12th June 2011, 05:58
Have just been introduced to this wonderful site. Though I call my self Ferry Man I do not work on ships but have a very active interest in Ferrys. My Grandfather worked on sailing ships alot in the first couple of decades of last century, He was a true salior. My great Grandfather was in the Royal Navy and was on one of the first Ironclads the HMS Againcort. So I guess This love of ships has come to me. I would have gone to sea but for my health. Anyway you may see me post pictures of the ferrys that we have here in NZ from time to time.
12th June 2011, 06:02
Welcome, Ferryman. You'll find lots of Kiwis on this site (including me).
I used to love the old Auckland ferries. Last time I was up there we took a trip to Devonport on the hydrofoil but it wasn't the same.
12th June 2011, 06:42
Welcome to Ships Nostalgia Ferry man (are you the one we pay?)
The Devonport ferries are one of my fondest nautical memories and in view of your and GlennysF interest I take the liberty of posting again an old account of mine.
THE DEVONPORT FERRIES
The Auckland Harbour Bridge had been built and opened to traffic on 10th May 1959 and the old Devonport Steam Ferry Company had been paid about a million pounds in compensation for all the loss of business caused by this modern intruder into our City transport system. Some of us, be we flat earthers or just prematurely nostalgic, rued the day the Ferries finished on all but the Devonport passenger run and likened the occasion to the demise of the trams but I for one, who had missed that last vehicular ferry from Mechanics Bay to Devonport on many a Saturday night when returning to the Shore from a night on the town found that it was a boon to be able to make the crossing over the big coat hanger at any time we pleased.
No more having to make that dreaded run around the head of the Harbour on the Riverhead Road, a forty mile journey in our old, slow, low powered vehicles made hard work of it especially with their dim six volt headlights plus a driver that was dog tired and rather worse for wear after carousing through to the small hours and beyond that midnight last boat.
I agree to this day that the passenger Ferries had their own special charm and practicality as a means of travel and I spent four years attending a City side Secondary School and patronizing the old Ferry “Takapuna” on the Bayswater-City run. You could sit inside or out, upstairs or down in relative comfort on the curved, slatted wooden seats and enjoy the ever varying Harbourscape, have the occasional thrill of the TEAL ‘Solent’ Flying Boat taking off across the bow as it set out for the eight hour flight to Sydney and best of all, passengers could watch the frequently changing selection of overseas cargo and passenger liners docked at the Princes’ and Queens’ wharves that flanked the City Ferry terminal.
This Harbour Basin was then the International gateway to Auckland and indeed New Zealand as almost all overseas journeys started at this point. These passenger ships represented travel, adventure and exploration of the outside world to many Ferry patrons as air travel had yet to make its mark as a regular and economical form of International transport while the Ferry Basin represented the very spring board to the outside world. This last bit of cross Harbour entertainment was magic to a ship spotter like me and I am sure that almost all the passengers enjoyed this aspect of the daily journey.
The late ‘forties’ and early ‘fifties’ saw a rapid change in this vessel array as the old vertical bowed, tall funneled, counter sterned steamers such as the Shaw Savill & Albion’s SS ‘Pakeha’ and the NZ shipping Co’s SS ‘Ruahine’, built in 1910 and 1912 respectively, were phased out after faithfully serving the UK/NZ route through two world wars and were replaced by the new post war merchant fleet of exciting modern passenger and cargo liners.
We saw the arrival of the sleek Matson Line’s ‘Mariposa’ and ‘Monterey’ that plied the Pacific to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the new Orient liners ‘Orcades’, ‘Oronsay’ and ‘Orsova’ that brought the early post war tourists to Auckland and were embarrassed by arrivals over weekends when Queen Street represented its self as lifeless strip with all shops shut and very few people around.
