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PostPosted: May 13th, '12, 00:54 
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This editorial appeared in The Age online today.

As it happens, Greg and I discussed some of the same ground recently; I've got some opinions about where ferries work and where they won't work, but I'm interested to see what other people think.

BTW this landed in Location Reviews because I couldn't decide if this was general or non sailing, then figured it was about places that we sail.

MELBOURNE looks different approached by water. Cormorants fly low. The West Gate might be origami. And the city, seen from the Docklands end, seems strange and new.

I caught a tourist ferry from Williamstown to Southbank this week. I saw cars lined up on docks like toys and waterfront townhouses that could have been airlifted from Noosa. But the most incredible thing was the lack of watercraft encountered on our hour-long dawdle. The only other boat I saw moving was a second, overpriced tourist ferry.

It was midday on a Wednesday, hardly a busy time. Still, the water's emptiness seemed to mirror all the windows shimmering above it.
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Waterside property is prized here now in a very Sydney way - though, happily, I'm yet to see agents flogging ''glimpses''. ''The ultimate waterfront address,'' gloats a Yarra's Edge billboard. ''Uninterrupted bayside views,'' croons a sign elsewhere. There's lots of gazing at water going on. But where are the commuter ferries linking one watery place to another? And why does Docklands so lack dock-like activities?

This week, a report on public spaces at Docklands found there were, bizarrely, few opportunities to ''directly engage'' with water there. When I popped down, I saw plenty of luxury boats parked at marinas but not much else connected to water.

There are lots of glass towers reflecting each other; countless eateries and a few moored party boats but the mood is more mall than maritime. It was a relief to find one beanie-clad retiree from Fawkner fishing for bream and trevally from his camp chair.

Docklands Association president Roger Gardner says fishing is discouraged because the water is polluted and ''you can't swim in it''. There is, he says, a Docklands Dragon Boat club but no yacht club. He thinks the area sorely needs a regular ferry to bring people in by water. Unfortunately, the last small ferry operator went out of business, he says. And the man who ran gondola trips has moved on.

The state government has just announced a $300,000 study on the feasibility of running ferries from Melbourne's west to the CBD. It will consider privately run ferries stopping at Werribee South, Point Cook, Altona and Williamstown, possibly ending at Docklands.

Critics say improving rail services is a more urgent need. They also question whether a ferry can be as fast as land transport. Such a ferry plan should not be an excuse for neglecting rail lines. But it's still an idea worth investigating. We've had a whirlpool of ferry pitches made over the years. Isn't it time one got up?

Another ferry plan, however, is already on the drawing board. For five years, the Bellarine Ferry Group has lobbied for a fast ferry to run from Portarlington to Port Melbourne. This ferry could take just 45 minutes and transport 900 commuters a day.

A $57 million safe harbour had been planned for Portarlington and the first stage of it is needed to enable ferries to berth there. The group says Ports Minister Denis Napthine has ordered a cost-benefit analysis of the harbour project. But it is disappointed that the Portarlington proposal - already deemed viable in a Parks Victoria report - has been excluded from the new ferry study.

I reckon when you travel by water, you feel lighter inside. You're in a more natural environment. Sydney and Brisbane have shown ferries can work.

As the lobbying and the studying continue here though, anyone wanting to catch a boat from Williamstown to the city will pay $15 for the privilege. And there isn't even a daily ferry running from St Kilda.

Money, it seems, is the perennial stumbling block here. But is culture a factor, too? Do Melburnians, deep down, regard getting around by ferry as a poncy, Sydneyish sort of pastime? ''I don't understand the reluctance to operate ferries here,'' laments John Rae, president of the Bellarine group.

Around the bay, there are loads of salty activities from sailing to sea scouts to snorkelling. Still, if you're not a boating or fishing type you have to go out of your way to see the city from the sea. Are we still catching up with this developer-led push towards water? In January, this newspaper reported that more than 100,000 hectares of port waters relied for fire protection on two aluminium boats fitted with pump hoses, and two inflatable dinghies.

One ray of sunshine is the Westgate Punt. This nifty, red bike ferry takes peak hour cyclists across the Yarra from Spotswood to Port Melbourne. The other day, a rainbow split the sky as I stepped on. We passed under the belly of the West Gate, where traffic crawled along, and crossed in about four minutes.

The punt's weekday service was cancelled six years ago. But after intense public lobbying and extra government funds, it reopened last year. The punt is so simple I can hardly believe it exists. It's a beautiful idea that floated.

