|Steel screw steamer
|08/05/1913, rebuilt 1951 (as
|Gross weight :
|64.00 x 10.00 x 3.75 (metres)
|Passenger capacity :
|15 knots/ 16 after conversion
The launching in 1913 of the Barrenjoey gave the Port Jackson company
their eighth ferry in service & the ability to carry around 10,500
passengers per trip in the booming Manly market. She was the fifth of
the Binngarra type vessels & nearly identical to Balgowlah &
Bellubera. Ultimately, she was to become the longest serving Manly
ferry, easily outlasting the three imported vessels Curl Curl, Dee Why
& the so-called "greatest of them all" South Steyne & is
currently the oldest Manly ferry still extant.
Barrenjoey is also the name of the landmark on the souther side of of
the Hawkesbury River at Broken Bay, her name was also used for a small
ferry that the company used to cross between this area & Pearl
Beach on the lower Central Coast, like her bigger namesake, this ferry
is also still afloat.
As originally built, Barrenjoey was basically the same as her sisters,
but after being withdrawn from service in 1948 for a major rebuild, she
was to return in such a modified form that company gave her a new name,
North Head. The redesign included new diesel-electric engines & a
look that was supposed to be similar to that of the South Steyne.
Barrenjoey's first refit occurred in 1930 when she was the first vessel
to have her top deck enclosed to provide passengers with better
protection from the elements & greater comfort. Balgowlah,
Bellubera, & Baragoola were altered in the same fashion between
1931 & 1932. At the same time, her wheelhouses were extended to
provide greater crew accomodation.
Less than a year after her introduction , Barrenjoey managed to get
lost on the harbour four two & a half hours in thick fog, in the
process nearly going ashore & drifting about aimlessly in the Manly
area for most of the time. Fortunately, she finally managed to find the
wharf at around 1.30am where she was greeted by a large turnout of
locals dressesed in their nightclothes.
Barrenjoey had her share of collisions, often with inner harbour
ferries, that because of their wooden construction always came off
worse. She took on Kareela in 1914 & Kiandra in 1927, Kiandra was
to have a more serious tangle with Dee Why a few years later. In
january 1940, she had a tangle with Kubu caused by yachts getting in
the way of both ferries, when the chaos cleared the two ferries were
aiming straight at each other. Fortunately both went hard astern &
although there was much damage to the upper deck & railings of
Kubu, Barrenjoey came off with nothing but a scratch. Wood is no
match for steel.
Barrenjoey managed to ground herself on rocks at Smedleys Point in
January 1942 for no other reason than that they were there, she bobbed
around for an hour or so before freeing herself & continuing on
with her normal trip, there was no damage. More serious was the cyclone
that hit Sydney on April 16, 1946.Both Barrenjoey & Baragoola had
injured passengers & both ferries had damage. For the first time
that anyone could remember, Manly services were suspended (unlike
today's Freshwater class that don't handle rough weather at all &
get cancelled fairly regularly). Around 30,000 passengers were
inconvenienced. Indeed, the weather was so bad, that Barrenjoey, having
returned to Kurraba Point, broke loose from her moorings (these are
normally very calm waters) & started to drift along the harbour
towards a group of navy ships. Fortunately she missed them all &
drifted into the Neutral Bay ferry wharf & stubbornly jammed
herself crosswise over the entrance requiring a tug to pull her free..
For the next couple of years she led a quiet life & was taken from
service in 1948. That was the last anyone saw of her until she emerged
in 1951 as a brand new ship, the North Head. North Head was
significantly different to her earlier incarnation, having only one
funnel, diesel-electric engines & a vastly modified hull.
Ultimately, she would go on to be the longest serving ferry, easily
outlasting the three British ships & ending up with 73 years under
her belt. Her conversion was not one of choice, but rather necessity.
By 1946, the company realised that they had an ageing fleet on their
hands & becuase business was poorer than it had been in years, the
option to build a second ship like the South Steyne was simply not
realistic. The only effective cost measure would be to convert
Balgowlah & Barrenjoey. The cost of converting Barrenjoey was
261,000 pounds - consider that was eight and a half times what it had
cost to build her in the first place. Replacement value for an new
vessel would have been 400,000 pounds.
The refit was modelled somewhat on the South Steyne, when she came back
in to service, she had clipper-inspired bows, fully enclosed decks
& her wooden superstructure was replaced with steel. More loading
gates were provided giving her the capacity to unload 1,500 passengers
in two minutes (a figure never achieved in real life). The company
decided they had the equivalent of a new vessel, so they might as well
give her a new name too. The travelling public wasn't impressed that
the name had been changed, other suggested it should have been called
the North Steyne.
