Sunday 9 September 2012- Day 16

Today was the day we had all been waiting for, the big celebration for the PS Melbourne’s 100th Birthday, however there was a few sore heads amongst the crew, a sign that Mildura’s night life had been pretty good. 

Michael was up and starting to the fire the engine at 7.30am making sure the Adelaide wasn’t late for her very important date!

Because we were conducting three public cruises today we needed to put everything away to ensure the boat was accessible and there were no trip hazards. So eskys, food containers and our personal luggage was put away. (we hadn’t realised how much stuff we had collected along the way!)

We departed at around 10am, along with the Rothbury, Mundoo and the birthday girl, the PS Melbourne. At this point crew were totally unaware of the crowds that were gathering along the Mildura waterfront just around the corner.

As we cruised under the bridge we began to cross paths with the Lower Murray vessels and the party began. We cruised the circuit a couple of times, enjoying the awesome atmosphere and then pulled in at the MilduraWharf. In a matter of moments the MilduraWharf was host to the biggest and most impressive collection of paddleboats ever seen on the Murray River.

The Mildura Tourism’s photographer was again hovering low in the helicopter, capturing the awesome line up of vessels.

At 12.30 we departed for our first 45 minute cruise and even with all of the activities happening around us, we kept to our schedule returning at 1.15pm. With a quick change over we departed for our second cruise at 1.45pm. On both of these cruises we were honoured to host a group of steam engine enthusiasts from train clubs including Puffing Billy and Zig Zag. The group was booked on the PS Ruby however due to their engine trouble all public who had booked cruises were re-booked onto the Rothbury. As these guys were interested in the steam engine, the PS Ruby crew ensured they were going to experience a steam engine while on the Murray River.

Once returned crew had half an hour to quickly explore the activities and stalls that were on land. It would have been great to have had a little more time however we had to be back at the boat by 3pm ready to start boarding our passengers for our third cruise.

At 3.15pm another 35 excited passengers came onboard, however this time we waited for the PS Melbourne to lead the way and then all the vessels followed.

The crows on the bank had thinned out a little, many heading home but many taking the opportunity to purchase tickets to be part of the last big flotilla.  

After a couple of laps of the circuit, all of the captains (talking on Channel 14) decided that this was just way too much fun and it wasn’t time for it to end, so they did what they do best and continued to cruise up stream. With the excitement of passengers onboard, and the rare experience of all the paddleboats together, nobody seemed to mind that we cruised for an extra half hour. Even some of the engineers seemed to open their engines up to see how well they could go!!

Once we had moored at the MilduraWharf and passengers had departed, it was time for the crew to accept the journey was quickly coming to an end. But we couldn’t leave on a high could we? No, once we were back safely at the Pointons it was time load wood for last time. (at least the last time before we started the journey back up stream.)

At 6.30pm, after 16 days, and 15 nights of paddlesteamer cruising from Echuca to Wentworth then back to Mildura, our amazing, once in a life time journey was complete. We all new that it would not have been achieved without the assistance and support from all communities along the river, especially the people who assisted us with our boiler repairs in Wood Wood and the RTA guys who ensured all of the bridges were lifted.

Over the two weeks each crew member played an important part in making sure our very small vessel was a mode of transport, bedroom, dining room and bathroom for around 7-11 crew each day, ensuring that the cruise was enjoyable for all.

Everyone said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Some heading back home to Echuca (via road) and others staying on in Mildura to continue with PS Melbourne’s Celebrations for just a few more days.

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Saturday 8 September 2012- Day 15

After our first and only night on the Darling River we used the shower facilities at the local caravan park and enjoyed a light breakfast. A coffee run was organised by Anthony and Mark, and once a collection was done went off in search of a opened café. They not only found a café, but a very lovely owner who could see they were going to struggle carrying them all back, so assisted in brining the coffees onboard. What great customer service in Wentworth! 

It had been agreed last night that all the boats would be ready to depart at 8.30am for our journey back upstream to Mildura. The PS Adelaide was very excited as we were hosting freelance journalist Justine who was representing the Age. Justine arrived just in time, dropped off by Dani from Mildura Tourism, and once everyone was onboard we departed with the Oscar W and Industry.

A helicopter, engaged by Mildura Tourism, added to the atmosphere at the junction of the Darling and Murray and as each boat cruised from one river to the other, it was captured by a photographer leaning out of the helicopter.

