Got Something to Say?Letters - The hanging tree 

The hanging tree

We were rafted up with friends in Coal and Candle Creek on the Friday before New Year. Earlier we had noticed a tinnie come into the bay with three men on board. They fished a few spots without any luck and then anchored closer to the southern shore. Apparently bored with fishing they went over the side for a swim.

The next thing we noticed was that they were on the shore eyeing off the rope which has hung there for at least 20 years (although it may have been replaced at some time). For years we have watched as young males climbed up to a high rock behind the tree and then swung out, over the rocks and oysters, let go and dropped into the water.

We watched one of the three fishermen complete the manoeuvre and land with a splash well out from the rocks. The next minute there was an audible thud and a stifled cry. The next ‘Tarzan’ was in the water in obvious distress.  One of his mates went into the water and helped his injured friend to shallower water next to the rock shelf. He was conscious but couldn’t get out of the water.

People from nearby boats, witnessing the drama, immediately offered assistance. Among the good Samaritans were Rick Pilz of Mona Vale and Alison and Ernie Chalker of Pennant Hills. Mr Pilz took a jacket to help keep the victim warm and Alison Chalker, seeing the state of the victim and worrying that he was going into shock, climbed out of their dinghy and stayed in the water with her arms around him keeping him warm and talking until help arrived.

Within 30 minutes the Paramedics were delivered by boat from Akuna Bay and the Police launch from Church Point also arrived to lend assistance. One of the Paramedics entered the water with a ‘Stokes Litter’ and with the assistance of Rick Pilz and others lifted the injured man onto the rock ledge. As he was gently lifted from the water he was crying out obviously in extreme pain.

The Paramedics stabilized his condition and eventually loaded the litter onto a work boat from d’Albora Marina, Akuna Bay and took him to the waiting ambulance.

The hanging treeThe injured man told Alison Chalker that he was 38, married with two children and that he was usually the steadying influence amongst his friends and that this foolhardy act was out of character. Be that as it may we learned the next day that his injuries included a crushed pelvis and a broken wrist. It could have been a lot worse.

Ironically three days later there was another group of young men who took no notice of the warnings offered to them and continued the death defying swing out over the rocks.
Ku-ring-gai National Park must remove the rope ASAP and keep watch that it isn’t replaced, before somebody is killed.

Barry Jackson,

‘Flare-go’ for old pyrotechnics

Colin Alleck’s letter (Afloat Mar’12) is right on target. Out-of-date flares should be retained as back-ups to others on board which have not reached their expiry dates.
I was with RFD for more than 20 years and during that time conducted numerous safety demonstrations, liferaft exercises, etc., for many yacht and motor boat clubs and other interested groups such as volunteer rescue organisations.

Depending on the location we would always give advance notice/seek approval (from local councils, police, etc.) to demonstrate at specific times and avoid any false alarms!
I lost count of the number and type of flares I demonstrated – it would be in the 100s. In 100 percent of cases they were time-expired and in 99 percent of cases they all “worked”. A few did not perform quite like new and I did avoid using any which had obviously been soaking in water.

I also well-recall a representative of one of the pyrotechnics manufacturers saying that old flares do not become any more dangerous than new ones, just that there is no guarantee they will perform to specification.

So, what is the problem?

As long as the required number and type of in-date flares are carried on board then surely having a back-up supply of out-of-date flares can only be for the potential good of rescuers and rescued.

The basic pack required in NSW consists of two red hand-held flares and two orange smoke signals (for daylight hours). If, say, one or both of the orange smokes are used through ignorance or sheer panic during a night time drama they are unlikely to be seen and will have exhausted the supply.

Having a few old ones left over for the morning could make all the difference!

John Ferris,
Roseville Chase.

Out-of-date flares

For boaters heading to the warmer Queensland water this winter you need to be aware that it is an offence under the Explosives Act to have expired explosives in your possession and the Queensland Water Police are the enforcement agency for this Act.

However, the good folk at Maritime Safety Queensland have provided the following sensible advise – that if you are going to carry extra out-of-date flares, ensure they are in good condition and in a sealed container.

The concern is that once they are expired, the flares can be unstable in a marine environment (moisture and heat) and can self-ignite and, once ignited they do not go out and burn through anything they are touching or leaning against. They even burn under water.

In this day of risk assessment and “You’re The Skipper You’re Responsible” some of us face the dilemma of what to do.

