Meetings on the Murray

Five days in Victoria and the Murray River, and I have had discussions or inspections involving an amazing variety of craft over a short period, showing once again what a diverse collection of historic craft and related people that we have in Australia. From a basic hand worked colonial log craft to the most luxurious steam yacht in the country, through paddle steamers, barges and corrugated iron dinghies then finally back to where things began in this country, Indigenous bark canoes and a community gathering.

A Maritime Museums of Australia Support Scheme (MMAPSS)  funded vessel inspection in Echuca was the initial reason for coming down to the Murray, but the Australian Register of Historic Vessels (ARHV) came aboard as well, and this combination of resources has yielded some very useful work and contacts over five days from 20 to 24 February.

Driving across from Albury I stopped at Wahgunyah, once one of the busiest inland ports when it was at the top end of the paddle steamer trade along the Murray River. Here, on a private property I was able to inspect closely one of those hidden gems of history, a real curiosity. It was a semi-circular shaped vessel made from part of a red gum log decades ago, perhaps over 100 years ago. It may have just carried a few people or some goods on the local creeks to and from the port.  The raked ends were once panelled over and only the remnants of the nails survive, it has cut outs and fastening holes that may have related to its method of use, and a sump for bailing it out.  This unusual craft been on the ARHV for two years (HV000509) but it was terrific to see it up close and confirm various details.

The red gum log boat at Wahgunyah. Image by David Payne

The red gum log boat at Wahgunyah. Image by David Payne


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A tale of self-rescue

Sometimes when it all goes pear-shaped you have to find a way to extract yourself from the situation. The gaff rigged 28 foot long Maluka and its crew got into and out of desperate circumstances late in 1935, helped a Christmas pudding, a lucky unplanned arrival onshore and their practical, bushman’s can-do resolve.

Boat sitting on rocks

Maluka on the rocks at Cape Conran, Victoria

Maluka was built at CAM Fisher and Son’s Yard in La Perouse on Botany Bay NSW and launched late in 1932. The owners, brothers William and George Clark were bachelors, and had settled in Sydney a few years earlier after retiring from farming. Maluka was planked in Huon pine and fitted with a Lycoming auxiliary petrol engine. Continue reading