Murray River paddle steamer PS Canaly makes first voyage in 81 years

Eighty-one years after its last voyage, the historic paddle steamer PS Canaly has made a trip down the Murray River.

Steamers played a huge role in the development and functioning of river towns, but the canal might have been lost in the history books if it weren’t for a group of hardworking volunteers.

Today the ship sailed from Morgan to Mannum before completing some more important work including re-chipping the hull and replacing the internal timber frame.

The trip down the Murray was a perfect opportunity to show off the restoration to eager onlookers.

Skipper Jim Maywald was at the helm as the ship steamed down the river.

“It’s quite a historic day,” he said.

A steamship sits on a riverbank, with a rainbow in the background.
The PS Canaly put to sea after 12 years of volunteer restoration work.(Supplied: PS Canaly Port of Morgan)

Saved from the depths

Mid Murray Councilman Kevin Myers was heavily involved in the restoration.

He said when the Canally first arrived at Morgan, she was in a “sad” state.

“In 1941 their engines and other operational equipment were taken out,” Mr. Myers said.

A black and white photo of a steamer.
The Canally was launched in Echuca, Victoria in 1907 and was used to trade wool on the Murrumbidgee River.(delivered)

The ship was used for the dried fruit trade between Berri and Morgan before being used to build the lock and weir system on the Murray in the early 1920s.

After changing hands and locations in the years that followed, the once important ship was abandoned at a berth in Boundary Bend, Victoria, and eventually sank.

The Rivers and Riverboat Historical and Preservation Society raised the channel from deep water in 1998 and quickly began restoring the hull.

A steamship on the banks of a river.
The PS Canaly has changed since 2013.(ABC: Ian Mannix)

In 2010 Mid Murray Council took over the boat and in 2011 she settled into her new home in Morgan Harbour.

The volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past 12 years to restore the steamer to its former glory.

“We’re really over the moon with their performance,” said Mr. Myers after a test run last week.

Men at the helm of a historic boat.
Riverland locals watched the PS Canaly go down the Murray.(Supplied: PS Canaly Port of Morgan)

All aboard

Mr Myers said it was important to save the canal to recognize its importance in the 20’s and 30’s.

While the finishing touches have yet to be completed, community members and tourists may soon have the opportunity to experience the restored PS Canal up close.

“Hopefully within the next six to 12 months we’ll have it fully surveyed to carry passengers,” said Mr. Meyers.