|The Great Southern Steam Meet
Tasmania February 2004
Report and photos submitted by Brian Forester
Friday 13th February 2004 !… It doesn’t sound like a good date to begin a weekend of steamboating to the superstitious types, but we Tasmanians are a tough lot and don’t hold with all that mumbo jumbo stuff. It dawned a beautiful day with a weather forecast promising fine weather for the weekend.
The venue for the “meet” was to be the township of New Norfolk, which is about 37 km from Hobart in the Derwent Valley. For those unfortunate enough never to have visited the area, New Norfolk nestles in the valley astride the magnificent Derwent River and is the uppermost limit of navigable water on the river. The caravan park has an enviable position alongside the river with a jetty and an old launching ramp, which was not very suitable for our purposes. Fortunately there is a brand new ramp and jetty downstream which is where we all gathered at around 14.30 hours, all except Hal Griffiths that is who misunderstood my directions and managed to launch at the old jetty! The other three boats attending [S.L. Brillig…..S.B. Ottasell and S.L. Jennifer] were patiently waiting for Hal to arrive when down the river he came blowing his whistle. We all proceeded up stream the kilometre or so to our intended tie up area where we rafted together for the night.
The evening meal consisted of a BBQ at the park with all the usual boat chatter to follow.
Saturday morning promised fine weather for steamboating. All captains and crew were soon attending to the matters of firing up and judiciously oiling our machinery, this of course drew the usual curious onlookers with all the questions associated with steamboats. At about 9.15 am I received a phone call from the ABC television who wanted to do an item to be included in the Saturday evening news, I told them we hoped to depart for our excursion at 10.00 am. I think there must have been some low flying! As they arrived as we were preparing to depart. After one or two hasty interviews the ABC cameraman came aboard S.L. Jennifer to film the action as we traveled downstream bound for our first intended tea stop at the area used by the racing boat club at Granton, after some filming and interviews the crew departed for the studio.
We continued on our journey to Bridgewater, which is about 20ks from New Norfolk. The four boats rafted together midstream for lunch there being no suitable spot to tie up. A leisurely steam followed an enjoyable relaxing lunch back to New Norfolk.
The river follows the Lyell Highway, where there were many people lining the river watching our progress. We arrived back at the jetty area at about 4.00 and made fast our boats once again for the evening. It doesn’t take long for the time to pass when the topic of conversation revolves around steamboats and before long it was time to get cleaned up in readiness for our evening meal. We had booked the group in at the “Bush Inn” reputedly the oldest continually licensed pub in Australia? It has a very long history. The pub overlooks the river and is in an ideal spot. After ordering our meals our first action was to completely take over the sitting room and its TV so we could get a first hand look at our now famous TV personality faces. The item on the news ran for about 3 to 4 minutes only but was a great coverage and I have had heaps of remarks from people since it went to air. We also had an interview with a reporter from the Hobart newspaper the Mercury, All good coverage for our hobby.
After the lovely evening meal, a few drinks and some more chat we all retired for the evening in anticipation of another day to follow.
Both nights of the stay did consist of interrupted sleep on occasions as concerns prompted us to check on the safety and security of the boats. The security seemed fine but adjustments to the lines had to be made once or twice as the tide rose and fell.
Sunday morning we raised steam for the last time and the morning was spent giving one or two rides to friends and entertaining the onlookers lining the banks.
Hal dropped anchor midstream and we again rafted together for lunch with the Windermere kettles being put to good use. All too soon it was time to bid our farewells to our Northern friends before we ourselves headed for the ramp to retrieve our boats and make the journey homeward.
All in all a GREAT weekend spent with good friends in the pursuit of our hobby and a good opportunity to show our boats and do lots of idea swapping. We are already making plans to hold another event in the not too distant future, one being maybe a meet on the Tamar river and another on the Huon river.
This site was last updated 30-May-2006