SMOOTH SAILING: The Lady Woodward has a new lease on life as a houseboat in Tin Can Bay after her former life as a Sydney ferry.
SMOOTH SAILING: The Lady Woodward has a new lease on life as a houseboat in Tin Can Bay after her former life as a Sydney ferry.

Introducing the Bay's new Lady

TIN Can Bay has a new maritime resident not usually found in these waters.

The Lady Woodward is a decommissioned Sydney ferry that is being lovingly transformed into a habitable houseboat by owner Skipper Dave and his family.

A ferry is not your everyday boat purchase and Dave admits he didn't set out to buy one.

A Google search for large boats led him to an online broker and after stop-and-start negotiations, he bought The Lady for a royal six-figure sum.

The ferry, which was built in 1970 to carry 605 passengers, did the daily run between Manly and Circular Quay, before she was retired in 1998.

For 10 years, she worked as a tender vessel for a salmon farm in Strachan, Tasmania, before Dave took possession in May 2010.

The voyage from Bass Strait to Tin Can Bay was 1250 nautical miles (2315 km) and the fuel bill alone was $20,000.

Coming out of Bass Strait, Dave and his son, Cameron, braved 15-metre seas and 50-knot winds.

Dave said there was no danger, although what he described could have been a scene from The Perfect Storm.

“The ferry was being lifted by the waves, surfing, then dropping 50-feet (15m) at the front, down the face of these waves,” he said.

“Then it would hit the troughs and the whole boat would slow down and as it slowed down, you could see 50-feet (15m) waves coming up behind you.

“That happened for 36 hours.”

They then anchored at Hummock Island, waited two days for favourable weather conditions and then it was smooth sailing up the east coast, with the prevailing wind behind them.

Dave said it was like being on a millpond when the ferry was anchored.

“I watch other boats bobbing up and down on the swell, but when a wave hits her side, the water shoots back again and nothing moves,” he said.

Her home for now is Tin Can Bay outer harbour and Dave and his wife treat her like a normal boat, going away for a couple of days at a time.

“This thing could sail around the world but it's a question of cost and having enough fuel on board to make it to the next destination,” Dave said.

Renovations started July 7, the day the Lady Woodward arrived at her new home, and Dave anticipates the family-of-three will be able to move on board by next July.

So far, they have ripped up the concrete floor, removed rust from the decks and replaced a few metal plates.

The 12-cabin bedrooms and communal bathrooms will be built by qualified boat builders.

Every material item, from a screwdriver to wooden floor planks, has to come by road and boat.

And there is no kerbside collection, so all rubbish has to be taken to the tip.

“We have to be considerate of the environment, we can't let anything go overboard,” Dave said.

“When we do the flooring, we'll put up hessian bags on the side walls so no wood shavings drop into the sea.”

He said he expected renovations would take two to three years to complete and cost $40,000 – $50,000.

The plan is to transform it into a 20-sleeper cruising home.

“You don't need a special licence to operate The Lady, you just need to know how to skipper her,” Dave said.

“All you need is a speed boat driver's licence because it goes faster than 10 knots and has a horsepower greater than six Hp.”

It's quite incredible when you consider the behemoth is 37.5m long, 9m wide and weighs 300 tonne fully laden.

The original Deutsch MWM motor is still in mint condition.

The main eight-cylinder engine has done 87,000 hours and was rebuilt when it hit 50,000 hours.

It idles at 170 revolutions per minute (rpm) and cruises at 250 rpm.

“The German engineering is just incredible, it's a low speed, low stress, turbo-charged engine,” Dave said.

When you buy a car, it's customary to get an RACQ motor check but there is no such pre-purchase service for discerning ferry buyers.

“You have to do it yourself,” Dave laughed.

“We did some sea trials.

“Took it for a few runs, listened to it, looked at it to see if anything was obviously wrong.

“We did that for two weeks and it's really sound.”

For Dave, there is no better place to live than on water.

“You don't have the next door neighbour's dog barking all night. You don't have Sunday morning lawnmowers and screaming kids,” he said.

“The worst we get is the occasional waft of an outboard motor going past and that's not such a bad thing.”

The ferry may be converted into a houseboat but will always remain a Lady to Dave.

“I will never change her name,” he said.

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