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PostPosted: May 13th, '12, 11:20 
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Now the Wyndham Marina is becoming a reality, there is half a chance for a Fast ferry from there to Williamstown Road Port Melbourne with an express bus service from there to the CBD Docklands is not a go because the long slow haul up the Yarra would take too long.
As for the Portarlington idea with stops along the way, commuters cannot afford the time. The Peninsula side is a no go because any more marina develpoment will create sand washout of beaches in the vicinity, Not to mention the very often rough conditions caused by the prevailing winds. The Sorrento facillities for the Queenscliff Ferry seem to have caused very little sand washout since it was installed some years ago, but remembering from my childhood (in the Forties)that part of Sorrento beach had already been washed out.

It is a shame a development like the Wyndham Marina, cannot be done on the Mornington Peninsula side of the PPB but the sand washout problem precludes any hope of that. The location of the Dromana development did not have a washout problem because of the nearby cliffs. It originally promised a safe harbour and casual boating facillities but it seems casual boaties are not welcome. Lets hope Wyndham Marina is more welcoming.

So our big empty bay looks like remaining so, John Bertrand's book refered to his days on PPB as an ocean, and in many ways because of it's size and it's moods it does have ocean like characteristics.

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PostPosted: May 13th, '12, 20:02 
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I reckon the ferries are a dead duck. Don't get me wrong, I love being on any sort of craft (that's why I'm here) and I'd love to ride a boat to work. But if a ferry were to be useful as public transport the infrastructure would need to be heavily subsidised, and that won't happen with the state government cutting spending port, starboard and amidships. Even if they were inclined to chip in, there would be huge pressure to spend instead on upgrading the existing public transport system.

Shame, but the only way I can see it happening is a high-priced tourist outfit.

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PostPosted: May 13th, '12, 20:57 
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There is, he says, a Docklands Dragon Boat club but no yacht club. He thinks the area sorely needs a regular ferry to bring people in by water. Unfortunately, the last small ferry operator went out of business, he says. And the man who ran gondola trips has moved on.

There IS a Yacht club in Docklands. They are called "Docklands Yacht Club". They occupy the last two or three sheds near the old control tower. We found them when we tied up at the floating pontoon and one member asked my advice on outboard motor size.
I visited there on Australia day and left one of the members with a TSP Burgee. Inside the sheds are mainly wooden trailer sized yachts in various stages of construction.

Jeff

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PostPosted: May 13th, '12, 22:35 
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My take on this was that there were a couple of things going on here:

Quote:
MELBOURNE looks different approached by water. Cormorants fly low. The West Gate might be origami. And the city, seen from the Docklands end, seems strange and new.

I caught a tourist ferry from Williamstown to Southbank this week. I saw cars lined up on docks like toys and waterfront townhouses that could have been airlifted from Noosa. But the most incredible thing was the lack of watercraft encountered on our hour-long dawdle. The only other boat I saw moving was a second, overpriced tourist ferry.


This is a land lubber for whom being out on the bay is a novelty.
She's right, it's a nice experience (on a nice day or enclosed within a warm tourist ferry).

Quote:
But where are the commuter ferries linking one watery place to another?


They are in Sydney.

Road navigation in Sydney and in Melbourne is completely different.

In Melbourne (or Adelaide), you head across the grid in the general direction you want to go, taking advantage of a few diagonal roads and avoiding a few obstacles, like the Yarra River upstream of Abbotsford, since you can only cross it at Chandler Highway, Burke Road, Manningham road (between Heidelberg and Bulleen) or Fitzsimmons Lane (Templestowe).

Sydney, on the other hand, is compartmentalised by obstructions like the Yarra everywhere. Great slabs of Sydney have only a handful of ways in and out, crossing obstructions like rivers and THE HARBOUR. Sydney is a city of bottlenecks and obstructions; there are a limited number of ways of getting from one section to another.

Frequently the distance on the water between two points in Sydney is significantly shorter than the distance by road. Furthermore, the ferries operate in a harbour rather than a narrow river and so can travel much faster.

Put simply, you get the ferry from Manly or Balmain to Circular Quay because it is much quicker.

There are no similar pairs of locations in Melbourne.

Quote:
And why does Docklands so lack dock-like activities?


Dare I say it, because it was designed to squeeze in as much housing as the developers could get away with, not to actually work on a human scale. There is so much wrong with docklands and the lack of ...
Quote:
opportunities to ''directly engage'' with water there
... is just a small part of the bigger picture.

Quote:
When I popped down, I saw plenty of luxury boats parked at marinas but not much else connected to water.

There are lots of glass towers reflecting each other; countless eateries and a few moored party boats but the mood is more mall than maritime.


There's more money in malls and commercial party boats and rich people who dream of mooring their boat right next to their home than there is in boat ramps.

Quote:
It was a relief to find one beanie-clad retiree from Fawkner fishing for bream and trevally from his camp chair.