Colin Alleck,
SV Bullant Rouge.

Safe storage of flares

In reply to Colin Alleck’s letter (Afloat Mar’12) re: the expired flares levy.

Flares are an incendiary device and have an expiry date for two reasons:

    •    Firstly, that if properly stored they should be effective as an emergency signalling device.

    •    And secondly, that they can be stored onboard without compromising the safety of the vessel.

Expiry dates are not there to make manufacturers or retailers rich.

The legislation requires special licences under WorkCover for manufacture, transportation and storage by these people and is there to protect us against people like Mr Alleck, by whose own admission operated flares that were 24 years old with possible serious deterioration of packaging and materials.

The fact that they still worked shows how dangerous they still were.

Expired flares can be disposed of at your local NSW Maritime office at no cost.

So only use your recently expired flares for properly controlled and supervised training exercises and dispose of the rest.

Bill Leigh,

Lack of launching facilities

Lyne Park Boat Ramp is the only boat ramp on the southern side of Sydney Harbour between South Head and the Harbour Bridge. The facility is extremely popular servicing the eastern suburbs and boaters who are intending outside activities. During the week there is limited parking of 12 bays for vehicles with trailers as the majority of the facility is utilized by commuters.

In 2009/10 two grants were approved by NSW Maritime for Lyne Park. $25,200 for a “Study to investigate options for all boating facilities (Boat Ramp, Jetty, Ferry Wharf)”. The second grant was $50,000 for “Funding to design of boat ramp facility – including demolition of existing wharf, and concrete steps, widening of existing boat ramp and installation of new pontoons (wave attenuating/platform-ramp) and gangway”.

In 2011/12 two grants were approved being for $350,000 and in December an additional $800,000 for “Boat ramp improvements”.

During 2011 Woollahra Council completed improvements with beautification, redesigned car park and storm-water retention / filtering.

Records pertaining to parking for vehicles and trailers in 2004 show 40 spots. Since the upgrade in 2011 there has been no additional parking for vehicles with trailers.

Basically there has been absolutely no consultation by NSW Maritime or Woollahra Council with boaters regarding the potential expenditure grants.

For boaters utilizing Lyne Park on weekends they will be aware of the frustrations due to congestion from this particular facility attempting to accommodate commuters, ferries, pleasure boats, diners, tourist and sporting activities within the park.

Maritime predict that the potential upgrade of the boat ramp will be between $1 and $2million, however probably closer to $2million, and there will no additional parking provided. According to NSW Maritime the purpose of this expenditure is mainly for access and safety.

No doubt once these potential upgrades have occurred, boaters who probably have not used this facility will attempt fate. However, they will encounter parking problems as apart from the limited 40 bays there is basically no overflow parking available into streets adjoining this facility.

Dennis Donald,

New ‘No Wash Zone’ in the Hawkesbury

A new ‘no wash zone’ now extends from Green Point to Croppy Point on the Hawkesbury River, approximately half a mile before the Brooklyn area, downstream. That is well before you approach Parsley Bay and Wobby Beach. The zone extends past Dangar Island. NSW Maritime was responding to complaints from the residents of the Hawkesbury, the parents of the kids sailing near Parsley Bay.

However, it would seem that either the size of the signs or the lack of publicity in your fine journal has not attracted sufficient attention as 53 boats were observed last month breaking the rules.

It is common sense that high speed cruisers with two metre washes should not travel at high speed past moorings and river communities. There are new signs just after you enter the Hawkesbury obligating operators to maintain a no wash zone once you come abeam of Green Point. This is not on Maritime’s charts at present but is being patrolled.

Grateful residents of Wobby Beach
(and mooring owners of Parsley Bay as well as
the kids who want to sail small boats without having
to climb the washes of inconsiderate boat owners).

Anchoring restrictions at Quarantine and Manly Cove

Members of the Boat Owners committee met with senior delegates from RMS and Fisheries during February regarding proposed anchoring restrictions in parts of Sydney Harbour. The BOA have been extremely concerned at a number of levels of this proposal:

    •    that there appeared to be little or no open public consultation

    •    that recreational boaters were being unfairly discriminated against

    •    that there were possibly other areas being considered for restriction

The BOA, represented by the President Jeff Richards, Edward Pieck and Professor Frank Talbot appreciated the opportunity afforded by RMS with Fisheries for open discussion and the gaining of insight for all parties. While there was no definitive outcome at the meeting, the BOA is optimistic that the proposed anchoring restrictions will not be applied at this time and the BOA is now preparing for a full and open consultation process.

