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Bundeena Ferry – Grant Dodds

The Bundeena Ferry, the Curranulla, has been operating for 73 years on the Cronulla to Bundeena ferry run. She remains the oldest commuter ferry in Australia working a regular timetable.

 

Curranulla was first commissioned on May 12, 1939 with a private cruise on Port Hacking … selected guests and dignitaries striding onto her decks for the first time. At the time of commissioning she was the largest, fastest and the most modern vessel ever seen on Port Hacking and could complete the crossing from Cronulla to Bundeena in half the time of the older ‘well-deck’ ferries that had been running since the service first started in 1915.

 

Curranulla still handles a full workload making 13 return trips a day Monday to Friday and 40 trips on Saturday and Sunday for fifty weeks a year… that’s 8,500 trips per year. The other two weeks are for maintenance and weather. Having been in service for 73 years; that comes to a total of over 620,000 trips.

 

It’s a 2km trip making 1,241,000kms in total. Given the equator is 40,025kms, the faithful little Curranulla has circled the globe 31 times … and the Grand old Lady of Port Hacking won’t be retiring anytime soon.

 

Together with her Port Hacking colleague MV Tom Thumb III both ferries run across to Bundeena for the 8am service to carry 200 school children out and both ferries return to Bundeena at 4pm to take them all home again. Then in the mornings at 10.30am Tom Thumb III heads up river on a scheduled scenic cruise to fill in her day.

 

The Bundeena ferry run is occasionally influenced by heavy weather, wind and big seas to the extent of waves crashing over the landings on Bundeena wharf. Today the service is cancelled in big seas but in the ‘old days’ the service would run in most conditions.

 

One occasion, in June 1948, is known as the “The Great Crossing at Bundeena”. Curranulla departed Cronulla for Bundeena but the huge seas made it impossible to cross the bay.

 

The ferry master was determined to get his passengers home. He turned the ferry around and returned to Cronulla to pick up three rowboats. He towed them behind Curranulla but instead of heading seaward to Bundeena he turned and surfed up river to the township of Maianbar – adjacent to Bundeena.

 

The passengers were helped into the rowboats and rowed ashore with waves crashing over the ferry and onto the beach. An artist was one of the first to go ashore and recorded the scene in a painting.

 

 

Source: Afloat website

 

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