If you happen to visit Careel Bay Marina between 9-11am any day of the week you are likely to have seen or even been lucky enough to meet the salty legend that is Ray Gasgoine.
Ray likes to enjoy a coffee while sitting on the old bench seat out the front of the marina office each day, sharing stories with his mates and the marina staff. It has been said that Ray was once such a formidable fisherman and spent so much time at Careel Bay that the local pelicans would follow his car from the sky between the marina and his flat in Newport.
Ray was Born in 1928 near the Fig Tree bridge on the Lane Cove River. He spent his younger years sailing around Sydney Harbour in 12ft and 18ft skiffs. He first went to sea in 1949 as an apprentice shipwright in the merchant navy. He spent 38 years at sea working on ships running sugar, coal and iron ore to places like Port Headland, Fiji, Japan and New Zealand.
Travelling nearly a million sea miles in his time no doubt left Ray with plenty of spare time between his shifts at sea. In 1950, one year after going to sea, Ray tried his hand at the art of making ships in bottles. It became an obsession and a great way of passing the many hours of a tough life at sea. He estimates there to be around 150 to 200 of his bottled artworks getting around the Pacific Ocean. While he still has about 50 of them at his home he tells me he used to give them as gifts to lucky girls he met when in port at various places his merchant ships would take him to. Taking about 40 hours to complete, each and every one of his boats in bottles is a true masterpiece.
A fuel stop en route to Queensland for a vessel delivery in 1965 was Rays first visit to Careel Bay. There was a Mobil fuel station here then and while there was no where near as many moorings, Ray remembers it being a busy little bay.
When it was time to move on from the Merchant Navy, Ray began deep sea trawler fishing and then began lobster fishing in the 1980s from his own boat which he kept at Careel Bay Marina. He initially kept his boat up at Palm Beach near where the Boathouse is now situated, but would frequently end up having to bring it back to the sheltered waters of Careel Bay where he then settled.
In Rays opinion Careel Bay has not changed a whole lot over the years. The boatshed on the end of the wharf has been here as long as he can remember. One difference I pointed out to Ray might be that he is not able to smoke his pipe as freely on the wharf now as he might have been back then, to which he agreed with a chuckle.
I asked Ray what he likes about Careel Bay. He says he enjoys the old fashioned nature of our marina like other old boatsheds that he remembers from his younger years. Ray also likes the fact he can come down to the marina every day and talk to other fisherman, some who he used to work along side of and some who continue to work out of Careel Bay today.
To see a short 3 minute film about Ray made by a video production company – click the link below