The Ferry

MV Baragoola is one of six near-identical sister ships built by Mort’s Dockyard and Engineering in Sydney. Launched on 14th February, 1922, she would have a career lasting 61 years plying between Circular Quay and Manly before finally being replaced in 1983 with the first of a new breed of Manly ferries. Built originally as a steam ship, between 1958 and 1961 she was converted to diesel-electric operation. Baragoola is the last remaining traditional Manly ferry in a condition that reflects little change since the  1930s.

Launched          : 14th February, 1922
Builder              : Mort’s Dockyard and Engineering Company Ltd
Gross Weight    : 498 tons
Dimensions       : 60.00 x 10.00 x 3.75 metres (199.5 x 34.0 x 14.5 ft)
Passengers       : 1523
Crew                 : 11 (steam), 7 (diesel-electric)
Speed               : 14 knots (steam), 16 knots (diesel-electric)

Baragoola was the last of of six similar sister ships built by Mort’s Dock between 1905 & 1922. She was built nine years after the Barrenjoey in response to growing passenger demand. She was the last Manly ferry built by Mort’s & the last Manly ferry built in Australia until the Freshwater class in the 1980’s. When built, she cost 72,000 pounds & was the 41st vessel built by Mort’s. She was the eighth vessel built by Mort’s for the PJ&MSS Co. over a 35 year period, Mort’s made no money on the construction of the ferry and the next three vessels would be built overseas due to the high local cost.

With the launch of the Baragoola, the Manly company was capable of carrying 10,250 passengers per trip – this was sorely needed as Manly was undergoing a tourist boom (mainly due to the ferry trade) & many people ended up settling in the area.

Baragoola was arguably the most popular Manly ferry, this was evidenced by the massive turnout for her farewell trip in 1983 when she was so loaded that passengers where on the top wheelhouse deck (normally not allowed). Apart fromBarrenjoey/North Head and Bellubera, no other Manly ferry had a longer career on the harbour, she easily outlasted Curl Curl &Dee Why & her career was longer than South Steyne. She was known by her masters as an excellent ocean-going vessel.

Baragoola’s look changed little over her lifetime, the only major change being that her smoke stack was shortened after she was re-engined between 1958 & 1961. Baragoola’s name means “Flood Tide” in a local Aboriginal dialect. Baragoola was the slowest of the Manly fleet, although she managed 15 knots at the builders’ trials, she was only rated for 14 knots.

Baragoola had been during the early 1930’s the subject of an experiment involving the use of pulverised coal in the boilers. In common with similar experiments involving steam locomotives, the venture did not prove to be a success and was abandoned. One consequence had been the covering of the ship with coal dust. Between 8 March and 3 August 1939 Baragoola was altered to an oil burner using tar under natural draught, like the three Scottish steamers. Propellers of improved design were also fitted at this time. For a period during World War II, the vessel reverted to burning coal owing to difficulties in obtaining supplies of tar. In about 1948 Baragoola was fitted with Brown Bros. Electro-hydraulic telemotor steering.

Baragoola had several incidents during her lifetime, the first such occurred on Christmas Eve 1926 off Kirribilli Point when she had a collision with the Kosciusko (later to go to Hobart after the collapse of the Derwent River bridge), the Kosciusko’s master was held at fault and reprimanded by the Marine Court. On the 12/09/1927 Baragoola ran down a lifeboat from the French steamer Ville D’Amiens, five people where thrown out of the lifeboat, one was later hospitalised. The people where rescued by two fishing trawlers in the vicinity. The lifeboat was severely damaged in the event.

Baragoola holds the dubious “record” of hitting the strangest object in the harbour when she hit a whale on 28/08/1934 which ended up causing no end of grief for several days afterwards. The ferry sliced into the whale & almost came to a halt due to the impact, no damage to the Baragoola, but the same could not be said of the whale. After the collision near the Heads, the whale swam off towards Flagstaff Point, trailing a wake of blood in its path. After being spotted following an erratic path, observers lost sight of the whale until three days later, when the carcass surfaced near Old Mans Hat. It was towed out to sea, but by evening had drifted to within a kilometre of Bondi Beach. The whale was then towed out to around five kilometres off the coast, but by next morning, it was drifting back towards the heads. The carcass was again towed well out to sea, however, two days later it was back again on the rocks at South Head. Again, it was towed out to sea, this time nearly 18 kilometres. A report at the time had the Harbour Master saying “We’ll get rid of it this time if we have to take it to New Zealand”. But next day, it was back, this time stranding at the entrance to Botany Bay. On the 5th of September, the whale was towed around 25km out to sea & finally, after 9 days, was never seen again.

On 23rd June, 1972 she was one of several ferries damaged when a severe storm front hit Sydney – wind speeds in excess of 60 mph were recorded and waves topped 40 feet between the Heads.

After her withdrawal from service, there were several attempts made to preserve her in some function. In 1980, a group of Manly businessmen had attempted to secure her for use as a floating museum, however, Manly Chamber of Commerce didn’t want her, believing that she would be an eyesore. The project never got off the ground.

In 1983, an offer of $100,000 was made for her to be used as a floating restaurant, again, Manly Council did not want it in Manly Cove, where it would ikely be an obstruction.

At the end of 1983 a group from Melbourne planned on taking her to Port Phillip Bay, but this again fell through.

In 1984, a plan was mooted to turn her into a floating university, again this came to nothing.

Finally she was bought by David ashton who began restoration of the vessel and planned to use her as ajunct offuce space at Waterview Wharf. After facing pressure from NSW Maritime and the destruction of the wharf she was moored to (causing her damage at the time) she was forced in 2003 over to the old Coal Loader at  Balls Head where she remained until sold again in late 2008 to a scrap metal merchant. At this time a group was formed to fight the heritage delisting and stop the scrapping of this unique vessel. In early 2010 the Baragoola Preservation Association Incorporated purchased the vessel and began the long task of full restoration – after yet another run in with NSW Maritime that saw the vessel only hours away from destruction. Intervention by the then Ports minister saved her at the last minute.

Baragoola provides rare evidence of the large ferry system which stimulated the growth of suburban Sydney, the development of its recreational patterns and the formation of its popular urban culture. It is a surviving example of a characteristic twentieth century Manly steamer demonstrating evolution of technology for fast double-ended navigation in deep-sea conditions. The fabric demonstrates the changing nature of service over the period, 1922-1983. The machinery technology is unique in the Australian shipping industry. It is an extremely rare surviving example of ship construction by Mort’s Dock & Engineering Co. Ltd.

Currently, Baragoola is still moored at the Old Coal Loader at Waverton and is undergoing extensive restoration.