The Flying Boats of Lake Boga

Back in the 40s during World War II a secret base was built at Lake Boga in heart of Victoria to service and repair Catalina flying boats.

Mid Victoria was selected as it was out range of enemy guns as a number of other coastal bases had already been destroyed. Attacks such as the Japanese air raid on Broome, northern Western Australia, on 3 March 1942 destroying 24 aircraft, including 15 Catalinas refuelling at the time, and approximately 88 civilians and allied military personnel were killed during the attack. Lake Boga was specifically selected as it already had power, rail, and road infrastructure established. But Lake Boga had one thing in its favour over other potential sites, it had a naturally round lake 3kms across, which enabled a Catalina to take off and land in any wind conditions and direction.

When Ed suggested a ride to Lake Boga to check out the Catalina Museum I had to look up what a Catalina was, and where Lake Boga was as I really hadn’t heard of either. And although I’m not a plane buff I am always interested in checking out interesting history. So an invitation was circulated to other interested riders and a plan was hatched … lunch at Lake Boga pub and then onto the museum before heading our separate ways home.

Lake Boga is approximately 650km from Canberra heading south west into Victoria. To hit our destination by lunchtime we met at our usual spot at 5:30am and headed out of town under the cover of darkness. With the turning of the leaves the weather here is really starting to change and while the single digit temperatures probably didn’t warrant the electric vest, it was nice not to wear lots of layers and have the luxury of being able to click on the vest to just take the edge off.

Riding in the pre-dawn light

Generally on these bigger rides we are getting to Wagga as the sun comes up so we tend to stick to the highway rather than the back roads. Today the sun was up within an hour so we peeled off at Gundagai and took the back road to Wagga via Nangus so we largely bypassed Wagga and it’s unending 80 and 60 zones. From Wagga we continued south west through Lockhart, Urana and Deniliquin before crossing into Victoria.

The Urana spider

By Deniliquin it was time for our morning coffee at the local bakery. I realised as I sat with my coffee and vanilla slice … I’m over vanilla slices. I think I’ve had so many ordinary ones that I just can’t do it any more. I looked over the table and Ed had a Danish which looked very nice, mmm danish.

As we rolled into Lake Boga the familiar red VFR800, with cool stumpy IXIL pipes hanging out the side, parked out the front of the pub and before long Ron wandered out to meet us. Then within about 15 minutes we were joined by the Melbourne crew. It’s always great to catch up with this crew and hang out.

The Catalina museum was created by the local Lions club and was officially opened in 2012 as a memorial to the service men and women who had been stationed at the Flying Boat Repair Depot at Lake Boga during World War II. The museum is built around a restored Catalina and includes a large number of artefacts from fully restored radial engines to objects found at the bottom of the lake over the years.

This is certainly an interesting part of our history that I didn’t know anything about before.

Unsurprisingly we spent too much time sitting and catching up over lunch and wandering around the museum intrigued by these curious boats / planes that don’t seem that big but have a huge wing and huge engines, but are quite slow. By the time we left Lake Boga we had less than a couple of hours light left so we opted to head east to Albury and then slab it back up the Hume.

Ron left us at Lake Boga and headed west to Mildura, while the Melbourne crew rode with us for a stint before peeling off and heading south.

I haven’t done much riding in this part of Victoria and I was surprised but the large number of long straights as we headed east, I was expecting a number of small farming communities. And doing it in the dark was quite disorientating as we rode large sections on low beam as cars just seemed to hang in the distance not seemingly moving – so with thumb poised over the dimmer switch wavering between holding the lights on high beam to see and potentially avoid skippy, and judging the right distance to dip the lights so as not to blind oncoming traffic.

As we cross back into New South Wales at Albury we fuelled the tanks, our bellies, added extra layers, plugged the vest back in, and pointed the bikes towards home. From here we had 330km of highway riding, which should be doddle. Should be a doddle. However by this stage, the day’s ride was starting to take its toll, and it was obvious that I haven’t done these sort of miles on the 14 for a while as my wrist was killing me. On these roads there is just no let up, no towns to roll into and allow you to drop your hand to provide relief, just 3 hours holding a constant throttle opening. I have tried a throttle lock on this bike but with limited success. I think if I want to continue doing these types of big days on the 14 I may have to look at a cruise control.

Overall we covered about 1,340km and other than being a bit sore this was a great day, cruising the highways and catching up with mates.

4 thoughts on “The Flying Boats of Lake Boga

  1. Interesting museum, I have never seen anything posted about it before.
    I am amazed at the distance you can ride!, would be a 3 day trip for me haha.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As always a nice write-up. In detail about hesitating and deciding when to dim headlights in long straights. I ride with Pia SuperWhites in my Suzuki Vstrom which has excellect reflector/ lenses; good for me but not oncoming traffic. Anything over 1000km is a long day!

    Liked by 1 person

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