Kybra
Western Australia Government's State Shipping
1926 - 19??

Highlights from the career of the Kybra

1924

June: decision made to replace the steamship Eucla, plans, specifications and tenders were drawn up for a larger motorship. The tender from Coaster Construction Co. Ltd Glasgow was accepted and construction commenced at their Montrose yard in July 1925.

1926

January 14th: launched by a Mrs Colebatch (wife of the Agent-General for Western Australia).

February: completed by its builder Coaster Construction Company, Montrose, Scotland. Expected to leave for Fremantle during April.

The Kybra was equipped with two holds and 'tween decks, with a special compartment to carry oil in bulk, in cases or for general purposes. She was also equipped with two refrigerated spaces each of 388 cubic feet. Two and four berth cabins provided accommodation for about thirty two passengers.

The propelling machinery was a six cylinder Sulzer diesel engine. Three electric generators were provided, each driven by a two-cylinder Sulzer high compression engine. The generators provided power for a variety of purposes.

The ship was intended for operating two services centered on Fremantle. The South service reached out to Albany and Esperance every fortnight with a quarterly trip to Eucla, with an annual trip to Adelaide for a two week inspection and overhaul. The North service would take the Kybra to Carnarvon, Broome and Derby.

State Steamship personnel were sent to Montrose to sail with the ship to Fremantle. Captain G Buckeridge, formerly captain of the Bambra was in charge of the Kybra. Mr Foster, chief engineer also made the trip, he was expected to remain with the ship once it entered service. Mr A Birss (?) as the chief officer also was on the maiden voyage.

April 13th: departed Newcastle, United Kingdom for Fremantle via Suez. The ship carried a stiffening cargo of 250 tons of coal. A four day gale in the Bay of Biscay solidly tested the new ship. Calls were made at Port Said and Perim. For the last week of the run a heavy south-west gale with high beam seas was encountered but the Kybra behaved splendidly. The 5,000 mile voyage was completed in 31 days. The average speed for the trip was about ten knots, but over twelve knots was attained from time to time.

May 27th: arrived Fremantle on its maiden voyage. It was anticipated that she would take up regular service when the steamship Eucla reached Fremantle about June 10th.

June 13th: a group of Cabinet ministers tour the Kybra at Fremantle.

August: introduced on services between Fremantle and Eucla.

October: upcoming scheduled services - October 5th Albany for Esperance via Hopetoun, 9th Albany for Fremantle direct, 14th Fremantle for Albany via Bunbury & Busselton.

December: upcoming scheduled services - December 1st Albany to Fremantle direct, 9th Fremantle to Albany via Bunbury & Busselton, 14th Albany to Eucla via ports, 28th Albany to Esperance via Hopetoun, Jan 3rd Albany for Fremantle direct, 6th Fremantle to Albany via ports.

1927

April: 26th Albany for Esperance via Cape Riche, Bremer Bay & Hopetoun.

April: 30th Albany for Fremantle direct.

July 26th: very rough weather on voyage from Albany to Espeance, delayed about 13 hours. The heavy swell hindered discharging her cargo.

September 10th: the Koolinda ran aground in Denham Channel, Shark Bay, the ship was not quickly refloated so the Kybra was sent with a load of fodder for the 300 cattle on the Koolinda and also to assist in hauling her off the bank. The attempts by the Kybra to haul the Koolinda off the bank were not succesful. It was not until September 25th that the Koolinda was freed from the bank, at which time the Kybra was enroute on its second trip from Fremantle to assist the Koolinda.

1928

June 1st: weatherbound at Bunbury due to three exceptionally stormy days in the Bight, nearly a week behind schedule.

June 13th: tremendous seas were reported at the Leeuwin, the Kybra enroute from Albanya to Fremantle returned to Albany to await more favourable conditions.

June/July: the South Coast sailing was cancelled to allow the Kybra to transport sheep to the North West ports.

November 7th: delayed at Esperance for 24 hours due to rough seas preventing the unloading of the cargo.

