Tales of the Amelia K

Church Point Ferry Service: the Amelia KAmelia K: Curious Cargo & The Underpants Incident

She may not be the most beautiful of vessels, but our own ‘Tin Can’ is a hearty girl. She dependably ploughs the worst of the worst of Pittwater swells. She is safe passage for children, dogs, groceries… and fridges, and truck tyres, lamps, not a few unnerved chooks, and wait for it, … a motorbike.

At one point cargo became so curious we had to tell one of the drivers:

“If passengers cannot load their cargo themselves, it shouldn’t be on board. No helping. And further, no elephants or giraffes onboard. Ever.”

Jack Kirkpatrick built the Amelia K in 1995-96. Unlike the timber Curlew and Elvina, she’s a relatively young ferry. She was designed using a port boat as a basis, then modified to suit our ferry service requirements.

Jack worked hard on the Amelia K. Function over form she is, and proud of it. She’s a strong, sturdy vessel capable of ferrying 67 passengers to their destination despite the weather. She requires only a Coxswain to drive due to cleverly laid out docking points.

For me, the Amelia K is the school boat. When Simon and I first bought the ferry service, most days I would go with Carrie or Tim and a deckhand on the school run. Hilarious is an understatement.

When the school year begins gorgeous little five year olds climb aboard, crying, with parents left behind, standing at the wharves (often also crying). The little ones hop on and sit with a friend or a designated “looker afterer,” which the big girls just love. Inevitably they’re colouring in, happily chattering in record time. Heartbreaking sobs to high spirits in less than 60 seconds.

We haven’t forgotten the underpants…

The story goes, we needed a new deckhand. I heard about Roz, a good soul working with underprivileged Vietnamese children. Roz climbed aboard expecting 20 or so kids quietly doing homework. No Roz. Not so. Sixty small passengers in tow running amuck.

First experience: one wee bloke pulling down his underpants, showing Roz his willy. It was a shock for sure, but easily forgiven. His ‘sorry’ letter melted her heart. The kids are at times a handful, but so often after leaving the ferry, we have a bit of a smile and chuckle at their antics.

Proudly, news of the ‘Tin Can’ has worked its way beyond our own community. Of course, the Amelia K’s great claim to fame is the rescue of Obeo in Susan Duncan’s book, Salvation Creek, and the near demise, of Susan herself. It’s there in print for posterity!

As well, last year The Australian reported this:

The Australian, 2010…

“Docking by braille,” observes one of my fellow passengers drily as the Church Point Ferry Service’s Amelia K bumps and bashes its way to a standstill against Bell Wharf on Scotland Island, at Pittwater’s southern end. It’s a windy day, with an unusually low tide, and although we’re only a few hundred metres from the mainland, the ferry skipper is working hard to deliver his passengers safely ashore.

He slams the engine into reverse and with a tremendous roar and shudder the Amelia K — a functional rather than beautiful vessel — lurches away from the wharf to continue its circuit of the island. The Church Point Ferry Service, which departs hourly, on the half-hour, operates a daily school run to Newport, an early morning and evening commuter run and delivers newspapers and mail. It plays a vital role in this tight-knit community.

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