn).
Captain McLelland (Baldy, as he was affectionately known) was highly commended for the manner in which he handled the torpedoing of his ship the SS Allara.
The following abbreviated extract was taken from Michael Page’s book Fitted for the Voyage, a history of the Adelaide Steamship Company, 1875 to 1975.
The Allara was torpedoed at 5.15am 23rd July 1942, 25nm east off Newcastle. The torpedo hit the ship right aft under the astern crew’s quarters, killing five crewmen.
Strangely, the Allara, with a cargo of Queensland sugar, was not sailing in convoy.
Her stern frame and rudder were torn away and her propeller shaft bent. The shock of the explosion caused the ship’s masts to whip which broke the ship’s radio aerial so she was unable to radio for assistance.
A second torpedo track was observed missing the ship’s hull by 20 or so feet.
The crew abandoned the ship, but returned to their vessel an hour or so later as she showed no sign of sinking ... Allara was found drifting some hours on and towed into Newcastle Harbour fot temporary repairs after which she was towed to Sydney by the tug Heroic ... repaired and sent back to sea.
Captain McLelland came through the ‘hawse pipe’ of sailing ships, joining the ASC during the 1926, aged 25 ... while Chief Offi cer of the Manunda, Colin was awarded the Bronze Medal of the Royal Humane Society of Australia for diving overboard to rescue a woman passenger who fell into the shark infested waters off Flat Top Island, Queensland.
After serving my five year apprenticeship with Cockatoo Island Dockyard, I joined ASC as a sea-going engineer, and my last ship was the SS Beltana, commanded by ‘Baldy’ McLellan. My time with the ASC is dealt with in detail in my memoirs, Just Fred!, and I can assure you the 12 months spent with Baldy was a great experience. He was an exciting ship’s master: he would rather have a fight than a feed.
I also joined the Allara early in 1994, and found John ‘Jack’ Illidge the second engineer when she was torpedoed and still sailing on her. Jack was given a commendation for his work in closing engine room down immediately the damage occurred.
While the publishers of my memoirs are yet to sign an agreement, my Boating Legends of Sydney Harbour was recently launched in Sydney.

Fred Thomas,
Carey Bay.


Posturing poseurs

To see a dozen identical boats setting and striking spinnakers whilst manoeuvring for the start of a coastal race is impressive. Especially when they cross the windward starting line together. That’s yacht racing!
Several months ago a correspondent went off half-cocked about my abnormal lack of seriousness. He competes, ever so seriously, in sailboat races between 30-footers and 90-footers.
Mixed races are usually organized for fun. And fun they are, until enthusiastic mass marketeers get involved. Then, a regular rally can turn into an advertising business.
Firstly, everyone is assured that the newest handicapping formula is flawless and that the trophies have value. Then, so as to guarantee media coverage – for attracting performers – title sponsorship is sold. Then the showmen sell sail advertising, after paying for permission and exposure.
Then it gets aggressive with disposable boats that are soon outdated or over-thrashed junk, professional coaching whilst racing, heated arguments, deliberate ramming, sailing past people in difficulty.
An example is the Boxing Day procession.
A race between Sabots and 16s, at that level of seriousness, wouldn’t be sillier. Still, it’s on every poser’s ‘must do’ list.
Some just go once, with no intention of touching a sailboat afterwards. Others endure again and again, then swagger like skite-plate collectors and inshore instructors.
The foolhardy like to ‘push it’ (test under-strength gear to destruction when over the horizon), the more foolish will take advice about storm-worthiness only from prize-winners or cat-1 skiff designers. The most amusing are the serious silverware seekers that were middle-aged beginners.
It’s become a dangerous circus with so much backslapping to encourage spending that it now costs some suckers many dollars per second to go sailing.


Neville Cottee,


Ethanol – bad for boaties

Should your vessel be powered by a petrol/gasoline engine beware of Ethanol (Methyl alcohol).
The results of using ethanol laced petrol could be catastrophic. For example: corrosion of metal parts; deterioration of rubber and plastic parts; starting and operational diffi culties; fuel permeation of rubber fuel lines.
Some of these problems stem from the fact that ethanol in the fuel has an affi nity for water and will absorb moisture from air in the headspace of the fuel tank. With the long periods of non-use of boats, the ethanol in the fuel will absorb sufficient moisture to cause ‘phase separation’ of the ethanol/moisture mixture from the fuel, sink to the bottom of the tank where, when there is suffi cient ethanol/moisture mix, it will be drawn into the engine.
Ethanol has not the same problems when used in motor vehicles, as generally, motor vehicles are refuelled weekly.
However, should the vehicle not be used for a few weeks, similar problems will appear.
With the current price of fuel, we tend to be minimal users of our boats. Probably have to save up for a month for a good couple of days on the water. Now the conundrum; do I fill the tank right up and suffer the possible increased uptake with the increased ethanol or do I leave the tank with the level low and thus have more air (read moisture) in the tank headspace.
All the talk is about motor vehicles, we need to reach the politicians with the message I Boat And I Vote.