1929

June 20th: from Fremantle for Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, Cape Riche, Bremer Bay, Hopetoun & Esperance. On the return trip from Albany (June 28th) the ship encountered a gale after leaving King George's Sound and returned to Albany for two days to wait out the storm. The north-west gale battered the ship for three hours, only progressing about five miles. On the Sunday it was little better with heavy going from Albany to Chatham Island, making only two knots an hour. The wind from the south-west was measured at 60mph with huge seas breaking over the ship. After passing the Leeuwin the weather eased and eight knots became possible. Fremantle was reached two days late.

July: upcoming scheduled services: departs Fremantle July 18th, August 16th, September 13th, October 10th, November 7th, December 6th.

July 22nd: whilst departing Albany the Kybra's rudder was damaged requiring return to the Deepwater Jetty, Albany for several days to allow for inspection, dismantling and straightening of the rudder. The rudder was sent to the Midland Junction workshops for attention. Anticipated return to service was August 2nd. The mails carried on the ship were removed and sent by the overland route. Due to the Kybra's problems the Koolinda made a special trip to Carnarvon to load 4,000 sheep for Fremantle.

August 10th: arrived Adelaide from Albany. To be docked here for the annual two week overhaul. On August 16th whilst docked at the south end of Commercial Wharf the Kybra was hit on the port side near the stern by the Adelaide Steamship Company vessel Paringa. The Paringa was berthing at the north end of the wharf and failed to respond quickly enough to commands given. The bows of the Paringa were slightly dented and some of the belting on the Kybra was split.

September 3rd: sailing between Port Adelaide and Esperance the ship encountered a hurricane in the Bight with mountainous seas. Only 90 miles were covered in 50 hours with a lee drift of 30 miles. For 24 hours all the crew remained on deck, it was feared the ship might capsize owing to being top heavy. Fifty tons of cargo were unloaded at Esperance, then leaving at midnight for Albany.

September 19th: delayed at Flinders Bay due to heavy weather on sailing from Fremantle to Albany.

October: upcoming scheduled services: all for South Coast via Albany, October 14th, November 6th, December 5th & December 19th.

1930

January 14th - January 19th: special tourist trip from Fremantle to Bunbury, Busselton & Geraldton. Sailing was generally at night with the daylight hours spent in port. The saloon fare for the roundtrip was 6.00.

March 10th: Fremantle for Hopetoun & Esperance.

April 9th: Two stowaways who had boarded the Kybra at Carnarvon were taken into custody when the ship arrived at Fremantle.

May 6th: departed Albany for Adelaide for her annual inspection and overhaul.

October: the Kybra offered a special excursion trip from Fremantle to the South Coast ports. This voyage will covered 16 days at a fare of 11.00. The ports of call were Bunbury, Busselton, Albany, Hopetoun, Esperance, Point Malcolm, Israelite Bay, and Noonera (near Eucla).

1931

December 12th: discharged 178 tons of general cargo at Albany before sailing for Cape Riche, Cheynes Beach, Bremer Bay, Hopetoun, Fanny Cove, Doubtful Island Bay & Esperance.

1932

February 14th: the Japanese freighter Hayo Maru sailing from Bunbury to Fremantle ran aground a quarter mile from the shore about ten miles north of Bunbury in dense fog. In response to the distress call the Kybra came alongside aided by calm weather and her shallow draught, and transferred wheat from the stricken vessel to Bunbury. Calculations indicated 900 tons of wheat and ballast would have to be removed to assist in the refloating. The Kybra had left Fremantle at 8pm on February 15th on her regular schedule with 32 passengers but with indefinite instructions to assist the Hayo Maru. By 8am on Tuesday the Kybra was alongside transferring the bags of wheat, all this action being watched intently by her passengers. About 3,000 bags totalling 250 tons were transhipped by 3.30pm. The Kybra manoeuvred away from the Hayo Maru and headed for the jetty at Bunbury to unload, which would take about eight hours, at which point the Kybra headed back to the stranded ship.