For the PS Adelaide and Iron Dry crew it was déjà as we had cruised the exact same stretch of river yesterday.

After 15 days on the river this was the crews first time to actually sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise as the boat was looking pristine. And anyway, the excitement of cruising with all of the other paddlesteamers was too great to miss!

Unfortunately the flotilla was leaving one boat in Wentworth, the PS Ruby. Even after a full night of working the engine and boiler the Ruby’s crew were not able to fix her in time for the PS Melbourne’s celebrations.

It wasn’t long before all of the boats were at the AbbotsfordsBridge. The helicopter was again hovering low around all of the boats ready to capture this historic moment. For the first time in our journey we proceeded to go under the bridge facing forwards. That in itself was very exciting for the crew.

As this was the last lunch Andrew was going to cook for the crew, he made sure it was extra special. We sat down to enjoy freshly made coleslaw, potato salad and a leg of ham.

Also onboard for the day was Scott Thorpe, the PS Melbourne’s captain. In the afternoon our captain Graham Trist invited Scott to take the helm. This was a pretty amazing moment as we were cruising alongside the Oscar W and who should be steering? Scott’s father EJ Thorpe. Great experience for both father and son.

Even though the PS Adelaide is the oldest working wooden hulled paddlesteamer in the world, it didn’t stop us leaving all the other vessels (except the Amphibious) in our wake as we cruise to Mildura.

Cruising into Mildura the bottom enders moored at the Mildura Homestead in readiness for the Saturday night function, however we kept cruising to be with the other top enders back at the Pointons private mooring.

As soon as we arrived back, everyone got ready for the evening function at the Mildura Homestead. All crew attended along with the Port of Echuca manager and the Shire of Campaspe mayor Kevin Simpson.

The function was held in the old woodshed with the bottom enders moored right out the front. Dinner was catered for by the local Rotary Club. Once completed crew ventured out to see what nightlife Mildura had to offer.

Distance Travelled: 55km

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Friday 7 September 2012- Day 14

After a relaxing day yesterday, we steamed up the old girl in readiness to cruise from Mildura to Wentworth to meet the SA vessels who were also making the journey from their home ports to help celebrate with the PS Melbourne on this momentous occasion.

We were of course still cruising with the guys from the PB Iron Dry, ensuring that we had two top enders together!

The Adelaide, still moored along side the PB Mundoo departed at 9am however first stop was the Mildura Pump Out. It had also been agreed that cook was having the morning off, so a McDonalds breakfast run was on the cards. Belinda headed into town with food and coffee orders and the met the boat at the pump out. 

Well known steam enthusiast, Roderick Smith was a passenger onboard for our cruise to Wentworth. After following our journey via the road from Swan Hill this was a great opportunity for Roderick to see first hand the workings of the PS Adelaide. 

After breakfast, crew got down to business in cleaning the Adelaide one more time, focusing on the engine, to ensure that she was looking her best before being reunited and meeting other river vessels. 

It was a very windy day, so everyone was trying to keep out of the weather however being that the Adelaide is a very small boat, this was very hard to do. In this stretch of the river we began to start seeing other private paddleboats and river vessels who were starting to head to Mildura for the event. 

We arrived early to the WentworthBridge so we moored on the Victorian side and had lunch while we waited. Today lunch was freshly cooked  burgers with a variety of fillings on offer. 

It wasn’t long before we received notification that the lift span was about to be lifted so we departed ready to venture under our last bridge while cruising down stream. Being that we were going under our fifth bridge backwards, crew got into their position, understanding exactly what their roles were in this delicate procedure. Our captain had been advised that other boats in the area go under the bridge forwards (going downstream) but everyone agreed that it was better to be safe than sorry, especially after we had gotten this far without any issues. 

Again we successfully passed under the bridge and it wasn’t long before we were close to the Murray & Darling junction. The Coonawarra came upstream to meet us and the other vessels, (already moored at the Wentworth Foreshore) blew their whistles as there was only a small length of land and trees that separated the two rivers. 

At the junction, crew could easily see the famous two toned river as both of the rivers meet. And then before we knew it, the PS Adelaide was cruising the Darling River. 

It was approx 4.30pm when we arrived and many locals and visitors were on the banks awaiting our arrival, we even spotted some very proud Echuca locals who, just by chance, were on holidays just passing through Wentworth! 