The restriction appears likely to proceed and the BOA is concerned there may be other areas within and outside Sydney Harbour that will also be targeted for restrictions.
For ALL recreation boaters, this is the time the BOA needs support through membership and the combined support of yacht clubs, motor clubs, marinas and boating organisations.

David G Miles, Vice-President,
Boat Owners Association of NSW Inc.

Anchoring Manly and Quarantine

Regarding anchoring in Manly Cove and Quarantine.

Readers should know that while a proposal to introduce no anchoring zones in Manly Cove and Quarantine has been considered, Maritime, now a division of Roads and Maritime Services, has not introduced any new restrictions on boating in these areas.

There is a misconception that Maritime is promoting changes in the area to protect seagrass. Fisheries lead on the issue of seagrass and is the agency that has raised concerns about protecting seagrass in these areas.

Maritime is liaising with Fisheries and will continue to consult with boating representatives on this matter.

Neil Patchett, Manager Communications and Education,
Roads and Maritime Services.

Excessive flag display racist

John Hancox (Afloat Feb’12) expressed dismay that there were only a handful of vessels on the harbour on New Year’s Eve flying the Australian ensign.

He had better not come to WA and express sentiments like that! Here, in the weeks leading up to Australia Day, you can see thousands of cars proudly flying the Australian flag.

However, we have just had the results of a study carried by a university academic saying that this practice is more likely to be racist than a display of national pride.
Up with the flag and down with political correctness, I say.

Dave Tierney,
Darch, WA.

Boxing Day incident – Hit and Run

Boxing Day incidentI would like to ask for your help in finding witnesses to a hit and run boating incident on Boxing Day shortly after the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

A powerboat caused $20,000 worth of damage to my yacht Windswept 2 before fleeing the scene just off Clifton Gardens shortly after the start.  Fortunately we managed to take a photo of the offending boat but need to make contact with a few of the boat owners or spectators who saw the incident.

Given your extensive readership and the unique design of my yacht, I feel that someone may come forward and help me.

I look forward to hearing from anyone who may be able to assist me with my battle for justice.

Don MacIntosh,
0408 257 360;

Support for Marine Rescue

From where did Dennis Donald of Croydon get the $4 million budget for the various Volunteer Marine Rescue groups for 2009 (Afloat Feb’12)?

I joined the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol in 2009 and, as far as I am aware, we didn’t get any funding from the NSW Government.

It wasn’t until 1 January 2010 that the three groups amalgamated (Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol, Volunteer Marine Rescue and AVCG) to form Marine Rescue NSW, that we started getting funds from the Government.

Before then and even now we do a lot of local fundraising. All our funding from government, local businesses and local communities goes towards new rapid response boats, fuel, radios, equipment and intensive training.

We all have to be competent and qualified to State Rescue Board standards in the jobs that we do, whether it is doing a Master 5 or Coxswain course or Radio Watch Keeper to Search and Rescue Coordinator. A lot of our members put themselves through TAFE to get the qualifications they needed.

We are not paid. We are volunteers helping the boating community. We do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months a year. We are not there for the glory, we are there to help and assist anyone that is in trouble on the water.

To give you an idea of what we do please go to and read some of the stories of the rescues we have done and hopefully you will have a better understanding of the free service we provide.

So please give us a fair go. We are there to support the boating community so please support us.

P. O’Connor,
Batemans Bay.

Passenger launch Loongana

Further to Bob Cornish’s letter (Afloat Mar’12), the Loongana was built in 1917 and ceased existence about 1955. She was built by W. Holmes for the Taylors of The Entrance. Before WWII she was sold to Charles Rosman of Mosman Bay. She was converted from a well-decked ferry into a flush-decker and was given the name Renown.
Until the late 1940s she was run by Charles Rosman and then for a few years by James Devenish Rosman around the Parramatta River and Pyrmont (as Renown Star). After JDR died, she ended up as an oyster lighter on the Georges River and from then I loose her.

Graeme Andrews OAM,

Macdhui bomb down funnel

Further to the Macdhui correspondence of recent months.

