Back in Tassie (1) – What a ferry!

After a delightful 9 days in Melbourne (as touched on in my previous post), sharing the work of moving house with our son and family and enjoying time with them our two Melbourne siblings, we needed to move on.

For the first time in many years we took the ferry to Tasmania rather than fly.  We had agreed to help out one of the Hobart churches as a “locum” for three months, so taking our car was really the only way this time.  When we left home Adelaide and Melbourne were enjoying the mildest of autumn weather, with temperatures in the low 30s making our regular 1.5 km swims a pure delight.  By the time we expect to leave Hobart in early July, we can expect to see several metres of snow on 1270 m high Mt Wellington and many frosty nights where we live not far above sea level.

The night on the Spirit was our most comfortable Bass Strait crossing ever.  My last crossing was with my sons in January 1991 on the catamaran Seacat Tasmania, my roughest crossing ever and almost everybody was seasick!

The Spirit is very different from a catamaran ferry, however large.  It is physically 1½ times larger than “our” migrant ship Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on which we sailed across the planet three times; the Spirit carries just as many passengers (1400) but it can move twice as fast.  So much has changed in 62 years of ship technology: the Spirit doesn’t need tugs or carry lifeboats for everybody on board (life rafts are better in almost every way), it uses satellites for navigation, has four stabilizers, air-conditioning throughout, three dining areas, a toilet and shower in every cabin, an onboard tourist office, can carry 1.85 kilometers of cars and trucks on 6 decks and has a helicopter landing pad.  And with all this, it can still do a 180º turn in Devonport’s narrow River Mersey, its Tasmanian terminal.

Spirit of Tasmania I turning towards Melbourne on leaving Devonport
Spirit of Tasmania I turning towards Melbourne on leaving Devonport (internet photo)

Sadly and as a sign of our times, the Spirit also has gaming machines.  And being a ferry, it doesn’t have the number and range of public rooms the JvO had, and its swimming pool (included in the ship for its first years as a Mediterranean ferry) has now been converted to a hardly-used dance floor.

In 1951 we could not dream of such large ships as mere ferries, nor of the comforts, safety and luxury of today’s passenger ships.

Despite the very early arrival time (disembarkation at 6:30 am) we arrived in Tassie refreshed and ready to go…



  1. Hi Fred,

    Wished having seen the old Johan van Oldenbarneveldt with my own eyes, the ship carrying my family to Australia in the 50’s.
    Door je verhalen inmiddels wel een aardige indruk van gekregen.



  2. Hi Fred, I was a JvO boy too but my memories are very vague indeed. I know my dad always wanted to take another journey like that. He loved the trip to Australia.

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