February 18th: The Kybra returned to Fremantle to load some heavy gear to be used in an attempt to tow the Hayo Maru off to-day, leaving later that night for Bunbury. The calm weather had provided hope that the Hayo Maru could be refloated without sustaining further major damage. Heavy kedge anchors were already in position with the ship's windlass hauling on them, with a tow from the tug Uco and the Kybra it was hoped the vessel could be refloated. The Uco had been holding the Hayo Maru since the Kybra left for Fremantle, holding her in order to prevent the possibility of her being forced further toward the beach. The heavier gear brought by the Kybra included about 60 fathoms of the heaviest chain procurable, two anchors, one of three tons and the other of 2.25 tons, several heavy purchase blocks, about 30 fathoms of backing chain, and a heavy steel towing hawser.

May 30th: The Kybra from the Eastern States, was delayed because of heavy seas and head winds. A particularly rough passage was encountered, especially after rounding Cape Leeuwin. At one point a sea crashed against the port side and carried away several yards of railing aft of the navigation bridge. The broken gear was swept inboard and subsequently recovered. The continual pounding loosened one of the lifeboats in its chocks. The wind at Fremantle attained a velocity of 60 miles an hour.

June 14th: enroute to Esperance from Albany the Kybra encountered heavy weather. After arrival at Esperance at Saturday afternoon her lines parted, the ship was taken out of the harbour, returning on Sunday morning, discharging her cargo with great difficulty. The normal journey from Hopetoun back to Albany was 12 hours, on this trip it took 24 hours. Captain Eggleston reported the conditions as the most consistently bad he'd encountered on the south coast.

July 15th: heavy storms delayed the Kybra for 24 hours whilst sailing between Albany and Fremantle. Violent winds and heavy seas reduced the ship's speed to two knots for much of the trip. The shorter route to the south of Rottnest Island was avoided because of the severe conditions, thus further delaying the ship's arrival in Fremantle.

November 1st: rough passage between Esperance & Albany because of heavy weather with strong westerly headwinds. The journey took 45 hours at an average speed of four knots, arriving Albany 24 hours late. On arrival at Fremantle on November 8th part of cargo included 1,400 sheep.

1933

January 5th - January 10th: special tourist trip from Fremantle to Bunbury, Busselton & Geraldton. Sailing was generally at night with the daylight hours spent in port. The return would be made by way of the Recherche Archipelago.

May 28th: heavy weather between Adelaide, Esperance and Albany delayed the Kybra. It was necessary to return to Esperance until conditions eased before heading further west.

July 26th: on a round trip from Fremantle to Onslow the Kybra was commanded by three men due to a severe outbreak of influenza. Two men were taken to hospital at Fremantle at the end of the previous voyage from the South Coast. Captain Eggleston and four other crew were taken ashore at Geraldton with influenza, an ambulance being called to transport them to Victoria hospital. Local seamen replaced the sick crew whilst Mr T Humble, the mate took command. On the return voyage the Kybra rendezvoued with the Koolinda at Cape Inscription where Chief Officer Captain J Airey transferred to the Kybra and took command for the return to Fremantle. All the sick quickly recovered their health.

December: John S Airey replaced Captain Eggleston as master of the Kybra. Captain Eggleston took command of another vessel.

1934

March 29th - April 4th: Easter excursion from Fremantle to Carnarvon, Shark Bay & Geraldton for a fare of 6.00.

May 8th: the Kybra arrived at Fremantle with a cargo including 2,016 sheep from Carnarvon. For this sheep season the Kybra had been booked for twelve special sailings from Carnarvon to move sheep to the south. Each sailing would carry about 2,000 sheep.

June 18th: the voyage from Fremantle to Carnarvon was delayed when the Kybra returned to Fremantle after only five hours of sailing. Strong north-westerly winds and swells hampered the ship, with the radio reporting no let up the decision was made to return to Fremantle and attempt to sail the next day.

August 2nd: whilst departing Geraldton the Kybra made a wider turn than normal to avoid a small fishing boat, in doing so the stern of the ship became stuck on a sandbank, causing the propeller to foul an underwater mooring line. About 55 feet of mooring cable fouled the propeller and shaft. It took most of Friday to free the mooring cable with the ship sailing at 10pm for Carnarvon.