In 1966-7 I was anchored in Port Moresby when the Harbour Master, the late Bill Gibson, called for volunteers to help salvage the mast and place it in front of the Royal Papua Yacht Club.

Whether or not he instigated the enterprise I cannot say, but Bill was certainly on side. Either he or an offsider organised a team of local divers (plus cutting equipment) to drop the steel mast into the harbour after we had lashed drums along its length to prevent it sinking and, hopefully, to support it whilst it was towed ashore.

I recall that a few drums broke loose in a most spectacular way when it hit the water and all workers scattered for their lives, but the system worked well enough to achieve success.

Most memorable to me during that period was the viewing of war footage showing the bombing of Port Moresby with Macdhui hastily getting off her berth to present a moving target to the enemy planes. I am stretching my memory here, but am almost certain that the bomb that convinced the skipper to ram her onto the reef went straight down her funnel.

Captain Gibson later became Harbour Master of Gove and also bought the well-known yacht of the time, Even. He was an enthusiastic recreational sailor and a great friend to all visiting boaties.

Alan Lucas,
Point Clare.

Dogs, boats and the call of nature

Shane Withington’s logic (Afloat March’12), where we simply cannot contemplate dogs occasionally visiting the shoreline interface with a National Park for fear of the diseases they’d spread to native species, poses an interesting question.

What of those native species, such as the current plague of possum and bandicoot, which stray beyond the National Parks into the domain of domestic pets? Having had much greater exposure to the risk cited by Mr Withington, should these be shot on site to prevent them returning to a National Park?

Probably not (even though such policy might help fix the problem of the craters in my lawn), because some common sense is in play. It seems common sense – that most fundamental basis of good seamanship – was all Mitch Geddes (Afloat Feb’12) was appealing for.

Mick Williams,
Echo Point.

Sir Arthur Weller

Further to the obituary on the energetic Sir Arthur Weller (Afloat Jan’12). There is I feel a lot more to be told and I only know snippets.

He was educated at the English public school Rugby and HMS Worcester the RNR training ship on the Thames.

At one stage in his career he and a partner chartered a vessel and ran it out of Darwin carrying live cattle to South East Asia. Both were master mariners and they took it in turn to be on the ship or else ashore gathering cattle for the next shipment. There was rather a lot of time in port awaiting the cattle to be shipped so they leased a huge property near Darwin to be used as a holding base.

One day Arthur returned to port and went to get money to pay the crew from the bank only to find that the account had been cleared out. Many, many years later he had his revenge through the courts.

I wonder if that project was one of the earliest to ship live cattle from Australia?
Arthur then turned his attention to the insurance industry and had soon set up his own business. One company was called Sirius and he had a large painting of HMS Sirius behind his desk. He felt that Australia needed a maritime museum and from small beginnings great projects grow. The commencement was the restoration of Cadman’s cottage in The Rocks.

Arthur was ego driven and loved not only the trappings of wealth but to be seen to have them. He purchased a Rolls Royce and of course needed a chauffer to drive him round the City of Sydney. This did not work as well as he had hoped for a number of reasons. The chauffers, and there were a number, were reluctant to leave the driving seat and open his door one remarking, “What’s the problem? Have you become a cripple in the last two hundred yards?”

Then the vehicle was keyed and while sitting in state in the rear of his splendid vehicle he was mortified to see that he was often given the two finger salute. Sydney was not and is not the City of London. The final straw came when it was announced that Australia would no longer grant imperial honours. Arthur hankered for a knighthood. Thus he returned to Europe but for tax considerations commuted from the south of France on a weekly basis to London.

Arthur was a man of great energy and he made things happen.

Roger Wickins,
Avalon Beach.

HMAS Australia

I am sure that others who have a wider knowledge of The Royal Australian Navy will comment on Simon Newcomb’s letter (Afloat Feb’12) regarding his father’s connections with HMAS Australia but in his letter he appears to be referring to two different vessels.

The first Australia was a battle cruiser of the Indefatigable class displacing 22,100 tons and entered service in 1913. She was with the 2nd Battle Cruiser squadron at the surrender of the German Grand fleet 21st November 1918 in company with HM Ships New Zealand, Indomitable and Inflexible. She missed the battle of Jutland having collided with HMS New Zealand during manoeuvres and was undergoing repairs at the time. She returned to Australia soon after that but under the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922, which reduced the navies of the world to specific tonnages, she was scuttled off Sydney in 1924.

