There was never a more loved vessel on the Great Lakes than the ferry ALMA G II.
She was the boat equivalent of the pin-up girl regularly featuring on postcards promoting Forster Tuncurry in the post-war years.
She was built by master boatbuilder/craftsman Alf Jahnsen whose legacy lives on through his many vessels that still operate today.
The skills that Alf brought to bear in his craft were shared by his son, Harvey, who to this day is still engaged in the boatbuilding industry from his shed in Lake Street, Forster.
The ALMA G II was the second ferry built by Alf for Wylie Gregory.
Alf's first ferry was the ALMA G - built on the beach at Tuncurry in 1945 and launched in 1946.
The ALMA G still operates as the ferry Tom Thumb III out of Cronulla on Port Hacking.
When Wylie Gregory ordered the ALMA G II, the ALMA G was well-patronised and Gregory could see potential for an enhanced ferry service.
Construction of the ALMA G II commenced on the beach at Tuncurry in 1946 but by early 1947, Wylie was in financial difficulties and he saw the need to dispose of the ALMA G to pay for his new ferry.
The ALMA G was sold in 1948 to the Cronulla Ferry Service.
The ALMA G II was popular both for use as a regular ferry and for special events.
She had to compete, however, for patronage with the free service provided to passengers travelling on the vehicular ferry.
The ALMA G II offered a quick, undercover service that many were prepared to pay for.
Gregory's business received a boost in April 1949 when Brian Ivens, proprietor of the Red Bus Service, announced he would use ALMA G II as much as possible.
Problems also arose at Tuncurry as both the vehicle ferry and the passenger ferry had to share the same wharf.
Henry Cooke, operator of the vehicular ferry, complained the ALMA G II had interfered with the berthing of the ferry on Tuncurry side; council decided to ask the operator of the ALMA G II to keep clear of the punt on the Tuncurry approach.
Eventually Gregory was forced by Manning Council to use another wharf at Tuncurry.
By December 1949, Wylie Gregory had reached the end of his tether with Manning Council and various government departments and announced he had discontinued the private ferry service.
Gregory continued to operate the ALMA G II as an excursion launch and for some years provided the link for airline passengers using the Wallis Island airport.
In July 1953, Wylie was found dead at the rear of his home in Wharf Street with a bullet in his head and a .303 rifle by his side.
The Coroner ruled death by suicide.
After Wylie's untimely death, the vessel was owned by the Estate of the W. R. Gregory and was operated as a ferry by his son, Wesley Earl Gregory.
In 1956, ownership was transferred to Wesley who later had Alf Jahnsen convert her to a fishing boat.
ALMA G II was sold to David Beatty Adams - Cronulla in 1963.
Adams converted her to an ocean cruiser and renamed her CHRISTINE J; Christine was the name of Dave Adams' daughter.
CHRISTINE J was sold to Michael Grech of Shoalhaven River Cruise based at Nowra.
Michael converted her back to a ferry - quite a substantial undertaking.
She operated on the Shoalhaven River until 2014 when she was retired and replaced by the Shoalhaven Explorer.
In 2016, Grech sold the CHRISTINE J to an unknown buyer.
In January 2017, she sank in the Shoalhaven River.
Attempts to refloat her were unsuccessful and finally she was removed from the river in August 2017 only to collapse into a pile of rubble on the shore of the river.
A very sad ending to a ferry that was once the pride of Forster Tuncurry.
To see more of Chris and Graham's research, click here.
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