The S.S. Erina: Moonlight Excursions and Picnics at Kurnell

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The steamboat the “SS Erina” (Courtesy of Bayside Library)

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Flyer advertising a 1923 race on Botany Bay. Details about where to board the Erina can here see below the main information (Courtesy of Bayside Library)

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.

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This flyer which states the starting points for the Samuel’s Linctus Handicap gives us some idea of the routes the S.S. Erina traveled across the Bay. (Courtesy of Bayside Library)

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.

The Bexley Progress Association and churches like St. Andrews Church in San Souci also utilized the steamer.

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Early adverts from the St George Call Newspaper ( Courtesy of Trove, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209169852 & http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article209630941)

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

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2 thoughts on “The S.S. Erina: Moonlight Excursions and Picnics at Kurnell

    1. Great question Dim. According to ‘The History of Botany 1788- 1970’, the Botany Bay Sailing Club only continued until 1924. The introduction of sixteen foot skiffs saw a new club emerge called the Botany Bay (16 foot) Skiffs Club.

      As far as we know the Botany Bay Sailing Club never had a clubhouse. In 1922, they were going to approach Council about renting a site but we have no record of what happened.

      Interestingly the original Botany Bay Sailing Club actually dates back to the 1880s. We don’t have an exact date when they started but in 1893 they held their annual meeting at Botany Town Hall. The following year though they nearly disbanded.Luckily, prizes and offers of assistance were made to keep the club alive.

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