Ferry tales from far and near

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

Get­ting out and about on the wa­ter is un­de­ni­able fun and easy to ac­com­plish in des­ti­na­tions with great har­bours or wa­ter­ways, such as Syd­ney, San Fran­cisco, Hong Kong and Is­tan­bul. There is some­thing spe­cial about cities with ferry boats; sud­denly the prospect of a com­mute, tour or trans­fer be­comes a salty ad­ven­ture.

Who could ever tire of cross­ing Vic­to­ria Har­bour aboard a Star Ferry be­tween Kowloon and Hong Kong Is­land? About a decade ago I was trav­el­ling with a keen pho­tog­ra­pher who in­sisted we take mul­ti­ple re­turn jour­neys as he was snap­ping wa­ter traf­fic of all shapes and sizes, in­clud­ing sail­ing junks with batwing sails and the odd sam­pan that bobbed about crazily in our wash. Back and forth we went, much to the amaze­ment of the deck­hands, who couldn’t per­suade us to dis­em­bark and so just shrugged. Nutty for­eign­ers, they must have thought.

In Is­tan­bul last year, thanks to the pre­cise in­struc­tions of my guide Eser (now my “Turk­ish sis­ter”, so fiercely did we bond), and my pur­chase of an Is­tan­bulkart trans­port pass, I was out and about on the Golden Horn aboard those big, white fer­ries that come with un­know­able timeta­bles you have to fold out like a table­cloth. It was sum­mer and so the open top deck was al­ways the place to be, com­plete with ven­dors cir­cu­lat­ing with trays of mint tea in lit­tle coloured glasses. I never seemed to have the right change to buy a re­fresh­ment but, no mat­ter, the charm­ing sellers in­sisted I drink for free. Te­sekkurler! Thank you! Have fun, for­eign lady! By the end of each tea-filled jour­ney, ur­gent toi­let stops were re­quired. Then I would be back aboard for another jaunt, just for the heck of it.

In Venice, a gon­dola ride is de rigueur (un­rea­son­ably ex­pen­sive, too, but bucket lists are there to be ticked), but even more fun are the fer­ries that get you about on the Grand Canal. Maybe it’s be­cause they are called, ro­man­ti­cally, va­poretti or the driv­ers look like Johnny Depp, but these boats seem more than just con­veyances. There are mo­to­scafi, too, to take into the more nar­row canals, and that name just begs to be re­peated; it sounds like a wine and feels like sail­ing into a story. Or if you are stay­ing at the peer­less Ho­tel Cipri­ani on Isola della Gi­udecca, you will ar­rive on a gleam­ing launch driven (in my case) by a boat­man with the im­pos­si­ble name of Fabio who’s wear­ing what looks like an Ar­mani sailor suit and then you’ll be handed a bellini made with fresh white peaches. Bella sig­nora, welcome! Then (like me), per­haps you will de­cide you sim­ply have to get the vapours and faint.

As part of the pro­gram for last month’s fam­ily wed­ding (Snap De­ci­sions, Oc­to­ber 3-4), I char­tered an old Syd­ney ferry for a two-hour cruise. It was barely enough for some of our over­seas guests who were out and about on the har­bour for days af­ter­wards, on wa­ter taxis and tall ships, re­port­ing back on their es­capades. On a lun­cheon cruise, a beer or wine apiece were in­cluded with the meal. Another re­fresh­ment on the top deck? How much, please? No wor­ries, mate! Welcome to Syd­ney! Have one on us!

You will ar­rive on a gleam­ing launch driven (in my case) by a boat­man with the im­pos­si­ble name of Fabio

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