To confuse matters there had been an HMS Australia accepted into the RN in 1888 and in the list of vessels at the surrender in 1918 HMAS Australia was referred to as HMS on the list of vessels I have framed on my wall.

The photograph that is with Simon’s letter is of the County Class (Kent subclass) Cruiser HMAS Australia ordered in 1924 for the RAN and entered service in 1928.

Simon Newcomb’s framed photo shows HMAS Australia (2).Her sister ship was HMAS Canberra (now lying on the bottom of Iron Bottom Sound between the islands of Savo and Guadalcanal). They were of 10,000 tons displacement at the time of building but added armour side plating to protect the machinery spaces must have increased that appreciably during their service life. HMAS Australia was decommissioned 31 August 1954 and sold for scrapping in 1958, not as dramatic as being scuttled off her home port.

During my apprenticeship at Cockatoo Dockyard, 1946-51, there was a rigger, George Halford if my memory serves me right, who came out with the HMAS Australia in 1918 and settled in Australia. He had a son, Brian, who like myself was an apprentice and we both later went off to sea as engineers.
HMAS Australia had a very distinguished career during WWII and saw action in both the European and Pacific theatres.

Don Skinner,
Wellington, New Zealand.

HMAS Australia photo

This was one of two heavy cruisers (the other was HMAS Canberra (1), that were built in UK for Australia and commissioned in 1928. Canberra was sunk in 1942. Australia survived WWII, having been in the thick of trouble and suffering great damage and casualties.

She was paid off in August 1954 and was towed to UK for scrapping in 1955.

Simon is confusing the two Australias somewhat. The one that was sunk off Sydney was Australia (1) a battlecruiser that served in the RAN from 1913 to about 1922 and was then scuttled at sea in 1924 under the terms of the Washington Disarmament Treaty.

Australia (2) would have made a wonderful museum but we didn’t think that way in those days.

Graeme Andrews (ex-Petty Officer RAN),

Unknown MSB boat

In 1962, as a young high-school student, I visited Sydney from Melbourne in one of the most memorable excursions of my youth. We went up to the observation deck of the ‘new’ AMP building and then went on a cruise on the harbour.

Our teacher had a friend in the MSB and we were taken on an MSB vessel that looked like a converted tug-boat with accommodation for about 50 passengers. I did not notice whether it was steam or diesel. The paint scheme was yellow or cream with green or red lining.

I know this doesn’t give you much to go on but I wonder if you can identify the vessel from my sketchy description.

Thanks for the excellent articles that keep flowing from your “pen”. I enjoy them all.

Kevin Shaw,
by email.

Kevin, I’m pretty sure that your ‘mystery’ vessel was MSB Burragi. Burragi was a converted steam tug – totally rebuilt as a diesel workers ferry and water boat in about 1956.

When she was not providing water for the Board’s various items of steam plant she was used, morning and night, as a workers ferry to Goat Island. When she wasn’t doing that she was used to provide free harbour tours for public schools and other deserving causes, such as the (then) Spastic Centre. For a couple of years in the early 1980s I was one of her shift-routine Masters.

The free trips were done away with by the Greiner Coalition government about 1986 and a year or so later she was sold and became a floating restaurant in Cooktown, Nth Qld. I’m told she rotted apart at Port Douglas about the turn of the century.

Your description leaves me in no doubt.

Graeme Andrews,


Please ensure letters to the RSVP section include your contact details (e.g. Name, phone number, email address and suburb).

Robyn RaeFinding Robyn Rae

I am hoping you can help me find the Robyn Rae. My Dad owned her for over 15 years and sold her in the early 1970s. The boat was originally moored in Paynesville on the Gippsland Lakes, and in the late 1960s Dad moved her up to Nowra on the Shoalhaven River. She was 40ft long, all steel and weighed about 26 tons.

I spent memorable Christmas holidays on the boat with many weekends in between. I’m sure my experiences on RR influenced my choice of professions because I joined the RAN in September 1963 and I am still serving as a Reservist. My wife and I spent our honeymoon on board.

The photograph above was taken in McLelland Strait between Paynesville and Raymond Island.

Peter Schilling, 21 Ashcroft Crescent, Monash ACT 2904.
Tel: 02 6291 4681; Mob: 0402 648 333,