Fishermen catch historic anchor

Big catch: Tom Manning (left) and Peter Harley with the small anchor that hooked an historic anchor now in the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum.
Big catch: Tom Manning (left) and Peter Harley with the small anchor that hooked an historic anchor now in the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum.

PETER Harley and his brother-in-law Tom Manning have a fishing story that outweighs any other.

And it’s the story of the discovery of the historic anchor which was found at the Richmond River spit in November last year and is now housed in the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum after being dropped off by souvenir-hunters who had taken it from its sandy resting spot.

Peter, who shares his time between Goonellabah and Lennox Head, and Tom, from Ballina, were fishing at the Porpoise Wall on the southern side of the river on November 14 in Tom’s 6.5m boat.

After the boat had been anchored for about an hour, the pair decided it was time to go home.

Just one problem.

They couldn’t get the automatic anchor up from the riverbed.

“We we’re trying to pull up the anchor, and it wouldn’t come,” Peter said.

The pair didn’t know what it was hooked on to, and spent about half an hour trying to free the anchor rather than cut it away.

Tom said he wasn’t sure of the breaking strain of the chain and rope that connects the anchor to the electric winch, but he didn’t want to break any of it because the whole set-up was worth about $3000.

“We drove around in circles to try and get the anchor up,” Peter said.

“The only way to get the anchor up was to get it over to shallow water.”

They drove Tom’s boat, with its 150hp outboard, towards the spit, which was a difficult voyage made worse by the winds which had picked up significantly, and they were moving against the tide.

They still had no idea what was snagged on Tom’s anchor, but knew it was very heavy.

“In 3 to 4 feet (about 1m) of water, I could tell it was an anchor,” Peter said.

The anchor from Tom’s boat had wedged itself between the shaft and fluke of the historic anchor, and the pair needed help from a nearby fisherman to un-snag Tom’s anchor and lift the old anchor on to the spit.

They weren’t aware of the significance of the historic anchor at the time. It is believed the anchor is from the Josephine, which was wrecked in the river in 1865.

Time went on, and Tom and Peter admitted they simply forgot about the anchor.

That was until the story of the anchor being taken from the spit hit the headlines.

And Tom and Peter now have a great fishing story to tell of the one that didn’t get away.

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