Old salt retires

CHARTER boat skipper Keith Appleby is about to retire after 30 years of taking people out to sea and what a career it has been.

He is hopeful however that his classic timber vessel “Binjarra” who has only been at sea for 50 years will be purchased by a new owner and will continue on the ocean for many years to come.

Keith and his wife Anne, together with Barney the sea dog who perhaps will miss the ocean most, plan to join the grey nomad brigade and go caravanning around Australia.

“I am ready to retire and travelling around Australia sounds pretty good,” he said.

“I am getting older but the boat with the right maintenance and care could keep going at sea forever.”

The Binjarra is indeed far from retiring and was up on the Bermagui slipway last month for maintenance getting a new coat of antifouling on her bottom sides.

Keith reckons he was one of the first charter companies on the Far South Coast when he started Bermagui Charter Services on November 11, 1983.

The only other charter boat he recalls at the time was the “Redfin” operating out of Batemans Bay.

Prior to stating his charter business, he was involved in the commercial fishing industry adding to his intimate knowledge of the sea and local waters, both surface and deep, deep below.

Highlights of his career have included taking out ultra-deep divers from groups such as the Sydney Project who dive on and confirm the location of shipwrecks in water up to 130-metres deep.

“I must point out that it is not me or the divers locating these wrecks, it is the commercial fishermen who find them with their trawl nets in the first place,” he said.

Keith struck up a friendship with comedian and actor Billy Connelly during the filming of “The Man who sued God” – it was his other previous boat Tarpin that was the vessel that exploded in the Bermagui harbour after being struck by lightning.

The Tarpin survived this brush with fame and movie magic continuing to work until a couple of years ago when Keith sold it to someone who now uses it as a pleasure craft on Westernport Bay, Victoria.

Both the Tarpin and the Binjarra were built about 50 years ago in Ballina and both had extensive careers on the sea before coming to Bermagui.

The Binjarra under its previous owners ventured all the way out to Lord Howe Island before becoming a “party boat” at Pittwater, Sydney.

Doug Rose of Narooma and his commercial fishing family purchased the Binjarra in the late 1970s bringing her to Bermagui where she worked as a scallop trawler before that fishery was closed.

She then sat dormant for many years before Keith purchased her and then the Tarpin for Bermagui Charter Services.

Keith’s shed at the Bermagui slipway is filled with interesting mementos collected over the years.

These include his old paper-roll sounder as well as lots of other fishing bits and pieces.

On the wall is a mount of the 6kg lobster he caught up the back of Wagonga Inlet on 2kg line back in the 1990s when he fishing for live bait.

Piled up are bits and pieces, some solid brass, from the old “Flintstone” boat that recently was stripped and scuttled.

And what does Keith think of the current state of the fishery for recreational fishers?

“I think it is just as good or even better as it was when I started back in the 1980s,” he said.

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