Crew were overwhelmed with the quality and quantity of boat moored on the one riverbank. Vessels included the Coonawarra, Amphibious, Industry, Oscar W, Ruby, Marion, James Maiden, Numumpii Noonguu, Settler and the Flender Himmel. Just to name a few! 

Once moored along side the Industry, their crew were very obliging allowing us to plug into their power. As thanks our boys assisted in loading their wood. Everyone was very excited and enjoyed their time wandering around the various vessels. It was agreed that the PS Adelaide won the competition for the most basic facilities including galley and sleeping quarters. 

Hats off to the Wentworth Shire Parks & Gardens Team for creating an amazing piece of artwork made from wood chips in the local park. It was placed on an incline (so people from the street could easily see it) and it boasted the words, Adelaide, Industry, Ruby, Marion and Oscar W! How cool. 

A welcome dinner was held and the Crown Hotel, featuring their famous Yabby Chowder for entrée and various platters for main. This was a great way for everyone one meet each other, with the PS Adelaide team sitting with the Ruby crew. 

Unfortunately for hometown girl, the Ruby, had struck engine issues on the way back into port which was of great concern. The issue was of a serious nature and a plan B was being put in place for those who had made cruise bookings onboard the Ruby for the weekend as it didn’t look like she was going to make it to Mildura. Everyone had their fingers crossed though, as crew were going to work into the night to rectify the issue. 

It wasn’t long before everyone started to head back to the paddlesteamers sharing their own riverboat stories from the weeks adventures.

Distance Travelled: 55km

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Thursday 6 September 2012- Day 13

We woke late today, and Andrew our cook made pancakes and scrambled eggs.

Crew were very excited today as we had a rest day in Mildura. This gave everyone a change do the washing, go out for lunch and just enjoy a day out exploring the city.

After a few snacks on the back of the boat we decided to go back to the closest hotel, The Edge, for dinner.

Distance Travelled: 0

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Wednesday 5 September 2012- Day 12

Is a pink sky in the morning a sailors warning? Hmmmm well if that was the case we were in for an interesting day!

As the PS Adelaide sat moored on the Victorian side the sun rose over the trees lighting the sky with a soft pink, creating a photographers dream.

Before we departed Robert Mansell ensured we were stocked with firewood and also a plate of awesome cupcakes for morning tea.

Breakfast was a quick bowl of cereal and milk and we departed at around 8.00am.

There was an excited buzz around the boat as this was the final leg until will reached our main destination, Mildura. To ensure the Adelaide was looking her best, crew got to work to giving her one last clean after all maintenance was completed.

Lunch was salad rolls, with everything laid out on the table allowing people to choose their own fillings.

The PB Kulkyne came out from its mooring to cruise with the PS Adelaide and PB Iron Dry for a few kilometres.

We cruised past Red Cliffs and it was very interesting to see the difference from one side of the river to the other. One side being big red sand cliffs and the other a low bank with dead looking trees. Quite a contrast.

It was also a very windy day and the Adelaide cruised through the white caps, something it is not used to in the Murray River back home.

After going past Gol Gol the PB Rothbury, owned by the Pointons, and the PB Settler came out to greet us and lead us into their home port of Mildura. It was very exciting as we all knew that after 12 days we had finally made it.

We had arrived one day ahead of schedule so many locals were not prepared for our arrival into Mildura.

The PS Adelaide was invited to moor at the Pointons riverfront property along side the PB Mundoo with the PS Melbourne moored in front and the PB Rothbury.

The Pointons and crew welcomed our crew however captain Graham Trist and our engineer Michael Snell had to attend to media engagements with both the ABC Mildura and the Sunraysia Daily. 

We walked over to The Edge Hotel in Buronga for dinner and then back to boat.

Distance Travelled: 100km

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Tuesday 4 September 2012- Day 11

French toast, bacon and maple syrup was on the menu this morning for breakfast, cooked on the wood stove in our galley. 

Our 80-100 pounds of steam was up by 7.30am in readiness for our departure. First stop was the Euston pump out, however the hose was too short, so it was decided to give that job a miss until we got to Mildura. Then it was off to Lock 15, we had our booking for 8.30am. We arrived a little early however the chamber gates were already opened so we cruised straight in. We shared the lock chamber with the PB Iron Dry while the water was syphoned out, going down approx one meter. The exit gates were opend and we cruised on out, out of the last obstacle that stood between us and Mildura.