Donny Broadhurst,
MV Bellaris.


PT 109

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Alan Lucas’s article on PT 109 (Afl oat Sep’06), however, as an Australian I believe he omitted an important part of the tale.
Lt Arthur Reginald Evans of the Royal Australian Navy, one of the brave Australian Coast Watchers operating behind enemy lines, played a significant part in the rescue of Lt John F. Kennedy and his men.
From his hidden post Lt Evans witnessed what he described as a “fireball” in Blackett Strait at around the time of the collision, subsequently found the survivors of PT 109 and assisted them to reach the safety of their own lines. He was later entertained at the White House by JFK following his election as President.
In 1959 Australia recognized the heroic achievements of the Coast Watchers when Senator John Gorton dedicated and lit the Coastwatchers Memorial Light at Madang, New Guinea.

Michael J Hyland,
by email.


On the banks of the Thames stood Lord Buckingham

After reading comments by the hierarchy of both Coast Guard and Coastal Patrol, most discerning boaties will realize where the main problem lies in the amalgamation of the three main Volunteer Marine Rescue Units in NSW; i.e. Marine Division Volunteer Rescue Association of NSW, Coast Guard and Coastal Patrol.
As the first Marine Rescue Unit to affi liate with NSW VRA our organization – then called Tweed-Coolangatta Air Sea Rescue – has been in operation for over 40 years. We are now called Volunteer Marine Rescue Point Danger and have the unique position of being affi liated with both NSW and Queensland Marine Rescue Units.
I submit that the solution is very simple if approached with the right attitude by the major players.
The only problem is, of course, that Volunteer Marine Rescue Queensland implemented it first and therefore must be viewed with suspicion.
The major players in Queensland were units similar in structure to the units in the NSW VRA. After many years of negotiation and effort these marine units combined under the one banner of Volunteer Marine Rescue Queensland Association. It retained certain autonomies but adopted standard uniform and training criteria and equal representation in decision making.
The Coast Guard units retaining the identity organization structure and command system simply lined up for the purpose of Marine Rescue under the banner of Queensland Marine Rescue.
These two organizations, with equal representations, form the Volunteer Marine Rescue structure in Queensland and it works very well under the control of Water Police and Emergency Services Department and, as in NSW, under complete command of the Police Department in relation to operation procedure and rescue operation.
The affiliation of the marine units of NSW VRA and Coast Guard for the purpose of standardization of training is a step in the right direction.
What price Coast Guard or Coastal Patrol taking a backward step to forward the standardization and efficiency of Marine Rescue?
I am sure that all the ground (or water) level members of all the volunteer marine rescue units in NSW who provide the personnel and raise the finance to supply the platform that allows these units to operate would applaud a standardized and unified system of Command Operation structure, with equal representation from all the main players.
On a personal note I notice at the many meetings I attend as a delegate for various committees, that the views and concerns of the men and women who actually do the job are having less and less relevance.

Bernie Gabriel,
VMR Point Danger Life Member.




The also rans

Within the sporting fraternity, amateur, professional or whatever, why do we always concentrate on the winners … the professionals, the ‘moneyed’ people, the people who command the top sponsorship available?
We are a nation with a history of barracking for the underdog, the swaggie, the guy who busts his gut trying … the ‘little’ man.
Just where would our sport be without the rest of the field, the people who voluntarily and at their own expense, put their time and effort into making a competition out of the event in which they enter?
Imagine the thrill and the excitement when your name, the absolute amateur with no sponsor and no backer, is announced and recognised as bettering your previous time by four or whatever seconds! All this in an event that is usually only won by the ‘stars’. But you’re in there, busting your very guts out to do your absolute best. You know you can’t win, but you enter. It makes the field bigger, you are going to do your best but you know you won’t win. But you still enter!
If we gave more publicity the efforts of the ‘little fellow’, wouldn’t we encourage more people into the sport that we love? You know what I’m saying. “Joe Blow from Woop Woop has just beaten his previous time by three seconds”. To Joe Blow and to the 100 people who know Joe, it means Hey!
Joe Blow’s into something that I’d like to try!
In my sport of yachting, who gets their picture in the paper? Who gets his or her name on air? Who is featured on the TV? The wealthy and the professionals who can manipulate the sponsor but never the guy who does volunteer work for their club, serves on committees, sails, runs, plays footy, cricket, soccer or whatever.
They’re out there, the ordinary people, the men and women in the street who put their heart and soul into weekend sport, yet, never get recognition!
Give the ‘ordinary’ person a go! Lift them to the top!


