Originally named Waikara, a New Zealand Maori name for ‘smooth water’, she was purchased in 1934 by the Sydney ferry and tug company, Nicholson Bros. In line with their usual policy of naming their craft using words beginning with ‘Pro’ she was called Protex after a popular brand of soap. No wonder she was often called the ‘soap boat’. It was fitting that her duties included ferrying goods and people from the Palmolive factory at Balmain to various city wharves.
Protex nearly ended her life in 1952 when she collided off Balmain East with her sister ferry, Provide. She suffered serious damage and sank. But it was decided to salvage her and extensive repairs were necessary before she could return to service. The repaired Protex continued her service on the harbour and in 1968 passed into the ownership of Stannard Bros., another ferry and tug company, when they took over Nicholson Bros.
In 1970, at the age of 60-plus, Protex took on a new life when she was leased to Mr Terry Hodgson who used her as a ferry operating out of Woy Woy and Toukley, and later between Brooklyn and Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River.
Protex joined the Sydney Heritage Fleet in 1981, presented by Mr Chris Stannard of Stannard Bros. She has been faithfully restored, is still in regular use with the Fleet and can carry up to 20 people.