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SS PERTH in its early days of operation

MV Perth

Vessel Number: HV000553
Date: 1914
Builder: AE Brown
Vessel Dimensions: 31.39 m x 6.1 m x 2 m (103 ft x 20.01 ft x 6.56 ft)
Classification:Vessels and fittings
MV PERTH was built in 1914 for the West Australian Government's ferry service on the Swan River by AE Brown. It is one of the few Swan River ferries remaining from the early 20th century. It shows the double-ended hull and twin deck arrangement common to many commuter ferries, which was also appropriate for the Swan River service. It is also an example of a commercial vessel built by AE Brown, one the principal Fremantle based boatyards of this period.
DescriptionMV PERTH was launched as a steam ferry from the yard of AE Brown at North Fremantle toward the end of 1914. It was built to operate on the ferry service between Barrack Street in the city and Mends Street on the Swan River. The double-ended hull shape allowed it to operate efficiently, there was no need to turn the vessel around at either wharf where room to maneuver in the shallow waters was very restricted.

The 31.39 metres (103 ft) long hull is carvel planked in jarrah on the bottom, the topsides were pine, and it was covered with a kauri deck. The cabin and top was relatively open and lightly built. It was powered by two coal fired burners operating at 120psi built by McKie and Baxter of Glasgow.

As SS PERTH, its first trial was reported in the Perth Daily News, 1 January 1915:

“Yesterday the first steamer specially built for the Government ferry service was given an extended trial on the Swan. The modern double-ended ferry boat is not altogether a thing of beauty, but Mr AE Brown, the well-known shipwright, who was sub-contractor to Messer’s. Denny Bros for the hull has succeeded in turning out a vessel the lines of which approach perfection in marine architecture. And what is more he has turned out a hull that has been built to last a lifetime.”

It became an extended lifetime, with the vessel remaining in service more or less continuously until 2007, a period of 92 years.

SS PERTH operated as a ferry through to 1950 when it became an excursion boat when the road bridge across the narrows had become the preferred transport across the river and patronage of the service had dropped significantly.

In 1970 the original steam engine was removed and went into the West Australian Maritime Museum where it is on display. It was replaced by a Kelvin diesel engine. In 1982 MV PERTH was taken out of service, but came back after being refurbished in 1986 to be used for river transport during the 1986/87 America’s Cup defense series.

In 1998 MV PERTH was rebuilt by Ozco at Swan Dock, Fremantle. The hull was Dynel sheathed and the superstructure was also reinforced by fiberglass. It was then used as a party boat. White pickets were added to the outside decks to give it an American Mississippi paddle steamer style and it became known as the RIVERBOAT GAMBLER, running gambling nights on the Swan River.

MV PERTH was purchased by the WA Steamship Company in 2007 and moved to a pen at Jervoise Bay, Henderson. In 2009 it was bought by the current owners, Perth Boat School. A lot of remedial work was undertaken - leaks were stopped, the water pump repaired, the fuel pump replaced, the electrics repaired, and the entire fore and stern decks completely stripped, filled, overhauled and revarnished. It was undertaken as a Community Restoration Project, sponsored by many companies and voluntary organizations. However much of this work was undone after 2012 when access to the vessel was severely restricted, and it became badly vandalized.

In 2013 MV PERTH is waiting on further support to repair the damage and continue with further restoration to enable it to once again operate, nearly 100 years since it was launched. During its time as a ferry a number of others of different types were built in WA by builders such as Lawrence, Sutton and Olsen, Tommy Rann, Thomas Hill and Frank Carmody.

Vessel Details
Cabin or superstructure material and construction:timber planked
Cabin or superstructure material and construction:timber plywood
Current status:floating
Current status:non-operational
Deck layout:multiple decks
Deck material and construction:timber planked
Hull material and construction:carvelcarvel-planked
Hull material and construction:timber
Hull shape:canoe stern/double endedDE
Hull shape:monohull
Hull shape:round bottom
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:launch deadwood
Keel/centreboard/rudder type:spade rudder
Motor propulsion:diesel
Motor propulsion:motor vesselMV
Additional Titles

Primary title: MV Perth

Previous title: Riverboat Gambler

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