Bob Appleton, OAM,
Grovedale, Vic.


Brisbane Water’s Grower
I refer to Graeme Andrews’ articles The Heritage of Brisbane Water and the vessels built there and those still surviving. Graeme mentions the Florrie, Wangi Queen and Lithgow as still existing.
There is, however, another vessel built on the shores of Brisbane Waters that still exists, in survey, and operating every day on the Yarra River in the tourist trade. She is the Grower.
Built at Gordon Beatties Yard, Cockle Creek, Palermo for the Kincumber Growers Co-op to carry produce and passengers, she obviously preceded the ferry Kin-Gro also built for the Co-op, and later to become Stannards Lithgow.
She first slipped into the water on the 20 September 1924. Of timber construction, 46ft x 11ft 6" x 3ft 6", she operates nicely at around eight knots and can accommodate 48 passengers.
She moved to Southbank, Yarra River in 2002 having been operated by Laurie Duff at Iluka, Yamba and Church Point. SG White, Marine Engineers had her for a time on Sydney Harbour. George Bennett and the Scotland Island and Western Shores Co-op had her working out of Church Point between 1972 and 1977. Bob Walter then ran Middle Harbour Excursions with her for several years from 1978.
We have carried out considerable restoration to the hull, having rebuilt the bow area and are currently rebuilding the counter stern in readiness for the forthcoming season. Her wheelhouse has also been rebuilt as it was beyond repair and we took advantage of this to lower the height so as to facilitate operations under the low bridges at high tide.
We also have another historic ferry from Sydney Harbour the ex-Nicholson ferry Protector. She was obtained, in a sad state, from near Kempsey. Her hull and deck have been completely rebuilt. The next job is the cabin – her quaint wheelhouse that has remained with her throughout her various lives will be retained. Her restoration is being carried out near the Murray River at Echuca a long way from the beach at Balmoral where she was built in 1917.
I was a founding member of the Sydney Maritime Museum instrumental in saving the Lady Hopetoun, Waratah, John Oxley and was President of the Museum when we acquired the James Craig.
It’s now 45 years since the preservation of historic vessels in working order by volunteers started in Sydney. You would think that over the years your interest might fade into some esoteric research programme, but the shaping of timber, the smell of oakum and the pleasure of running a beautiful steam plant continues to drive you onwards to bring back to life just a touch of our past.
I enjoy Afl oat, it keeps me in touch with the Harbour, its boats and characters. If anybody has information or anecdotes that would add to the knowledge of the Grower or Protector I would be grateful to hear from them.

Warwick Turner,
PO Box 525, Echuca, Vic., 3564.


12-foot skiffs hit UK waterways

As an ex-12ft skiff sailor based at Abbotsford 12 Foot and Sydney Flying Squadron for 20 odd years I had the pleasure of once again going for a blast on a 12 footer, only this time in the northern hemisphere.
Two skiffs have been purchased and shipped to the United Kingdom by an ex-Cherub sailor by the name of Bob Clements with the intent of forming a 12-foot skiff association, beginning a building program, and regular class racing.
An exhibition weekend was held at Weston Sailing Club on the waters of Southampton on 9-10 September creating great interest from both spectators and other sailors. Everyone agreed they had never seen anything like a 12 before.
The sight of two 12s thundering down the river two strings under kite defi nitely turned more than a few heads.
I never thought after many years sailing in Sydney I would ever see a 12 all the way up here and hope Bob’s plans come together especially for all us ex-skiffies living away from home.Bob ‘Bear’
Tyler, Blackrock,Co. Dublin.


Dunbar’s Green
Evan McHugh’s report of the Dunbar in his book Shipwrecks identifies the master as Captain James Green.
I hope this helps with Peter Green’s family tree research.

Graham Wilson,


In answer to Peter Green’s letter (Afloat Sep’06), Captain Green’s christian name was James. As Peter states he is piecing together his family tree I suggest he direct his feet to St James Church, 174 King St, Sydney where he will find a tablet to the memory of his relative.
It states: In memory of James Green Commander of the ship Dunbar who perished with all his passengers and crew save one by the wreck of that vessel at the Sydney Heads in a fearful gale on the night of the 20th August, 1857. This tablet erected by his former passengers and friends as a token of their respect and esteem.
The tablet is placed on the western wall of the northern side of the nave, nearly opposite the start of the aisle leading to the altar. The tablet is directly above a plaque for “The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael”.