There's no money to be made from him either.

Quote:
Docklands Association president Roger Gardner...There is, he says, a Docklands Dragon Boat club but no yacht club.


Well, apparently there IS a yacht club. But smack in the middle of the Port of Melbourne is no place to be sailing and the bay is at least half an hour away at 5 knots and you can't go upstream with a mast up.

Quote:
He thinks the area sorely needs a regular ferry to bring people in by water.


Where are these people going to come FROM in a ferry?
The city?
Catch a tram.

St Kilda, Fitzroy, South Yarra, Northcote?
Catch a tram or two.

Footscray?
Vaguely plausible, but a train and a tram are still going to be quicker and cheaper.

Quote:
Unfortunately, the last small ferry operator went out of business, he says.


Because ferries are expensive and slow and can only compete with road and rail and trams when the water gets in the way of the land transport or the ferry becomes an expensive special treat; a tourist attraction.

Quote:
The state government has just announced a $300,000 study on the feasibility of running ferries from Melbourne's west to the CBD. It will consider privately run ferries stopping at Werribee South, Point Cook, Altona and Williamstown, possibly ending at Docklands.


Werribee to Frankston or Mordialloc by ferry might make sense - except who wants to travel between Werribee and Frankston?

Sorrento to Queenscliff makes enough sense to make money, but only because it saves a 200km drive, and even then it survives on tourists.

Quote:
Critics ... question whether a ferry can be as fast as land transport.


For a ferry to compete with land transport, the water route must be significantly shorter than the land route.

Quote:
Another ferry plan, however, is already on the drawing board. For five years, the Bellarine Ferry Group has lobbied for a fast ferry to run from Portarlington to Port Melbourne. This ferry could take just 45 minutes and transport 900 commuters a day.


Are there 900 people in Portarlington who want to commute to Melbourne?
Does Geelong slow down movement to Melbourne enough that a ferry could compete on time?

Quote:
I reckon when you travel by water, you feel lighter inside. You're in a more natural environment. Sydney and Brisbane have shown ferries can work.


Which planet is this woman on?
Venice is not Alice Springs.
Sydney is not Melbourne.

Quote:
As the lobbying and the studying continue here though, anyone wanting to catch a boat from Williamstown to the city will pay $15 for the privilege. And there isn't even a daily ferry running from St Kilda.


People pay $15 once in a while to get from Williamstown to Melbourne by ferry to feel lighter inside, not to get there quickly, efficiently, cheaply and on time for work. And you won't catch them paying extra to catch the ferry and feel lighter inside on bitterly cold wet days like today.

Quote:
Money, it seems, is the perennial stumbling block here.


No, the lack of shorter water routes to places that are far apart by land is the stumbling block.

Quote:
But is culture a factor, too? Do Melburnians, deep down, regard getting around by ferry as a poncy, Sydneyish sort of pastime?


No, the lack of shorter water routes to places that are far apart by land is the stumbling block.

Quote:
''I don't understand the reluctance to operate ferries here,'' laments John Rae, president of the Bellarine group.


The lack of shorter water routes to places that are far apart by land....

Quote:
One ray of sunshine is the Westgate Punt. This nifty, red bike ferry takes peak hour cyclists across the Yarra from Spotswood to Port Melbourne.


The punt is a shorter water route to places that are far apart on bicycles which can't use the Westgate bridge!

Quote:
The other day, a rainbow split the sky as I stepped on. We passed under the belly of the West Gate, where traffic crawled along, and crossed in about four minutes.


The punt operates on the site of the old cable ferry. Perhaps we should have kept that too?

Let's reintroduce those romantic old steam trains while we're at it.

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PostPosted: May 13th, '12, 22:41 
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Am I frothing at the mouth again? Sorry.

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PostPosted: May 14th, '12, 21:45 
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zebedee wrote:
The punt operates on the site of the old cable ferry.


Hey yeah. I remember going on that. Can you imagine relying on that now. OMG!


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PostPosted: May 15th, '12, 00:40 
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Without even worrying about inclement weather, a ferry journey from Portarlington, Werribee or anywhere south in a 15-20 southerly would be fantastic surely for your average joe wouldnt it. 1-2 metre swells which yes you encounter in sydney for about half a mile while you cross the heads from Manly, and then compare that to a river cruise ferry ride that is used only on weekends ????????
I agree, a waste of space article written by a dreamer with no sense of reality and no understanding of the details.
Fact is, No govt has spent any money on infrastructure for boating within the bay, and private spending is crucified by greenies and legislation and regulations. Fact is, like zeb says, there is too much distance between mass points, and alternatives are more feasible.

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