|Our friend D recently received his boating pilot's license and invited a few friends to go on his maiden passenger voyage down the Hawkesbury River for the day. Of course, in my imagination, I immediately saw a scene from Wind in the Willows, where we, the intrepid band of adventurers, meander our way down a lazy river and have a lingering picnic along the banks somewhere.
The day started out fine. It was warm and sunny without being too hot. No one got lost on their way to the boat ramp. Everyone brought food for our picnic and wore the right clothing. It promised to be a fabulous day.
It took a little while to get used to the powerful motor on the boat, but after the initial learning curve, we were on our way with great confidence in our captain, and enjoyed the Australian sun, which had finally decided to end its winter hibernation.
We hit some rough water near the headlands, where the river meets the ocean, and bounced our way into the river mouth. Fortunately, despite the jarring, we were as well-padded as nature intended, and no harm was done. The water smoothed out and we wound our way up the river.
Now, I'm used to the rivers and lakes that I grew up near which are fresh water, and the worst thing you have to worry about is the occasional eel or pike. The Hawkesbury is brackish and has known to host sharks as well as jellyfish and other marine life. I looked in amazement as a huge pink jellyfish went swimming by. I had no idea that they could move that quickly! I always thought they just drifted lazily on currents. But then I also thought that about boats.
We motored our way up past Akuna Bay and found a little sheltered spot to anchor in for "first lunch" as we dubbed it. No restaurant could have provided better. There were sandwiches, fine cheeses and crackers, cold meats, gourmet olives, wine, spicy rice salad and pickled vegetables ... a feast fit for our intrepid band. Friend N got out his fishing gear, determined to catch something with a large prawn. Sadly, there were no nibbles this day; however, the fun's in the fishing, not the fish and we laughed and joked and in general, overate.
We then made our way back out to the main river and headed past Cottage Point, where there's an inn to which you can charter a sea plane for lunch or dinner. Living on the river must be idyllic if you can afford it.
We motored our way past Cottage Point to Bobbin Head, which is near the end of that branch of the river. All out for a stretch and an ice cream. There's a lovely inn at Bobbin Head as well as a public dock and all the mod cons. I could have happily spent a couple of hours there, but there was still much to see and do!
We then got back into our boat, which had become our little island home. We explored to the end of the branch, and then headed back up towards Dangar Island, passing under the railroad bridge. We found another little cove and anchored again in true Wind in the Willows fashion for "second lunch." This time, Friend D2 decided to join in the fishing. No nibbles. By now it was late in the afternoon and we had to head back to the dock to return the boat.
This is when the fuel ran out. The engine sputtered and then died. Not to panic, though. We had a spare tank of fuel and with one phone call to the boat owner, we had it hooked up to the motor. For the next 20 minutes or so, we motored back through the rough head waters. The waves were getting higher and forming white caps. The ride was bumpy, but exciting! The sun was going down. Were we going to make it back to Bayview before it became too dark to see?
Of course not. About 10 minutes before we reached the dock, the spare tank went empty. Something was wrong with the motor. It was leaking fuel. We ran out of fuel a second time and had to call for a rescue, which came a half an hour later, in the dark. The five intrepid sailors, Ratty, Mole, Badger, Rabbit, and Hedgehog sat and regaled each other with tales of Mad Men and District 9 hoping, with each passing boat, that our rescuer was upon us. We thought perhaps we could bribe someone to fetch us fuel with a couple bottles of beer and a bocconcini cheese sandwich.
We were fine, really. It was cool, but we had jackets. We had food. We had drinks (although no toilet). We had a sense of humour. We did not break into song, however.
Finally, with another spare tank of fuel, we made it back to the public dock and disembarked a little tired but happy and congratulating our "captain" on a job well done. So much excitement for a maiden passenger voyage. It was a day we won't soon forget.
As Ratty said, "Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
Labels: boat trip, Hawkesbury River