September 11th: rough coastal weather experienced between Albany & Esperance, on its return trip arrival in Albany was about three days late. Heavy weather occurred for most of the trip, sufficient to cause problems in trying to dock at Hopetoun. Attempts to dock here on Thursday, Friday and Saturday proved too dangerous with the Kybra sheltering at Doubtful Island. On Sunday & Monday the ship's boats were used to get the cargo into Hopetoun, the ship finally departing at noon on Monday for Albany. On the Sunday able seaman Mr J Cooper lost the top of his left thumb after getting it caught in a lifeboat block. Aid was rendered at the Government Hospital in Albany.

October 4th: HMS Sussex with HRH The Duke of Gloucester arrived Fremantle, the Kybra was used on a special cruise to meet the Sussex.

1935

March 11th: rough seas delayed the Kybra for about 72 hours whilst sailing between Onslow & Cossack.

March: the amount of cargo unloaded at Albany during the last seven trips averaged 132 tons. Commodities shipped included petrol 30%, groceries 24%, beer 14%, crude oil 12%, general goods 7%, soap 6%, transhipped cargo 4%. timber 2% and wine 1%.

April 9th: a new 3.5 ton steel beacon was placed in the outer channel of Princess Royal Harbour, Albany. The beacon was transferred from the jetty to the Kybra's deck, it was five feet longer than the width of the deck. During the positioning of the beacon a strong gale blew up making the difficult task even more of a challenge. The entire task took about six hours.

1936

January 9th: strong easterly winds and heavy seas made for a miserable trip between Fremantle and Albany. The trip east from Busselton took 37 hours, maintaining barely five knots. The ship carried 340 tons of cargo for Albany which included English built machinery for the Albany woollen mills.

March 30th : The Kybra made a visit to Koolan Island to land 20 men and 105 tons of equipment and foodstuffs for use in the manning of the iron ore leases of Brasserts, Ltd. Captain J. Airey, of the Kybra, said that the boat anchored about 300 yards off the island in a small cove. The vessel was in the channel between the island and the mainland and was anchored in 17 fathoms of water. The vessel's two surf boats and the launch were used to transfer most of the men and equipment. The heavier machinery was transferred on a large raft made from 36 petrol drums and jarrah. The somewhat forbidding island is believed to be home to large quantities of iron ore between 65 and 70 per cent pure.

May: upcoming scheduled services: departs Fremantle May 16th (Port Hedland), May 29th (Cossack), June 12th (Esperance), July 9th (Port Hedland), July 24th (Esperance), August 10th (Maitland River), August 25th (Esperance), September 7th (Fortescue), September 24th (Cossack), October 10th (Carnarvon), October 21st (Adelaide).

1937

February: south coast sailings: April 2nd, May 6th, June 17th, August 5th, September 14th, November 2nd & December 3rd. The Albany Chamber of Commerce requested a more regular & reliable service, there were no sailings in March, July & October. In competition the trade from Albany for the Eastern States was covered by a fortnightly shipping service.

October 26th: arrived Birkenhead (Adelaide) for the annual overhaul. Enroute the ports of call had included Israelite Bay & Port Malcolm to pick up cargos of wool which were loaded by surf boats in conjuction with the ship's launch whilst the Kybra anchored offshore.

1938

January: a revised service is proposed which cuts the service east of Albany. Hopetoun and Esperance would lose their current service. It was reported that the jetty at Hopetoun was in such disrepair that the handling of cargo was unsafe & unprofitable. The last regular trip was due to leave Fremantle on February 4th. A proposal was suggested to visit Esperance on every second trip which would also preserve some of the trade built up over the years with Albany.

February 15th: last call for the ship at Esperance, unloaded 93 tons of cargo, loaded about 11 tons including a cargo of refined salt. Departed 3.35pm Wednesday (16th) on her final regularly scheduld trip. 200 people saw the ship off, with a large passenger load aboard.

April 14th - April 21st: Easter excursion from Fremantle for Bunbury, Busselton, Albany and return.

