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STEAMBOAT KEN’S GREAT YARNS OF BOATS & MARITIME HISTORY BARGES – AND THE LACK THEREOF FELLOW islanders, boy are we having trouble booking a barge spot these days, eh? Let’s hope our new barges get here sooner rather than later, but I wouldn’t be holding your breath. Our island way of life relies heavily on barge transport. We depend on them for vehicle transport, food, fuel, gas, household goods, building materials, trades and service people, even our mail, and getting us to mainland appointments. They have always been particularly vital to the smaller islands that have limited on-island services. Our barges include the hard-working LAKARMA. She’s become even more precious to us Lamb Islanders, as one of the very few barges now calling into Lamb. So I thought I’d inform more recent island dwellers of her past life. She and her sister vessel the MORETON ESCAPE were both previously US Army LCUs (Landing Craft Utilities). In her US Army days our LAKARMA was the SAN ISIDRO, built in 1974 by the General Ship Building Co for the US Army. She was just one of the 72 1610-class vessels built for the US Army, with many still active with the army. Others have been sold off or used as target practice, and one was destroyed by rocket fire in Vietnam. Our two ex-US Army vessels were from the first Gulf War era, with battle speeds of 2,300 revs per minute (rpm) for 14 knots, and were armed with two 12.7mm machine guns. Our barges were bought in 2003 in Rotterdam, Holland from a broker after they had been slipped and checked out. It appears that only US citizens could purchase surplus military equipment, so the vessels were sold to a US company, then on-sold. Loaded onto a ship, the two barges left Holland in late November 2003, arriving in Freemantle, WA in late December. After some ‘mods’ to her generator set (voltage changed from 110 volts to 240V), the LAKARMA left Freemantle on 5 February 2004, voyaging around the top of Australia to Hemmant in the Brisbane River. She was converted by Canniffe Engineering at Brisbane Shiplifts from being a tank landing-craft to her present configuration. If you look closely on the deck, you can still see where fittings to secure tanks have been cut off. The main changes were the sponsons that allowed extra width. Some underwater work was also done. The 48-inch propellers that protruded below the keel were replaced with 36-inch props. In this neck of the woods, propellers below the line of the keel, even in nozzles, are as handy as a hip pocket in a singlet. With only 2,000 hours notched up when purchased, the LAKARMA has done a hell of a lot more since starting work here in 2004. Even more so now, since other barges like the VENTURE have been retired and not yet replaced, reducing our Lamb barge service even further. And in case you didn’t realise, LAKARMA stands for Lamb, Karra, Russell and Macleay Islands. What would we do without her. Cheers Steamboat Ken

LAKARMA unloading at Lamb.

LAKARMA ready for lifting on board, Holland 2003.

VALE Elise (Lizzy) Venn THE Southern Moreton Bay Islands have lost a modern-day pioneer, with the passing in August of Elise Venn. She died on a rural block up the Logan River, cared for by long-term partner Steamboat Ken and his family. Elise came to Lamb Island 40 years ago, buying a house on Lucas Drive at a time when there were no water or power supplies, and not many residents on the island. She shifted to Western Road, Macleay Island when she married professional fisherman Luke Venn, and worked with him fishing around Moreton Bay for several years. In more recent times, Elise continued her adventures around Moreton Bay with partner Steamboat Ken in his steamboat SS LOUISA. A professional hairdresser with a salon in Cleveland for some time, Elise set up a mobile hairdressing service via motorbike across Lamb and Macleay Islands – and was hairdresser to barge skippers as they got their ‘short-back-and sides’ while crossing the bay. Lizzy was also a singer, performing at Macleay and Lamb Island clubs, and a member of the Lamb Island Rural Fire Brigade. The islands have lost a beautiful soul in Elise’s passing. RIP Lizzy



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