During the past few years the team has taken the business from a transport option linking the asphalt dead-ends on either side of Port Phillip Bay to an incredible travel experience with stunning views, special events, unique activities as well as quality food, drinks and local produce.
I caught up with Ted Wright earlier this year. In his 15th year with Searoad Ferries this former MV Queenscliff Engineer and now Operations Manager is the Oracle of Inside Information and quite a storyteller.
There are loads of highlights in a decade and a half. The frequent appearances of dolphins are always, always fun and occasional encounters with whales – sometimes even within metres of the vessel – is an incredible treat.
There are regular events, like the Hot Rod Show when the vehicle deck looks like a scene from Grease. And Around the Bay in a Day, when 14,000 cyclists use their 40 minute ferry crossing as a pit stop before riding back to Melbourne. The on-board barista was averaging more than 100 coffees per hour!
Searoad Ferries assists Victorian Water Police with an annual training drill event where officers board the vessel from a helicopter via a rope ladder. Ferry staff have also assisted authorities by rescuing missing divers who’ve strayed too far from their site.
He’s also proud of the way the business has evolved from transport to experience delivery. Refurbishment of the vessels saw bigger windows and better viewing platforms for passengers to take in the incredible environment. The newly refurbished MV Sorrento, a finalist in the 2015 Belle Interior Design Awards, has the stylish and beautiful Portsea Lounge. It’s a little more private, away from the main lounge, has the best views from the from of the vessel and also provides bar service from noon to the last sail on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sailing the bay with a glass of local wine or beer in one’s hand just seems so right! Next time I’m trying a cocktail!
With such incredible experiences on offer, not everyone wants to get to the other side. Special events like high teas, sunset cruises and school holiday activities can make the sailing a round trip.
As somewhat of an expert on ferry travel between Queenscliff and Sorrento, I asked Ted to choose a few of his favourite things:
Inside or outside? “Outside. For the air and the views.”
Portsea Lounge or the Bridge? “I’m an engineer. The engine room!”
Sunrise or sunset? “Sunrise. For the serenity. It’s so calm.”
Summer or Winter? “Winter. It’s livelier. More dolphins and sometimes whales.”
After 15 years on board and on shore at Searoad Ferries, Ted still loves what he does. He loves the unspoiled environment they’re part of. The wildlife, especially the dolphins you can never see too many times. The ever-changing face of Southern Port Phillip Bay where the water ranges from windswept-chop to so-still-it’s-like-glass and you can see the bottom.
It’s people like Ted – and the rest of the team – who make businesses like this successful. They’ve created truly memorable experiences for millions of visitors. And that makes Searoad Ferries worth their weight (all 3,000 tonnes of it) in gold trophies.