The ‘Port Brisbane’ and ‘Port Auckland’, cargo ships with their modern curved bridges and superstructures then had a ‘wow’ factor in terms of Marine architecture while the new ‘Rangi’ boats ‘Ruahine’, ‘Rangitoto’ and ‘Rangitane’ were sleek new NZ Shipping Co’s vessels built to replace old well known namesakes. The new ‘Rangitane’ replaced the old one that was sunk by German Raiders in 1940 while 480 miles off East Cape and little did I know at the time that less than ten years later I would make my first voyage to sea as an engineer on this ship.
Knitting, talking, card playing, reading newspapers or novels and even last minute homework were among the time passing passage occupations that passengers indulged in while on cold winter’s mornings you could stand near the funnel or sit on top of the boiler room ventilating grids and warm through, at least until it started to burn your backside.
Another quaint habit in those days was that of the regular passengers sitting in the same place or seat each morning or evening. After four years you got to know many of them, by sight at least, and most of us came to acknowledge the other person’s domain. Many a couple met, conversed, flirted, courted and got married as a result of Ferry travel in a relaxed atmosphere that could never have existed on a crowded bus or tram.
The downstairs forward cabin, City bound, was the male only smokers den, by tradition rather than rule, but as it always had a heavily smoke laden smelly atmosphere especially from the many pipe puffers in those times the regular occupants were left in peace with their then tolerated habits.
Other attractions were the ‘leapers’, mostly school boys and young macho males, but sometimes older men who shunned the wide gangways and disembarked or boarded by leaping across the watery gap as the ferry neared or left its berth. The practice was forbidden but never policed so it became a game to some and I recall some spectacular leaps to catch a departing ferry, of perhaps eight to ten feet from the wharf to the boat’s rail.
The 6pm Friday departure from the Ferry building terminal usually produced a spectacle or two as a few thirsty drinkers nipped into a down town pub such as the Great Northern or the Waverley after 5 pm knock off time to down a few quick handles before 6 pm closing time and found themselves torn between the desire for that very last beer before ‘time’ was called and the initial steely but slowly failing resolve to catch the 6 pm ferry to Bayswater.
A last gulp and a fast gallop saw many Olympic standard sprints and leaps but only one failure witnessed by me. He was OK and swam back to climb the ladder up the piles to endure a wet wait for the next boat, clad in suit, tie and still complete with brief case.
The old steam Ferries carried a crew of four, The Skipper who controlled and steered the boat, the Mate who attended to the mooring lines, the Engineer who controlled the triple expansion steam engine and the Fireman who manually shoveled coal into the furnaces of the Scotch Marine boiler. You could hang over the engine room and boiler room railings to watch the proceedings below and absorb the rising warmth on those colder days but the real entertainment came from the berthing operations. These were usually straight forward but we learned who the most skillful deck crews were when wind and tide conditions created difficulties that tested both the skipper and deckhand.
Berthing at Bayswater on a neap tide during a strong westerly sometimes saw the windward west side berth out of the question as the wind took control and forced the use of the leeward side of the wharf and it took a good man to heave the heavy mooring line while perhaps six metres out from the wharf and drop the eye over the wharf bollard in time to check the drift onto the mud. Some Masters were so skillful that they normally brought the Ferry to stop only inches from the piles and even a child could have tied up but there were occasions when the rope throwing Mates excelled to a degree that would have earned top honours at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo.
The passenger crowd usually showed their appreciation by cheering and clapping a smooth berthing or an Olympic style mooring line throw under tough conditions but were equally derisive when either crew members made a bum job in fair weather
Perhaps the bonus ‘voyages’ were the week-end crossings to and from Devonport to the City when the Ferries almost weaved their way through the racing yacht fleets heading down from West haven and you could often find yourself amidst the grand old ladies of the ‘A’ class fleet, ‘Ranger’, ‘Ariki’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Moana’, ‘Rawene’ and ‘Little Jim’ just to name a few, some still wearing their gaff rigs, they seemed grander and more elegant then than today’s stereotyped, purposeful and some times almost brutally efficient looking designs or perhaps it’s me now showing my age and symptoms of becoming a grumpy old man. On the odd occasion we saw that beautiful Colin Wild built ‘A’ Class keeler ‘Erehwon’ on an infrequent outing before she was sat on the hard at Orakei for seemingly many years like a young abandoned woman which many of us would of liked to rescue but with the most honorable intentions.
