Big day out on the water

Docklands’ boaties are going all out to make their Melbourne Day Regatta on Sunday, August 26 a truly community event with free cruises on offer.

The charter boat operators are keen to make an impact by sheer weight of numbers and hope to have dozens of craft on Victoria Harbour on the day.

The latest to join the fray are a couple of fire-fighting tugs which will add a spectacular backdrop to the day with torrents of water spraying into the air.

Docklands residents can board Victoria Star from 10 am at Central Pier for a three-hour cruise.  Skipper Leigh Doeg said a jazz band and free bottomless tea and coffee would be available.

“The bar will be open and guests are welcome to bring their own food and snacks,” Mr Doeg said.

Like other operators on the day, Mr Doeg will be collecting a gold coin donation to support the work of Docklands’ Mission to Seafarers.

The organisers of the event are claiming that the event was Australia’s first regatta  – a claim that is sure to make some waves across Bass Strait.

Hobart has long-held this title, but the first Hobart Town Regatta was not held until December 1, 1838. The first Melbourne Day Regatta was held on August 30, 1838.

“I think we can leave Hobart to claim Australia’s oldest continuous regatta,” said organiser Jeff Gordon.

Captain Jeff and his fellow skippers are keen to use the spectacular display to draw attention to the vital connection between Docklands and its waterways.

The charter operators feel they are undervalued and are being bled dry by government agencies trying to raise revenue from their efforts.  They say government charges are forcing them out of business.

The Melbourne Passenger Boating Association has joined with the Melbourne Day Committee to celebrate the founding of the city in 1835.

All skippers are being encouraged to “dress” their vessels with colourful decorations and provide live music.

At 11.30 am, a “Blessing of the Fleet” will start, followed by a sail-past off the Waterfront City Marina at 12 noon.

Melbourne’s tall ship, the schooner Enterprize, will lead the sail-past of Waterfront City Marina, including a “Cheers for Melbourne”.

Following the sail-past, individual operators can choose to continue sailing down-stream into the Port of Melbourne, or return to Victoria Harbour to disembark passengers.

“In joining this celebration passengers will embark on the city’s most important historical event. Help celebrate everything that makes Melbourne what it is,” Mr Gordon said.

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