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Steamboat Ken


FELLOW islanders, you may remember a story I did on this subject a few years’ back? Since that story’s publication, it’s become even harder for us Southern Moreton Bay Island residents to book a spot on a vehicle barge on the day and time we need it. Frequently there’s no space on a barge on your day or time of choice. So islanders pay the expensive barge fee to move their car across to the mainland ahead of time, find a parking spot (if they’re lucky), travel back to the islands via passenger ferry, walk home, then do the reverse on their planned day on the mainland for business, supplies and appointments. New houses are going up on the islands at a rate of knots. I counted 28 being built just on little ole Lamb a week or so ago, so the demand for barges is going to get even worse. Your scribe Steamboat Ken has been an islander on and off since the 1970s when there was only one barge (an ex-army vessel the ILANA) and only a few cars parked at Redland Bay. So herewith again a solution to take the pressure off barges. A cable ferry running from Rocky Point on Russell to Little Rocky Point on the mainland would be an option, at a fraction of the cost of a bridge as suggested by others. Several cable ferries are still run by the NSW Roads and Maritime Department, operating 24/7 at no charge to users, holding 15 to 20 cars a trip. I used to regularly ride my trusty Triumph down to Grafton to see my girlfriend Lizzy, crossing the Clarence River by cable ferry at Bluff Point. If we rode to Ulmarra for a Sunday drink, we’d also travel over the Clarence by punt, a similar distance to that between Rocky Point and Little Rocky Point. All a cable ferry (or punt) basically requires is four bloody big strainer posts – two on each bank – and a concrete apron to load and discharge vehicles and people. The engine is on the vessel, and they require a crew of only two. The NSW rivers contend with floods and river-level rises of 15-20 feet (4.5-6 metres) or more. The cables are eased off, and the punt tied to the afore-mentioned big strainers till the flood subsides. Down around Rocky Point there are no floods, only tides within the 1-8 foot (0.3-2.4m) range. The run across the water would be a bit over half a nautical mile, which would take about 10 minutes. A bit of a causeway would be needed at each end – particularly near Little Rocky Point – plus a bit of dredging mid-stream. Well-signed cable ferries pose no hazard to navigation, with the cable lying along the river or sea floor behind the vessel. And boaties know to always pass astern of a cable ferry. Our trusty Sealink already operates a 4-lane vehicle cable ferry nearby – an on-demand service (no booking required) to carry vehicles over the Brisbane River at Moggill (a 3-minute journey, currently costing $2 for a car), so we have the expertise in our midst. While it’s been many moons since I’ve been down by road to Little Rocky Point, I think the idea should be looked at. What do you think readers? Cheers Steamboat Ken

• Little Rocky Point to Big Rocky Point cable ferry potential route.

• Lizzie with our bikes on the Bluff Point 3-lane, 24-car cable ferry in NSW. 2 bikes no charge.

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