More red cliffs (we think even higher than yesterday) dwarfed the PS Adelaide which normally is the feature while cruising the Murray. The river has really opened up and is completely different to the scenery around Echuca-Moama.

Our crew is back down to seven today as Jarrod Beer and Harry Monro unfortunately departed the journey from Robinvale.

Lunch was a wide variety of toasted sandwiches cooked on the Webber. It was a great way to use up little bits and pieces that were left in the esky.

We made very good timing today so it was decided to continue on past Tarpaulin Cutting, cruising for another hour and a half, arriving at Lebruns Bend, a riverfront property owned by the Mansell’s. The Mansell’s are a well known riverboat family who own the PS Impulse, PS Mosquito and the PS Wanera/TP Barge, sister boat to the PS Pevensey.

Due to no phone service we were unable to get in touch with the Mansells to let me know of our pending arrival, so we blew a few long loud whistle blasts in hope that they would hear us upstream.

And that they did. On arrival Mansell family members and farm workers were gathered on the riverbank to watch our arrival.

It was pretty dark by time we finished for the night and everyone was pretty tired after a big day of cruising. So after a quick but yummy Carbanara Fettuccini everyone went off to bed, ready for the final, big stretch, of our journey.

Distance Travelled: 108kms

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Monday 3 September 2012- Day 10

After a surprisingly quite night of sleep, considering we were moored right next to the Murray Valley Hwy, we had a later start than expected, for o reason in particular, crew were just enjoying their breakfast and the warmer weather.

We set off at around 8.15am as we didn’t want to waste all the steam the engineer had created while the rest of us slept!

Todays schedule didn’t include any bridges, locks or punt crossings so we knew the crew could get stuck into more maintenance. The rest the paddle boxes (started while in Wood Wood) needed finishing because in the sun you could definitely see the difference between the old and new paint. The port side stairs were done, along the aft (back) deck.

The PB Iron Dry kept up to the Adelaide’s speed and during the day another vessel, the MV Moonshine joined in the flotilla.

Morning tea was a very yummy homemade slice and lunch was an array of toasted sandwiches. 

Navigating this river back in the 1800’s must have been interesting without charts, especially in high water as today we came across two areas where the Murray river forked. Both were cuttings that reconnected to the Murray. We didn’t take the first one, but decided to navigate the second as it took approx 10km off our trip. (and we felt adventurous).

In the afternoon we started to see red cliffs which is something we are not used to. The high red cliffs look spectacular and all crew stoped work to take photos. The bright contrasting blue sky against the red sand resulted in amazing images.

We made good timing and arrived into Robinvale at 4.30pm and hour and a half ahead of schedule.

Locals were out to meet us but the certainly didn’t come empty handed. A fully loaded trailer towed by an old tractor was sitting on the bank awaiting our arrival. It was about 2-3 tonne of donated wood that filled our wood bunker. Crew jumped off and were eager to load as they knew how much work Leighton Donavon and the Robinvale-Euston community had gone to to secure this amount of fuel.

Showers were had straight after at the RobinvaleRiverfrontCaravanPark and once refreshed the crew tucked into a scrumptious dinner of kebabs and vegetables.

Distance Travelled: 92kms

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Sunday 2 September 2012- Day 9

The RTA bridge workers were very kind to come back and raise the bridge for us on a Sunday morning, as they had arrived early the day before to let us through however we never arrived, stoped at Wood Wood.

Michael our engineer had steam up by 7am and we went through the bridge, very slowly at 7.30am. Even though it was very early for a Sunday morning many locals lined the bank to watch. 

The TooleybucBridge was our last lift bridge (4 in total) of the journey. It was a great feeling to know that we had passed them all successfully.

The river has now widened and isn’t  as windy as the area around Barham-Koondrook.

We passed the Wakool Junction and then further down the Murrumbidgee Junction. 

Food was the highlight today with bacon and cheese pancakes for breakfast and then sausages with fresh coleslaw and potato salad.

In the afternoon we passed the area where the PS Hero burnt to the ground in the 1950’s. This paddlesteamer was then purchased by Gary Byford, restored, and it is now moored in Echuca.

We arrived into Boundary Bend at 4.30pm. Word was out that we were close by so a group of locals were ready to greet us. Even the Connor family came to visit, decedents of Arch Connor who owned the PS Canberra, PS Range and PS Etona,

As it was Sunday night we decided to have an easy meal, so we had homemade pizza in the wood fired and also an awesome apple pie. 

