Before leaving for Flinders Island, I had researched the possibility of sailing and found that it was possible with Furneaux Freight. What seemed to be a good idea turned into a scenario full of complications such as sailing on the tide out of Bridport. Compared with the $460 return airfare, the meagre $105 for the sailing is quite a bargain. But I had to get to Bridport first.

Furneaux Freight - Matthew Flinders

Matthew Flinders: Furneaux Freight (photo by Roger Findlay)

Furneaux Freight: Keeping Flinders Island Running

by Roger Findlay

Having chosen to fly from Melbourne, I was more determined to see the relatively small Furneaux Freight vessel arrive. Jeanette isn’t just shoes and handbags! No, she also became quite excited as the dot on the horizon (Matthew Flinders) entered the deep water harbour of Lady Barron.

Furneaux Freight - Arriving at Lady Barron

Furneaux Freight vessel: Matthew Flinders (photo by Roger Findlay)

Not knowing the exact time of arrival, we were at the harbour early. There wasn’t a lot of action so we entered the office belonging to the Tasmanian Ports Authority. It was right on smoko but the three guys were so helpful. For immunity from regulations, I carried a hi-vis vest and presented an innocent face! Not only did they inform us of the time of arrival; they also advised us on where to buy fresh scale fish and crays. Local knowledge you can’t beat.

Lady Barron: Flinders Island Comes Alive

Close to arrival time, the activity increased. Lady Barron came alive. Those waiting for their supplies and provisions were anxious for their delivery to be first off the ship. The Roberts stock and station representative was hoping for a quick turnaround so that his Port Welshpool-bound cattle could be loaded.

Furneaux Freight - Roberts Cattle

Roberts Ltd: Furneaux Freight (photo by Roger Findlay)

Short of being asked to perform the duties of longshoremen, we felt actively involved in tying the vessel, lowering the off-ramp and unloading the freight. As with many things, all did not go to plan. A delay and frustration was caused by a bundle of lengthy steel that couldn’t be fork-lifted past the vessel’s vertical gunwale. At this point, I was happy to be a spectator and not the poor sod climbing over slippery salt-sprayed steel to find a solution.

Furneaux Freight - Unloading on the Wharf

Lady Barron: Flinders Island (photo by Roger Findlay)

Furneaux Freight: Essential Supplies for Flinders Island

A mainland city dweller would have no idea of the importance of this weekly ritual. Without it, the people of Flinders Island wouldn’t have fuel, new or second hand cars, building materials and most foods. Oh, I forgot grog and nail varnish!

Furneaux Freight - Shipping Supplies to Flinders Island

Flinders Island via Furneaux Freight (photo by Roger Findlay)

The unloading/loading operation was expected to take about six hours and it was time for us to lunch at the nearby Furneaux Tavern. From the window we watched the activity on the harbour.

Furneaux Freight - View from Furneaux Tavern

Furneaux Tavern: Lady Barron (photo by Roger Findlay)

We had placed our lunch order and Jeanette had requested grilled, crumbed whiting. After a few minutes the professional looking chef appeared in his tall hat. He asked if the order could be changed and apologised for not having bread crumbs. Then he pointed towards the harbour and stated that the he was waiting for the crumbs to be delivered from the Furneaux Freight boat! Now we may come from Gerogery West where it takes two hours to watch 60 Minutes, but…

Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the experience for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of research (so we can publish information about your business) please contact us.

Map: Lady Barron, Flinders Island, Tasmania

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