South Perth: Paddle Steamer Decoy to take to the water again


Manus Higgins, part-owner and operator of the Paddle Steamer Decoy, with his engineering crew on the boat Robert Jaunzems, left, David Hannaford and Frank Morrah. Picture: Marie Nirme.
Manus Higgins, part-owner and operator of the Paddle Steamer Decoy, with his engineering crew on the boat Robert Jaunzems, left, David Hannaford and Frank Morrah. Picture: Marie Nirme.

A FIXTURE of South Perth’s riverside will once again take to the water over the next few months.

The Paddle Steamer Decoy is believed to be the only commercial paddle steamer in WA and the only seagoing one in the southern hemisphere.

It was built in Fremantle in 1986 as a replica of the original paddle steamer that operated on the Swan River in the early 1900s, and is powered by a steam engine from 1905 that was salvaged and restored.

After a four-year hiatus, it took to the water last year and South Perth resident and co-owner Manus Higgins said he had a number of cruises planned for spring, summer and autumn.

“It’s a part of the scenery in South Perth, I think the community looks at it as part of its lifestyle,” he said.

“We’ve had the children of parents who got married come back on board because they remember it from many years ago.

“We had a lot of locals come on board during the last year but we are looking for more tourist traffic.

“We’ve got burlesque events, comedy nights and regular live music cruises happening over the next few months.”

Mr Higgins said four older men with interests in the paddle steamer regularly volunteered to help it run smoothly.

“They all have varying backgrounds, they all come from engineering backgrounds and all they want is a cup of coffee and a chat,” he said.

“The paddle steamer is a bit mystical, I think it attracts people because of the way it looks and what it does.”

Among the people who volunteer on the paddle steamer is Frank Morrah, a former navy electrical engineer.

“The boat has almost a mystical feel to it, it’s good therapy for us to get involved,” he said.

“It would be a shame to see it ever die due to lack of interest so we like doing whatever we can to help out.”

Mishaps on the paddle steamer

The Paddle Steamer Decoy has been involved in a number of quirky incidents, including hitting a bank on the Swan during New Year’s Eve last year.

Mr Higgins said the paddle steamer’s master Sam Kane was waiting for another boat to leave the Mends Street Jetty when a squall forced it to get banked.

“There was a bit of egg on the face but the Fremantle Sea Rescue saved us and the passengers for the most part couldn’t care less,” he said.

Another incident occurred in 2007 when the paddle steamer crashed into the Canning Bridge.

Mr Higgins said the captain at the time liked to get as close as possible to bridge to trick passengers but misjudged the wind.

“I think the paddle steamer became even more famous from the incident,” he said.