October 13th: Fremantle to Adelaide via coastal ports. Annual inspection, cleaning and overhaul to be carried out at Adelaide, expected back at Fremantle on November 9th. It should take about 11 days to reach Adelaide and 10 days to return. Six days would be spent in Adelaide.

1939

January 12th: delayed departure by six hours from Geraldton for Port Hedland due to cyclonic disturbance in the north.

June 1st: George Morgan, a steward fell headlong down a companionway on the Kybra, fracturing the base of his skull and rendering him unconscious. Mr Morgan was taken to the Albany District Hospital but died there at about 9.15am the morning after the accident. The Coroner determined the death was accidental, the deceased returned on the ship to Fremantle.

June 24th: sheltered off Geraldton from westerly gale, enroute from Onslow to Fremantle.

August 27th: sailing delayed by one day due to rough seas and strong winds.

1940

July 8th: the Commonwealth Government took over the operation of the Kybra for wartime needs, leaving Albany with no shipping connection to Fremantle.

HMAS Kybra was at first attached as a tender to the shore Anti-Submarine Training Establishment, HMAS Ruschcutter, at Watson's Bay, just inside Sydney's South Head.

1941

In the later part of 1941 camouflage pattern trials were carried out off Sydney under the supervision of Professor Dakin, from the Directorate of Camouflage. The trials were conducted on HMAS Kybra which was loaned by the Royal Australian Navy.

1942

On March 24th bombs were dropped from two aircraft on sighting a surfaced Japanese submarine fifty miles north-east of Stradbroke Island. The submarine submerged and escaped. The HMAS Kybra was summoned to escort two freighters about to leave Brisbane.

In June 1942, after the midget submarine raid on Sydney and the night shelling of both Sydney and Newcastle by an off-shore fleet submarine, a convoy system was introduced along the east coast. HMAS Kybra, armed with one four inch gun, a 2-pounder, one Maxim and one Vickers machine gun, became one of the escorts. The Kybra's time on this duty was brief with the arrival of two Australian and eight United States Navy destroyers for Australian escort duties. The Kybra returned to her training school duties.

1943

On May 12th 1943 Allied convoy PG 50 was proceeding from Brisbane to Sydney when the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-180 launched a brief attack. One torpedo struck the 5,832 ton Australian freighter Ormiston which was bringing bagged sugar from Cairns. Another torpedo hit the Caradale but it failed to explode. The damaged Ormiston was escorted to Coffs Harbour by the HMAS Ballarat, HMAS Kybra and the USS Henley, where repairs were made to the freighter.

The Kybra was the first small vessel in the RAN to be fitted with radar, and was for a time attached as a radar training ship to the RAN Radar School, also at Sydney's South Head. The Kybra carried a Type 271 surface search radar above the forward superstructure and an SC air search radar at the masthead. Other changes included the removal of the mast mounted on the after superstructure and the cutting down of the after superstructure. A Rolls Royce 2 Pounder Mark XIV gun mounting and depth charges were carried on the quarterdeck.


A wartime view of the Kybra in Sydney - Photo: Photographer unknown, Naval Historical Collection, Australian War Memorial, ID 300938. Listed copyright expired, public domain.

1945

August: requests made to the Government to release the Kybra from its navy service. The Kybra's design features made it highly suitable for use in the North West service. She had been used as a training ship at Sydney during the war.

October 19th: departed Sydney with eight officers and sixty naval ratings bound for Fremantle. Refuelling took place at Portland (Vic) and then on to Adelaide. A very rough crossing of the Bight made for a rough time for the crew and a 90 ton G.P.V. service vessel travelling with the Kybra. Before leaving Sydney much of the naval equipment, including the guns had been removed, but was still in the regulation Navy grey paint.For the last two years of her war service the Kybra was used for anti-submarine training, handling about thirty officers and ratings at a time. Albany was reached on November 8th.

November 10th: arrived Fremantle to be handed back to the State Shipping Service after five years in naval service.

1946

January: at Fremantle undergoing a six week refit to include reinstalling the passenger accommodation, now for 12 passengers, a foremast and four new winches. This increased her gross tonnage to 950 tons. The ship had already received a new engine whilst in Navy service.