North Head kept out of trouble until the night of 28th of May, 1955
when she ran aground of Bradleys Head, once again in thick fog. It was
two & a half hours before she was pulled off, by which time the fog
was so thick, all harbour traffic had been halted.
In 1964, the company was asked to send the South Steyne to Melbourne
for that city's Moomba festival, instead they sent North Head & was
so succesful during the six weeks she was there, that they sent her
again the next year. At the same time, they sent down the hydrofoil
Manly, however Port Phillip Bay isn't suitable for hydrofoils, having
very changeable conditions, so that venture was a failure.
By 1973, only North Head, South Steyne & Baragoola were still in
service & North Head was doing most of the work, the South Steyne
was becoming expensive to run & was on borrowed time &
passenger traffic was in decline. Things were reaching breaking point
for the Manly company.
In 1976, North Head suffered a fire in her wiring, fortunately it was
put out & she returned to Balmain where it was replaced & she
went back into service the next day.
By May 1977, Baragoola was out for a refit & Lady Wakehurst was
being repaired after a run-in with what was a perennial attraction for
ferries, the footpath at Circular Quay. North Head was doing the run
alone. It was the lowest ebb for the Manly service.
Three years later in January 1979 she decided that the footpath at
Circular Quay held a certain attraction when she ploughed into it. She
was taken to Balmain where damage was found to be slight. However, with
only Baragoola & the small Lady Wakehurst available, peak hour was
chaos. In July of that year she lost one of her rudders near Bradleys
Head which caused chaos on the morning run for the 31st. Because she
now only had one rudder until a replacement could be made (the navy
could not locate the lost one), she was operated sparingly in peak hour
only. The burden fell entirely on Baragoola & Lady Wakehurst. The
other small relief vessel, Lady Nortcott was not available as she was
out on a refit. Things were dire.
In 1984 two new Manly ferries entered service, Freshwater &
Queenscliff & there was talk of a third to be built (ultimately two
more were). It was decided to retire the North Head from service.
However, the UTA had a shortage of ferries for the inner harbour runs
& Lady Wakehurst & Lady Northcott could not be spared for the
Manly run. Things went from bad to worse when the Karrabee sunk &
the UTA decided that the days of the ancient wooden ferries were well
& truly over, the last of the old wooden harbour ferries, Karrabee,
Kameruka, Karingal & Lady Edeline were pulled from service. This
left the steel hulled Kanangra as the last survivor. Kanangra ran on
the Mosman route, the second most heavily patronised run after Manly.
Then, on the 5th of November 1984, North Head & Kanangra came to
blows at the entrance to Sydney Cove. North Head had turned too early
& had Kanangra not been there, would have run into the Opera House.
Kanangra was badly damaged, but the North Head seemed to have escaped
lightly. However, two weeks later she broke down, after being towed
back to Balmain, it was discovered that she had broken a propellor
shaft, likely damaged in the accident with Kanangara. There were
predictions she had made her last trip. Not so, the Manly trade was
increasing such that the three Freshwater class ferries were barely
coping, North Head was patched up & used as a spare boat for a few
Finally, on the 12th of December, 1985, North Head made her final trip.
She was taken to Cockatoo Island where it was decided that it was too
costly to refurbish her for what would amount to only a few more years
service & she was offered up for sale. On the 26th of March 1987
she proceeded under her own steam to Hobart to take up a new career in
that city as a floating restaurant & convention centre. There she
remained until 2000 when she was taken to Cairns to be used in the same
While the Baragoola has remained in Sydney, the North Head - once known
as SS Barrenjoey - has been traded and transported across the country
ever since retirement in 1987.
After 13 years in Tasmania, where it was restored and cruised the
Derwent, it was bought by an entrepreneur who wanted to turn it into a
floating restaurant in Port Douglas.
But his plans were thwarted by bankruptcy and debt.
The ship rotted in a Cairns dock until 2005, when it was sold on eBay
to a landscape contractor, George Fay, for about $20,000. It languishes
amid debris on his property on Trinity Inlet. Locals say he wants to
restore it. A lone ladder stands beside the ship. But the expensive,
laborious job was made even more difficult after it was battered by
Cyclone Larry. A consulting marine engineer, Peter Burge, said
restoring the old ferries would cost millions of dollars - too much to
make a commercial proposition, such as a floating restaurant,
viable. The most viable fate, he said, was for them to end up as
museum pieces. The mayor of Manly, Peter Macdonald, said the council
had been involved in negotiations to buy relics from the North Head
from its former owner, but they fell through.
He described the fate of the old dames as "desperately sad".
Barrenjoey means "Little Kangaroo" in the local Aboriginal dialect.