The Sydney ferry that became a fishing reef in South Australia

Estelle Star ferry at Cowes, Phillip Island

Nationality: Australian

Vessel type: Wooden passenger/cargo ferry (length 80 ft, beam 20 feet) later converted for commercial fishing.

Date lost: Wrecked on 15 May 1978

Cause of loss: Caught fire and sank

Number of Casualties: Nil, crew all picked up by the Yalata

Discovery date: N/A

Location/water depth: Off the coast of Eyre Peninsula, some 15 km south west of Point Gibbon and 20 km north west of Arno Bay. Wreck is at depth of approx 26 metres

The ship Estelle was built in 1927 at Woy Woy NSW for use as a passenger and cargo ferry in the Lavender Bay area of Sydney harbor. She was later renamed Estelle Star, taken to work as a ferry at Cowes (Philip Island, Vic), and in 1955 was converted there to a fishing vessel.

She became a tuna boat at Eden (NSW) and Port Lincoln, and was also used there for prawn fishing in Gulf St. Vincent. On 15 May 1978 she caught fire and sank.

Managing the fish habitat

The wreck site became a popular fishing reef for charter boat operators and other recreational fishers.  Underwater images show a prawning net caught on the wreck and a number of small anchors lost from visiting fishing boats.

Several years ago snapper (the main target species)  were over-fished, and the reef is now (2017) not as productive. A closure period applies for fishing between November 1 and January 31within a 5km radius of the site, to take the pressure off snapper during spawning.

Modifications at Cowes, 1955 

The Estelle Star fishing vessel 

Tuna fishing out of Port Lincoln

AMMC Member Institution

Axel Stenross Maritime Museum

submitted by Mike Roberts

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