Pad­dle steamer is back

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS -

A FIX­TURE of South Perth’s river­side will once again take to the wa­ter over the next few months.

The Pad­dle Steamer De­coy is be­lieved to be the only com­mer­cial pad­dle steamer in WA and the only seago­ing one in the south­ern hemi­sphere.

It was built in Fre­man­tle in 1986 as a replica of the orig­i­nal pad­dle steamer that op­er­ated on the Swan River in the early 1900s, and is pow­ered by a steam en­gine from 1905 that was sal­vaged and re­stored.

Af­ter a four-year hia­tus, it took to the wa­ter last year; South Perth res­i­dent and coowner Manus Hig­gins said he had a num­ber of cruises planned.

“It’s a part of the scenery in South Perth; I think the com­mu­nity looks at it as part of its life­style,” he said. “We’ve had the chil­dren of par­ents who got mar­ried come back on board be­cause they re­mem­ber it from many years ago.

“We had a lot of lo­cals come on board dur­ing the last year but we are look­ing for more tourist traf­fic. We’ve got bur­lesque events, com­edy nights and reg­u­lar live mu­sic cruises hap­pen­ing over the next few months.”

Mr Hig­gins said four older men with in­ter­ests in the pad­dle steamer reg­u­larly vol­un­teered to help it run smoothly.

“They all have vary­ing back­grounds, they all come from en­gi­neer­ing back­grounds and all they want is a cup of cof­fee and a chat,” he said.

“The pad­dle steamer is a bit mys­ti­cal, I think it at­tracts peo­ple be­cause of the way it looks and what it does.”

Among the peo­ple who volunteer on the pad­dle steamer is Frank Mor­rah, a for­mer navy elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer.

“The boat has al­most a mys­ti­cal feel to it, it’s good ther­apy for us to get in­volved,” he said.

“It would be a shame to see it ever die due to lack of in­ter­est so we like do­ing what­ever we can to help out.”

The Pad­dle Steamer De­coy has been in­volved in a num­ber of quirky in­ci­dents, such as hit­ting a bank on the Swan dur­ing New Year’s Eve last year.

Mr Hig­gins said the pad­dle steamer’s mas­ter Sam Kane had waited for an­other boat to leave Mends Street Jetty when a squall forced it to get banked.

“There was a bit of egg on the face but the Fre­man­tle Sea Res­cue saved us and the pas­sen­gers for the most part couldn’t care less,” he said.

In 2007 the pad­dle steamer crashed into the Can­ning Bridge. Mr Hig­gins said the cap­tain liked to get as close as pos­si­ble to the bridge to trick pas­sen­gers but had mis­judged the wind.

“I think the pad­dle steamer be­came even more fa­mous from the in­ci­dent,” he said.

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