Have you ever sailed across Botany Bay? During the early 20th Century many locals would have taken a trip on the S.S. Erina. The steamer began offering Sunday services to Kurnell in 1903.
On Saturday afternoons, it also allowed non-sailors to get a taste of the Bay by trailing the great sailing races that used to take place. On board, spectators could feel the wind through their hair and witness these races up close, occasionally getting tied up in a rescue! As the flyer on the right shows, bands sometimes played on board. For several years the Erina served as the club steamer for the St. George Sailing Club.
Other local community groups rented the Erina for excursions and fundraisers. A couple even held ‘Moonlight Excursions’. In 1919 San Souci Cot Fund for St. George District Hospital held such an event and raised £8/8/0.
‘The S.S. Erina was crowded with a gay company, and what more could one desire than a night on the water with a glorious moon and enchanting melodies. These combined to make the most enjoyable evening’ reported a local newspaper.
Unfortunately, not all was fun and games. On the 25 November 1922, the Erina ran a fundraising trip to raise money for a young family who had recently lost their father during a tragic boating accident on the Bay.
During the afternoon of Sunday 29 October 1922, five men died after their sailing boat capsized off Kurnell. On that fateful day, the Erina was making its usual routes to and from Kurnell. At 6 pm, as she was returning to Brighton, the Erina eerily came across an empty waterlogged boat that belonged to a search party that was looking for the five missing men. These three men were luckily washed ashore at Towra Point where they spent a cold and wet night. If not, the death count could have been eight as opposed to five.
Captain Tom Childs, who owned and operated the Erina back then, no doubt felt unease about the day’s events. We know very little about the man other than he stopped running his service to Kurnell on Easter Monday 1927. The Erina later worked on Sydney Harbour and ended its economic life sometime after 1949.
In the coming years, other boats crisscrossed the bay, taking visitors Kurnell and Captain Cook’s Landing Place. Do you remember any of them?
Samantha Sinnayah, Museum Curator