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Maid of Sker Nerang Wharf
30 Nov 1883
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A relic of the days of the paddle steamer lies quietly at rest in Bischoff Park beside the Nerang River. A number of steamers worked the Nerang River before the turn of the century. Until 1930, one of these vessels, the Maid of Sker was still trading up and down the river.


The Maid of Sker had a long and varied working life. The Maid was an iron paddle steamer built in 1884 by J.W. Sutton of Kangaroo Point in Brisbane. It was originally fitted with a steam capable of sixteen horse power and the engine and boiler were mounted on deck. In 1897 after a few changes in ownership the steamer was sold to partners, Kleinschmidt and Genter. Afterwards it was sold and registered in the names of various members of the Kleinschmidt family. Between 1893 and 1930 the Maid of Sker made a weekly trip carrying cargo between Brisbane, Southport and Nerang.


In 1974 Mr Ted Kleinschmidt, aged 87 years provided journalist Ted Latta with the following information.

“Once the cargo was loaded in Brisbane, man and boat had to wait for the tide. The trip from Brisbane to Southport was usually uneventful until the Southport Bar. The vessel had to fight a constantly changing channel and a current sweeping out from the Nerang River. Sometimes the current won...”

“The Maid of Sker would sit stranded on a sandbank until the rising tide permitted the completion of the journey.”


“From Southport the Maid of Sker ran upstream to Nerang The crew waited until there was enough water to get the vessel over the shallows and then two hours steaming brought them to Nerang. They could only afford one and a half hours of time, loading and unloading produce and goods. If things went well, the crew could turn the boat around in the river and be back in Southport within the limits of one tide. If there was a delay the Maid of Sker was trapped by the tide”


By the late 1920s the trip up to Nerang became unfeasible and the Maid of Sker travelled up the Nerang River only as far as Barney Boulton’s jetty at Southport. The Nerang River was now spanned by the Jubilee Bridge and in the late 1920s Sam Milfull was in charge of raising and lowering the centre span of the bridge to allow vessels passage up the river. Sam’s brother wrote in 1976 “The Maid of Sker always came upstream on an incoming tide and began blowing her siren well in advance. This gave my brother enough time to hurry from our home in Scarborough Street to the Jubilee Bridge where he would wind up the centre span”.


In 1930 the Maid of Sker was stripped of all superstructure and was used as a gravel barge at Southport. Later the gravel operations were transferred to Brisbane. The Maid of Sker sand at least twice in the Brisbane River. Finally in 1974 the disused hull lay at moorings at the gravel depot on the Brisbane River.


In 1974 the Kleinschmidt family donated the hull to the Gold Coast City Council. In 1975 the Maid of Sker once again made the trip from BRisbane to Southport only this time the vessel was towed by a trawler called the Kirra Bay. On reaching her destination, the Maid sat for nearly two years on a bank in the Southport Broadwater. In 1976 a decision was made to removed the hull to Nerang and this was organised through the assistance of many groups and individuals including the various Nerang Service Clubs and the Albert Shire Council. So on the 6th November 1976 the Maid of Sker came back to Nerang not via that slow journey up the river, but via trailer and truck travelling on the Nerang Southport Road. Restoration of the Maid of Sker was completed in January 1981 and a special dedication ceremony was held on Australia Day.


It is true that the Maid of Sker is not quite the same boat. The boiler was originally part of an arrowroot mill and the funnel was donated by an engineering firm. Still the old steamer rests just a little upstream from its original berth on the Nerang River.

Community History paddle_steamers river_transport social_history transport
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