March 27th: moved from the naval berth at Fremantle following completion of her refit. Cargo was immediately loaded for Geraldton, Shark Bay, Port Hedland, Broome & Derby under the command of Captain W E Hardman.

July 4th: whilst discharging oil at Port Hedland a fire broke out in the galley, with flames eventually reaching the height of the funnel. All hands fought the fire, bringing it under control in about thirty minutes. The ship's cargo included about 30,000 gallons of petrol carried in drums.

December 19th: a moderate gale with gusting 45mph winds prevented the berthing at high water at Broome. Docking was delayed by 13 hours.

1947

February 3rd: a blow torch being used by a workman set fire to insulation in the ship's domestic freezing chamber whilst docked at Fremantle. Two fire engines attended, only minor damage was sustained. The ship took on a considerable list until the water used to quell the fire was pumped out of the ship.

August 23rd: at Carnarvon had cargo including 150 bales of wool, 100 empty kegs, 40 bags of frozen fish, five tons of general cargo and 400 sheep. From here the Kybra sailed for Fremantle.

September 18th: at Onslow the cargo loaded included 273 bales of wool, 14 sheepskins, 20 cases of bottles and 39 empty kegs, then sailed for Carnarvon.

December 15th: ran aground from 3am to 8pm in Shark Bay enroute to Denham. No significant damage, caused by a marker light for the channel being out.

1948

July - Captain J Richmond became the new captain for the Kybra.

August 7th: (a story of David & Goliath) the Kybra (852 tons) used to tow the disabled steamer Papachristidis Vassilios (7,132 tons) to Fremantle, a journey of at least 658 miles at an average speed of 4.25knots. Arrived Gage Roads on the morning of August 8th, the Kybra dropped her tow about seven miles from the harbour, two tugs were then used to berth the ship. The Canadian owned steamer which was travelling from Istanbul via Suez and Aden, completed her 52 day sea voyage with little in the way of supplies remaining on the ship for the 44 officers & crew and the nine passengers. Some supplies had been transferred from the Newbrough in response to emergency calls. Problems with the boiler tubes had been the primary reason for the breakdown, later the generator failed leaving the ship without electricity.

1950

April: received annual inspection and overhaul at Fremantle.

1951

October 10th: fleet minesweeper HMAS Mildura and the Kybra came into contact with each other in Fremantle Harbour after a strong wind gust caught the Mildura and swung her whilst she was berthed. No damage was caused, both ships sailed on schedule.

1952

July 17th: ran aground on a sandbank when attempting to enter Port Hedland harbour. Efforts to refloat the vessel failed, it was necessary to await the next high tide to achieve refloating. There was 250 tons of cargo aboard including drums of petrol.

1954

February 5th: sailing Fremantle to Carnarvon was stopped with engine trouble shortly after departing. Anchored in Gage Roads before returning to port.

1958(?)

The Kybra was eventually sold to a Panama-based company, and then to Singaporean interests, who re-named her Floretta.

Details:

Built: Coaster Construction Company, Montrose
Launched: January 1926
Tonnage: 850 grt tons, 440 tons net
Deadweight: 1,300 tons
Length: 204 ft
Breadth: 31 ft
Draught: 14 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 6 cyl Sulzer 2-stroke producing 780 bhp (1,200 ihp) at 140rpm.
Auxiliary engines: 3 x 2 cylinder Sulzer engines.
Screws: 1
Speed: 11 knots
Bunker capacity: 183 tons of fuel oil
Crew: 28
Passengers: 32
Provision for cattle: 44
Hatch size: No.1 25ft x 12ft; No.2 24ft x 12ft; No.3 8ft x 12ft.
Derrick Lifting Capacity: four 3-ton; one 12-ton

Resources
National Library of Australia : Trove website of archived Australian Newspapers (trove.nla.gov.au)
The Motor Ship Reference Book for 1927.

TROVE next #46

Page added January 15th 2012.
Last updated January 20th 2012.

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