Di McKrummel



Banksia re-union

Calling all ex-Cockatoo Island workers! We bought Banksia last year, a 40ft ferry built on Cockatoo Island, and have been pleasantly surprised to meet so many people who have worked and travelled on her in her lifetime.
When some tinnie makes a beeline for us whilst we are out on Pittwater, it is more than likely a smiling question that greets us, “Is that Banksia?”
She was in use on the island from 1952 until sold off in the ’80s and many apprentices on the island would have worked and learnt on her.


We would love to hear their stories and thought a reunion of sorts would be a good idea.
She has had extensive work done since purchase and is looking as earnest as ever. The 5LW Gardner engine ticks along beautifully. In return for your stories we will put on some food and go for a cruise around Pittwater. Please email or call and we will find a day that suits most people.

Peter & Caroline Davidson,
tel: 0415 940 939, (02) 9974 4733,


Sea Bita

I have owned a Sea Bita trailer sailer for the past ten years, and am very happy with such a well thought out, easy to sail boat. While my boat is hull no. 25, I have yet to come across another one on the water.
It is often mistaken for a Compass Careel 18, or more often, the question is “It’s not a Careel is it? What is it?”
I understand that the boats originated in Victoria, and maybe that explains the lack of numbers in Sydney. I would like to know more about the history of Sea Bitas.

Ken Postill,


Sere Ne Wai

I am trying to ascertain the whereabouts of the pictured Halvorsen.
It was owned by my father Mr Charles le Clercq around 1959 and moored at the RMYC Rose Bay. If anyone has any information I would be most grateful for curiosity sake.

Jeanette Perez,


Drakes Dock, Balmain

I am seeking more information on Drakes Dock Balmain and where it was located during its working life.
The floating dock belonged to shipbuilders, D. Drake, with their premises being in Mansfi eld St, Balmain about opposite the junction of Rankin St. The dock was moored in White Bay south of the Bald Rock ferry wharf.
It was operational in both the 19th and 20th centuries but precise times and dates are unknown. At some stage it moved upstream to either, or both, the vicinity of Dunlop Perdrieu’s tyre factory at Birkenhead Point or Cockatoo Island. Later it moved back to near its original site and re-named Bright’s Dock. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can fill in the gaps.


Kevin O’Keefe, tel: (02) 9181 1187,


AVCG – Credit where it’s due

I refer to the letter in the September issue of Afloat from Maurie Cameron of Phillip’s Foote Witchdoctor in which the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol was complimented and credited with the assistance provided to a yacht that struck trouble at Yamba.
The Coastal Patrol has certainly been busy with call-outs up and down the NSW coast recently including several Maydays but credit for this particular rescue must go to our colleagues in the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard who provide the volunteer marine rescue service at Iluka/Yamba.
This letter highlights the lack of clarity that exists about the volunteer marine rescue organisations (VMROs) operating in NSW. I hope the following will throw some much-needed light on who’s who and where we are.
There are several separate VMROs that provide marine search and rescue in NSW.
The largest of these is the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol (RVCP) with 26 Marine Rescue Units (MRUs) located from Cape Byron to Eden.
According to information from the NSW State Rescue Board (SRB) the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard (AVCG) is next largest with 19, then the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) with 12 MRUs.
In addition two other individual organisations are represented, Ballina/Lismore SLSA and Air Services Australia.
For the general boating community, however, Coastal Patrol, Coast Guard and VRA are the three key organisations.
Coastal Patrol and Coast Guard are both organisations dedicated to marine search and rescue.
They each have central management, policies and procedures and their divisions are all required to operate under their organisation’s respective corporate structures. The VRA is an affiliation of individual community-based rescue organisations that provide both marine and land-based rescue capabilities, and have come together in an association to help ensure collective participation in volunteer rescue services and best practice in their respective operations.
We all work with and supplement the resources of NSW Water Police, which has 13 units. NSW Water Police has the final authority in tasking or standing down volunteer units in any emergency event.
The Emergency NSW website at provides comprehensive details of all MRUs in NSW, their locations, the type of services provided, types of vessels available and operational personnel involved.
I hope that this will be useful for the boating community to better know where we are and who to call for logging on, offshore tracking, weather information – and in case of emergency.
From time to time Afloat has published well-meaning and apparently logical suggestions that all volunteer marine rescue organisations be amalgamated into one entity.
NSW has over 2,000km of coastline and, as it can be seen from the list of organisations and locations herewith, in most cases we all operate in different areas. Where more than one of these organisations is active, it is generally in a location where there is a large boating population.
As to the likelihood of amalgamation, I can only speak for the Coastal Patrol and our policy is to seek greater sustainability through closer ties with government.
The Coastal Patrol view has been discussed at length with other organisations but this view is not shared.


Commodore Peter Phillipson,
Officer Commanding,
Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol.