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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