The still continuing Devonport service, where the present fast Catamaran hulled Ferry maintains a half hourly service that used to require two of the old double ended steam Ferries to achieve, is probably one of the main reasons for that suburb’s current high real estate values, as what better and relaxing way is there to travel to a city office each day, but from a practical point of view the complexity of the bus services required and car parking space needed at the Shore side terminals may hamper a full return to those days but it is pleasing to see the Ferry services resuming from Birkenhead Wharf.
When one thinks of vehicular ferry services there is no going back to that tedious system. There is no substitute for a bridge when driving or perhaps that argument is becoming debatable?
I can remember most of the fleet, the small, fast, narrow gutted ‘Ngoiro’ and the small, slow fat gutted ‘Pupuke’ that mainly coursed the Stanley Bay run, the ‘Takapuna ’that was normally dedicated to the Bayswater service, the ‘Peregrine’, ‘Albatross’ and ‘Kestrel’ coping with the Birkenhead/Northcote route with peak time reaches up to Chelsea and finally the ‘Makora’ and ‘Toroa’ looking after Devonport.
The smaller and slower ‘Pupuke’ was the usual off course substitute when one of the bigger boats were being serviced and you could hear the waiting passenger crowd’s moans of disappointment whenever the old girl turned up as it meant a slower journey with less room especially at peak times.
Slowly but surely, like the ten green bottles the redundant Ferries have disappeared, last time I checked the ‘Ngoiro’ was sitting on the hard at Whangamata being turned yet again into a floating restaurant. The last time I saw Toroa she was sitting off Lincoln Road at Massey undergoing restoration by a well meaning volunteer group, and then looking like it was a never ending task, however I understand that she is now back in the water and moored in sheltered waters within the Dockyard. The ‘Kestrel’ is the only original craft still in service but without her full charm as she was converted from the original quiet mechanical grace of reciprocating steam engine power to smelly diesel engines. .Rather like trying to dress a sweet old lady in a Tart’s attire
The vehicular ferries mostly met a quicker fate, the smaller wooden hulled vessels such as the “Molly hawk”, “Kitty hawk,” “Eagle Hawk” and ‘Korea’ ended up being demolished or buried in Harbour side reclamation mud while the two big steel hulled vessels ex the Devonport service, The “Ewen W Alison
and the “Alex Alison,” were put up for sale and attracted the Tasmanian State Government as a firm buyer.
12th June 2011, 07:29
Thanks so much for that Spongebob. It brought back some marvellous memories. I'd almost forgotten the old vehicular ferries, although as a child, before the bridge was built, we used to travel on it weekly to visit my godmother and grandfather who lived in Birkenhead.
I really loved the old passenger ferries and spent a great deal of time just travelling back and forth for the sheer joy of it.
I also remember when the Ferry Building was the thing that stood out the most on the harbour front. Now, I find it hard to pick it out in a photo, dwarfed as it is by all the high-rises built since I left. It has a special place in my heart, as my husband proposed to me there one starry night.
12th June 2011, 08:34
Thanks for making me feel welcome. One of my earliest memories as a child is remembering the loud noise of the Kestral as we made our way to Devonport! There is nothing like the smell of Diesel and the sea air!
12th June 2011, 10:52
Greetings FM and welcome to SN from England. Bon voyage.
12th June 2011, 11:43
A warm welcome aboard from the Philippines. Please enjoy all this great site has to offer
13th June 2011, 04:09
Hi Ferryman, This is a great site, I am a NZ/der with sailing ships (Pamir) my first ship as deckboy 1944.. My first and best ship always in my memories. Kenneth
13th June 2011, 04:49
Welcome onboard to SN and enjoy the voyage
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