I’ve previous written about the history of the Queenscliff-Sorrento car ferry, but today I’m looking at a different ferry service that plied the same route – the passenger ferry that stopped off at Portsea on the way across Port Phillip Bay.
Founded in 1953 by local brothers Jack and Harry Farnsworth, the pair commenced operations with a 41 foot long converted cray boat named ‘M.V. Judith Ann’, transporting holiday makers between Sorrento the Mornington Peninsula with Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula, with a stop being made at Portsea Pier in both directions. By 1955 the growing numbers of tourists saw them purchase a longer vessel – the 71 foot long ‘M.V. Komuta’ – and in the years that followed the fleet also grew in size.
In 1975 the operation was purchased by Sorrento businessman Warren Neale, and in 1984 he commissioned the largest ferry to operate on the service – the 80 foot long steel hulled ‘J.J. Farnsworth’. Able to carry a total of 300 passengers, there were two levels – the main deck, and a smaller deck hidden below the waterline, that had tiny portholes peeking above the waves.
The photo above shows ferry ‘J.J. Farnsworth’ – below is the slightly older timber hulled ‘M.V. Nepean':
The commencement of the parallel car ferry service in 1987 took away passengers from the smaller passenger ferry, with it turning into a summer-only operation. Around the 1999/2000 period I travelled on the Sorrento – Portsea – Queenscliff ferry a handful of times, with only ‘J.J. Farnsworth’ in service and the Queenscliff berth having been moved to Queenscliff Harbour, next door to the car ferry terminal.
With the upgrade of the car ferry service to hourly each way in 2001, the passenger ferry went into further decline, with the last service operating in 2003. Today all that remains is a sign at Sorrento Pier, detailing the history of the the Sorrento – Portsea – Queenscliff ferry.
Here is an undated postcard featuring the timber bodied ferries ‘Nepean’ and ‘Hygeia’.
Some photos from 1987