Wardell turns out for the boat that almost didnt make it
By JAMIE BROWN
LIFTING a bridge for a new ship is always worthy of community celebration.
Just ask George Law, a Wardell district resident for the whole of his 81 years.
Yesterday the 43-metre Swan Bay-built Starship Sydney glided under the Pacific Highway bridge at Wardell, to the cheers and applause of some 80 well-wishers, lining the river bank.
George reckoned the tricky bridge opening, employing four Frana cranes to lift its out-of-service span, was worthy of all the attention.
When the same bridge was officially opened in 1964, George then secretary of the local P&C was invited to join the official opening party.
He still recalls with fondness the lavish spread of food laid out for dignitaries.
Yesterday's bridge opening didn't have the same fanfare, but that didn't stop several visitors from as far as Ocean
Shores and Lismore setting up for a champagne picnic. The ship, a floating convention centre destined for
Sydney, was launched at Swan Bay on July 30. Two weeks is a long time to navigate the lower reaches of the Richmond River, but modern bridges have a habit of constricting maritime traffic.
Squeezing under Woodburn Bridge took four attempts, with the small township holding their collective breath each time. Broadwater bridge proved much easier.
But few would have guessed the Pacific Highway bridge at Wardell would pose the greatest delay to the ship's travels.
Normally Wardell Bridge lifts clear of all but the tallest mast with just 24 hours notice. But this time extensive renovation work is being carried out on the 43-year-old structure and a long lead time and some planning were required to make the lift.
The imposing Starship Sydney is now free to enter the Tasman Sea, heading to Yamba for some final work before making the journey to Sydney Harbour.