School Daze 4 – Bennettswood State School

I don’t remember much about school excursions in those days.  I’m sure we may have had some but they were few and far between and none stuck in my mind.  However,  when I was in sixth grade at Bennettswood State School in 1968 we had a week long excursion to Tasmania, travelling via the ship “Princess of Tasmania” across Bass Strait on what we were later told was the roughest crossing in 20 years. Along with the huge seas we were also handicapped by broken stabilisers on the ship and there are several things that stand out in my memories.

Firstly, we did not have cabins and had to bed down for the night in a lounge seated in chairs. Anyone who has ever been seasick will know there is nothing worse for setting things off than watching someone else vomit into a bag. Feeling a bit queasy the first thing I did was turn my head away from the offending person only to come eyeball to eyeball with someone else in the same predicament. Then it was my turn.

I spent the night with several others on makeshift beds in the lounge foyer and eventually fell into a fitful slumber.

The next morning breakfast was free and needless to say I did not have any. David Palmer, however, made up for me and several others who didn’t eat by having three breakfasts – bacon and eggs, sausages and baked beans, and, a couple of bowls of cereal.

There’s one other vivid memory of the crossing and a lesson I have never forgotten. I went outside with Daryl Pryor to get some fresh air and we made the mistake of being on the windward side of the ship. There was a bloke above us who was obviously feeling as well as I was because he happened to let go of what was in his stomach while Daryl and I were beneath him. Fortunately for me it missed; Daryl wasn’t so lucky.

I have had one other crossing of Bass Strait by ship and that was on the vessel “Thala Dan” returning from Macquarie Island in 1980. If the Strait was at it’s worst the first time, it was at it’s best the second. To describe it as a mill pond on that occasion would not be an exaggeration.

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