One of Australia’s oldest paddleboats has sunk into the Murray River’s murky waters at a time when its ownership is a legal grey area.
The 1877-built Avoca was found mostly submerged, and tilted to one side, at its mooring at Mildura in Victoria early on Friday.
It was two weeks to the day after the historic vessel was sold at auction, only to then sink during the settlement period.
The Avoca is changing hands from celebrity chef Stefano de Pieri to fellow Mildura restaurateur Simon Harrington, who submitted the winning auction bid of $55,000.
“We’re all very sad about it and we’ll have to see what we can do,” Mr de Pieri told AAP on Friday.
“We don’t know what has happened. We suspect it was a power failure and the bilge pump stopped working and that was that.
“This is what happens to boats, particularly old ones … (but) it’s not lost yet.”
Mr de Pieri said the vessel would be inspected with a view to raising it, and that Murray River towns had the know-how and resources to do this, although he’d not had time to consider cost or sale implications.
The vessel has been used in recent times as a floating restaurant and Mr Harrington had planned to substantially restore the Avoca for use as a cafe by day, bar by night.
On Friday Mr Harrington said this plan was not sunk.
“I don’t believe it is … we have some pretty amazing plans that involved its restoration and we’re hoping that’s something that will still prevail,” Mr Harrington told Fairfax Radio.
“It’s not the first time this boat has sunk since 1877, so I’m hoping that this is just another story that we can tell about the old girl in a couple of years.”
Mr Harrington also noted the sale process had not been finalised.
“We’re in a settlement period at the moment,” he said.
“I haven’t got the key and had only paid a deposit – so it is an interesting grey area.”