Bass Strait Maritime Centre

The Mersey River Ferry

The Mersey River Ferry began when Devonport was known as Torquay (east) and Formby (west), in 1855 with an official licence awarded to Mr Andrews. Other unoffial services ran as well – but you would be paying all sorts of fees!
Passenger boat c. 1910.
By the 1860s, there was a punt rather than small boats. A flat boat that was floated with the tides and pulled across the river with wires. The vehicle punt was introduced in 1865 and discontinued in 1901. Small boats also carried passengers across.
Vehicle Punt c.1890s
In 1898, the entire Star of the Sea Catholic church building was floated across the river from east to west on the punt.
The Savage brothers, with Tom being the best remembered, ran the ferry from 1903. Later, Keith Savage was an operator until 1975.
(possibly) Ferryman Tom Savage
It was only in 1925 that the pontoons were put in — before that passengers clambered over the rocks and mud to get to the ferry.
The ‘Molly’ was the first covered ferry running from 1932 – 1962.
The “Torquay” was built at Woods Slipway in 1962.
Torquay c. 1962 (Robinson Studios)
The Marine Board of Mersey were the administrators.
1983-1985 there was a community push to replace the “Torquay”.
The pontoon sank due to teredo worms and age in 1986, much like the Victoria Bridge before it in the 1920s.
In 1996-1997 once again, the ferry service came into question. The community backed its continuation and it came back. There’s a cycle of this happening. But for what may be longest ferry service in Australia, possibly the world (though we want to fact check that), we hope there may be a future yet.
Torquay c. 1990