The stars were beautiful at Boundary Bend so we turned out all the lights and enjoyed the serenity.

Distance Travelled: 92kms

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Saturday 1 September 2012- Day 8

Well, as promised by Steve Clark, (local welder) he arrived to the stranded PS Adelaide at 6am. After a quick assessment he advised that he would have to take the fire bar bridge support back to his workshop for maintenance. He promised to work as fast he could to ensure the PS Adelaide made it in time for the celebrations in Mildura.

 Wood Wood is a very small town, consisting only of a caravan park and appro 50 residents. The word was out that we were in town and needed assistance. Before long, the riverbank was full of locals coming to take photos and offering to assist in anyway. Even a few copies of the Saturday paper were delivered by local Neville Algie just in time for breakfast. 

Breakfast was egg and bacon rolls, and even though we were not fired up, crew were not going to sit on their lorals. The engineers rooms was tidied and the hard to reach paddle boxes were painted.

Two crew went for a walk to investigate what else was in Wood Wood. Annies road side stall caught our eyes so it was essential we stocked up on some local product. Annies home made tomato relish and fig jam was purchased, along with fresh avocadoes and lemons.

At 11am our welder from Swan Hill returned the fire bar brace and the crew got to work on re-installing them. By 12noon a fire was back in the boiler building pressure for our departure.

A beautiful soup for lunch was provided by the crew from the PB Iron Dry. As soon as lunch was over, we said goodbye to Wood Wood and cruised for two hours arriving into Tooleybuc at around 4.30pm.

We moored on the Victorian side and it was agreed that we would all go out for dinner including the crew from the PB Iron Dry. After a quick clean up the PS Adelaide crew jumped into the tinny and crossed over to Tooleybuc (NSW side) and dined at the Toolebuc Club.

We received a royal welcome invited to dine in our own private function room the Poon Boon Room. Very fitting as the PS Adelaide used to be owned by the Poon Boon Station.

Even though the crew were ready for a big night, it was pretty quite in Tooleybuc so we all went back to the boat and called it a night.

Distance Travelled: 25km

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Friday 31 August 2012- Day 7

Crew were able to have a small sleep in this morning as we didn’t have to be at the Swan Hill bridge until 10am. It was Andrew, our cooks, morning off so half the crew got breakfast from the golden arches while the other dined at Spoons Waterfront Restaurant.

 Right at 10am we set sail from the Pioneer Settlement and mad our way out of the Little Murray into the Murray and pulled up on the Victorian side of the bank. A few whistle bows alerted the local community that we were ready to go under.

The practice bridge lift was successful so a houseboat went first and then the PS Adelaide departed. The bridge lift is located to one side of the river as this allows the vessels to use the natural river channel. In front of a huge crowd the crew were able to direct this grand old lady of the river through the pylons only having to use the fenders on one area. The PB Iron Dry followed us through and joined our flotilla.

As soon as we were through we turned back around and steamed out of Swan Hill. It wasn’t long until we came across the BeveridgeIsland punt crossing. The punt itself was underwater however we still needed to make sure the bow of the boat didn’t catch on the cables.  

Second punt crossing was Speewa Ferry. Just as we cruised around the bend the ferry was just shooting across the river with passengers. By the time we cruised past the cables had been lowered.

The next hurdle was the NyahBridge. We arrived an hour early however this allowed the houseboat, who had gone under Swan Hill bridge with us, time to catch up.

Crew jumped off board and we all assisted in the collection of kindling. Even Lil, the dog from the Iron Dry assisted!

It was at this point that our engineer, Michael, noticed something drastically wrong with the boiler. The fire bars had collapsed which was an operational issue as this is what allows air to get up into the boiler. After over 80 years of use this cast iron succumbed to the wear and tear of the boiler.

It was agreed that we would go under the NyahBridge and cruise for another hour however sos phone calls were already being made to the local riverboat community.

Our spot of paradise for the night was at a small township called Wood Wood.

The excitement of the trip had soured a little as the realisation of the issue sank in. After our roast pork and veggie dinner the crew got stuck into the removal of the firebars as local welder, Steve Clark, had agreed to arrive at 6am on Saturday morning to assess the damage and begin the repair.

The coals from the boiler were used to make an instant campfire so after the hard and hot job was done a few drinks were had on shore.

Distance Travelled: 70km

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