Autumn has settled in Melbourne, along with warm late afternoons, cooler nights and calm early morning seas. It’s especially amenable to outdoor living in bayside carparks.
Arriving at Point Ormond at 8 am we are lucky to snag the last couple of spots where we can park until midday without paying a fee. Campervans and station wagons, occupied mostly by European tourists with picnic tables, chairs and even a couch, take up much of the carpark.
At Sandridge Beach carpark, also a popular campsite, the Life Saving Club had made a number of complaints to council and police about campers defecating in bushes, running extension cords across the carpark, blocking access to the club’s ramp and camping there for days so that members on patrol, or conducting or running training sessions were unable to find a space. However, when the issue was reported in the Herald Sun (January 23rd, 2015) and the Leader (February 23rd 2015), I am surprised to read that opinion was largely weighted in favour of the campers (although there were few respondants.) Arguments in favour of illegal camping were the high cost of alternative accommodation and a view that council had a responsibility to manage all public places for public use of any kind. The problem is now considered solved at Sandridge with the introduction and enforcement of no standing rules between 11 pm and 5 am.
Conditions were perfect though to leave all this behind and head from Point Ormond, Elwood, on to Port Melbourne then back after a coffee stop at St Kilda.
We could see Williamstown, the West Gate Bridge and Webb Dock along the skyline. A large cruise ship and the Spirit of Tasmania were berthed at Station Pier.
A few days earlier, paddling from Sandridge toward St Kilda, another cruise ship was at dock, getting a fresh coat of paint in an inspiring challenge to the laws of gravity, not to mention proportions.
Princes Pier never fails to delight. Whether swimming or paddling through the remains of its turpentine piles, it is a little different each time. Melbourne ports were busy places when the plan to build the pier was approved in January 1912. The number of sheep exported had doubled in the 35 years since 1877. Greasy wool, wheat, butter and gold were the highest exports, followed by flour, leather, mutton and lamb, geldings, biscuits, books, newspapers and apples. Hardwood timber, bags, bark, cement, lime, sand and shell, soap, tallow and grains were unloaded from overseas and interstate. Fully commissioned in 1916 as New Railway Pier, by the time the Armistice was declared in 1918, nine of the 193 volunteers from the Melbourne ports had been killed in the war. Steamships dominated the northern part of the bay, although an occasional barque, ketch or schooner still sailed into port.
New Railway Pier was formally re-named Princes Pier in 1922 after the Prince of Wales who had visited on board the HMS Renown two years earlier. Twenty-five thousand people crowded onto the pier to see the royal party and the HMAS Australia, berthed at the same time. The Harbour Trust Commissioners reported with pride, that the water was deep enough not to have to wait for high tide for the Prince’s ship to depart, in spite of the Marine Engineers’ strike earlier that year, which had disrupted coal supplies and hence dredging operations in the Melbourne ports.
The wind picked up by late morning and followed us on our way back to Elwood beach. Past Lagoon Pier, Station Pier and finally through St Kilda Pier with its landmark pavilion, re-built after being deliberately burnt down in 2003.
A short, three hour, sociable paddle close to home. And back just in time to avoid a fine.