The recovery of the Pride of the Murray paddlewheeler from the depths of the Thompson River was undoubtedly cause for celebration among riverboat history enthusiasts and eager travelers. However, the vessel’s owners have delivered a sobering revelation: it will never cruise again.
Following an in-depth investigation, boatbuilders have reported that Pride of the Murray would need to undergo extensive work before she could be re-certified. Furthermore, obtaining insurance would probably either prove unattainable or excessively costly
In addition, the structural work required to repair the vessel would mean much of the originality of its vintage condition would be lost.
Richard Kinnon, the proprietor of the 99-year-old vessel and the visionary behind Outback Pioneers said it had been quite difficult to make such a tough call for the much-loved boat.
“If there had been an obvious reason for her sinking and a simple fix for that, we would have done it. That was always what we intended,” Kinnon said.
“But the boatbuilders made it clear that, after a sinking, a boat of this age would need to be virtually rebuilt from scratch to guarantee she would pass certification requirements.
“I know many, many people who have followed her progress will be very disappointed and I can assure them that no-one is more disappointed than we are after all the effort and love we’ve put into her.
“The place we all wanted her was back on the water. But I can do the next best thing by giving her a berth beside the river, restoring her glory and giving her a new role in telling the story of pioneer riverboats.
“We haven’t decided exactly what her role will be yet but she will still be here and preserved for future generations.
“Together with her identical ‘twin’, she will remain a tourism highlight for Longreach and will also reflect on her strong connections with Echuca in Victoria.”
While the Pride of the Murray will not take to the water again, Outback Pioneers has revealed plans to build a replica of the historic paddlewheeler to take over cruising duties while restoring the original to take its place on the riverbank in its new role promoting pioneer riverboat history.
“We’re only just digesting the reality ourselves and there’s a lot of thought and planning to do now,” Kinnon said.
“It will also depend on how quickly we can raise the necessary funds for the restoration.
“We are aiming to be ready to tell everyone more and launch our fundraiser in the first half of October.
“Whatever we decide for the Pride of the Murray’s new role, in the not-too-distant future Longreach visitors will be ‘seeing double’ with a Pride of the Murray I and Pride of the Murray II working together to tell the pioneer stories.
“I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for their support and patience through this unfolding story. I hope you will all stay with us for the next developments and that we will make Australia proud with a suitable tribute to this much-loved paddlewheeler.
“It’s not the end of the Pride of the Murray but a new chapter in her incredible life story.”
The Pride of the Murray was built in 1924 and was originally used to transport wool bales in Victoria. The vessel later had an engine fitted to transport timber to the mill at Echuca.
It was bought by Kinnon in 2022 to expand the Outback Pioneers Starlight’s Cruise Experience in Longreach. She was transported overland from Echuca, Victoria in what was one of the biggest maritime moves in Australian history.
She was then restored and cruised the Thomson River for a few months before the end of the 2022 tourist season, drawing visitors from around the country. Her sinking in March 2023 was a devastating blow for all who loved her.
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