The booking office is a white weatherboard building at the end of the pier. Inside, a small waiting room looks out on Port Phillip Bay. We were sitting in the booking office watching the twinkling water at a quarter to ten on a late summer Saturday morning.
Soon the ferry rounded the point and honked into view, hummed closer, did a neat swivel and started to back into the dock which comprised four rubber-lined concrete stanchions, each about the size of a small lighthouse. The ferry misjudged too far to starboard, edged out and came again. Perfect. Just like reverse-parking the Volvo.
Then the ship's stern ramp - a kind of supersized gangway for vehicles - clanged down onto the edge of the pier and a few dozen cars, some towing caravans, rolled off; while a straggle of foot passengers disembarked and wandered away into the morning, clutching day bags, hats, sun umbrellas, newspaper colour supplements. The lazy paraphernalia of summer daytrips.
There are two ferries. They leave every hour, on the hour, from opposite sides of the bay, crossing the main shipping channel into Melbourne and passing each other midway. In peak hour you can barely move for the container ships and the cruise liners rolling in and out of port, the fishing vessels and other craft picking about the bay and the jet skis that buzz around pointlessly, like march flies, except you can't swat them.
We boarded Ferry One, took the elevator up to the top deck, came out blinking in the sun and took up a spot towards the front of the boat in the shade of the bridge.
After a while the stern ramp creaked up again and banged shut and the engines roared and water thrashed and the ship moved away from the dock, turned around in its own length and cut its way into a gentle swell towards Queenscliff.