The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders














by Luke Spreadborough

Wayne came around at eight thirty, not the six AM he promised. We were to test a motor that had previously disgraced itself on the last trip in the Campjon by constantly jumping out of gear. I decided to lock it in forward gear by removing the shift cam, no neutral, no reverse. I would use the small auxiliary for those functions. This was rather lazy of me, it was obvious that the dog clutch was worn along with the gear faces and needed reprofiling, but I decided it could wait.

When it came time to launch the boat I tied a painter to the bow, so that when Wayne pushed it off the trailer it wouldn't race away and drag him with it. that's what happened last launch we did. Me on the ramp, swearing at Wayne, who couldn't hear me because he had drifted so far. Instead of grabbing a paddle he sat on the bow and gave me the universal "What do I do?" gesture, arms spread out with palms upturned. He could at least have started the motor.

Map of Bulimba Creek - red indicates our course.

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But to the present, the launch was successful, the auxiliary motor performed beautifully and we turned towards the by now familiar Aquarium Passage. I wanted to pick the bones of the old wrecked yacht and try and travel as far up Bulimba creek (which Aquarium Passage becomes after the first sharp bend) as we could. I waited until we were in the middle of the Brisbane River before I started the bigger Volvo outboard. Man, first pull of the string and she was humming. Wayne and I exchanged glances and looked to where we were headed. Open the throttle and clank..............the outboard threw itself out of forward gear and jammed itself in neutral. We would have to rely on the 2.5 horse power auxiliary, not the brutish 25 hp we expected.

I was livid. Wayne wouldn't look at me, he kept scanning the horizon. Sooooo.......... we arrived at the yacht wreck which was fully exposed by one of the lowest tides of the year, scrambled aboard and started rummaging. I managed to pull open some drawers that were stuck fast on the last visit, a bonus.Inside these drawers was junk, absolute junk. Rather dissapointing I guess, but I did find some heavy duty netting for my boat. Or for something. On the last trip I had dregded an enormous amount of stainless fastenings from the bilge. Not this time.

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...we arrived at the yacht wreck which was fully exposed by one of the lowest tides of the year...

We pushed on, at a snails pace due to the motor's size, but it was pleasant all the same. I had recovered my composure after ten minutes of cursing the big motor, and myself for being so dumb for not fixing the faulty gearbox. That bastard gearbox ! Twice it had done this to me. I was telling Wayne how I would chop it up with an axe and burn the remains, but midway through I decided to enjoy the trip instead. We stiil had half a day or more.

I gave Wayne the helm in an effort to distance myself from the motor, and also because it kept flopping over onto the good motor no matter what I did and annoying the hell out of me. Wayne leapt at the chance to steer the good ship Campjon.

The creek went for miles, far longer than I thought, and it wound it's way through suburb after suburb. I didn't know where we were most of the time, none of the banks had been cleared and large mangrove trees blocked the view. I couldn't believe I was in a city, it was like the Daintree river forest. We came across an area where the creek widened and ran straight with a canopy of branches over it. This was superb, seriously. I had no idea that something like this existed so close to Brisbane. Wayne was agog, so I wasn't alone. I appreciated the small motor's lack of speed.

We came across an area where the creek widened and ran straight with a canopy of branches over it.

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This part of the journey was started at low tide, not a bad idea because it revealed normally hidden snags and submerged trees, we did our best to remember their location for the return trip and pressed on.

After a reasonable amount of time a factory appeared, close to the creek bank. Steam was pissing out of various stacks and there was the sickly smell of fat in the air. Why do they do this, build noxious shit filled factories right on top of fascinating waterways? what is wrong with these people? It is no different to the French testing nuclear devices on a pristine atoll. Not to me at least. We noticed seven drains from the factory to the creek and I made a mental note to find out what the nameless factory made or did. Screw them, let them dump their offal in the middle of the city, see how the City council like it. Wayne wanted to scout around, and I weakened for a second or two until a face appeared up high in a window and we fled the scene, schoolboy style. The boat responded in like kind and took us away from there, the stinking factory with the face in the window .

The further up the creek we went the fresher the water became and different species of plants appeared. Wayne has this odd streak to his nature, I wouldn't call it theft, but it approaches it. He spied a crabpot, gave me a knowing look and said "Come on man, do you wanna ?" thus throwing the responsibilty on to me. He always does this. I replied, "Well, if you want to.." and we'd motor over to the pot, look around for witnesses ( I attribute this to guilt) and then haul the pot up. I do this to see if there are mudcrabs in the area, not to rob the pot. It's research. I also stop Wayne from taking the crabs we find. I swear.

There weren't any crabs in the pots, so I would say something along the lines of "aha, as I thought" and Wayne would be dissapointed. We motored on. I pulled up two more pots that had obviously been down for months, forgotten by their owners. I didn't claim them, I have too many already.

Near the suburb of Cannon Hill we found a backpack, fairly new and caught on a branch . Someone had decided to load it with rocks and toss it in the creek, inside was another bag, both in top condition. I claimed the bags and Wayne claimed the pair of precision pliers/nippers inside. Two plastic fishing reels floated by, we claimed them. An astonishingly good broom presented itself at waist height, suspended in a tree from the last tide. I claimed that.

While Wayne was at the helm I decided to clean the floor of the boat, we had muddied it badly from hauling in pots and bags and brooms, and it was annoying underfoot, so I found my bailing sponge and a bucket and wiped up the mess. The broom proved it's worth as well.

This was pleasant, shopping in a creek with no exchange of cash, and Wayne found it to be hilarious. He then found a disc brake front end for an early Holden sedan, but I wouldn't allow it in the boat. Besides, it was rusted beyond use. Hell, there is a limit you know.

Wayne was dissapointed about the Holden front end but he saw my point. Shortly after this a cattle property appeared on the right and again I couldn't place where we were. It reminded me of Rockhampton, hundreds of miles north of Brisbane. We berthed the boat against the bank and climbed out. Wayne was trying to remember the nautical term for berthing and came up with "perching" instead, so we named them Perching Banks. The property was large and the horizon wasn't recognizable, the freshwater dam nearby didn't help either. The cattle were staring at us, as they do, so we continued our travels.

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Wayne was trying to remember the nautical term for berthing and came up with "perching" instead, so we named them Perching Banks.

Ten minutes later model aircraft were flying above us, above the tree line. This had to be Tingalpa, plenty of parkland and reserves. Actually it's land they cant use for factories because it floods, so they call it a reserve instead. The creek was becoming shallow here, Wayne was panicking about it and I was keeping watch for shoal water. "Go here, turn there. Log, Log!" The current was strong (the tide had turned and was rushing in) and the boat threatened to spin out of control. I repeatedly told Wayne to increase the speed to give the boat some headway, but he kept imagining underwater obstructions.

Twice we had to turn around, mainly to check on some crab pots and to grab a nice navigation light I had seen sticking from the mud. Wayne doesn't make a good helmsman. We bumped into trees, and the opposite bank, and then back to the other bank, and then the trees again, and I was led to ask him what the heck he was doing, he didn't reply. The worst part of this was to be stuck under the branches of the mangrove trees, with little bits of branch all over the boat and in my hair, and tiny spiders darting down my shirt. I swore at this myself. And the fact that my nicely cleaned boat was once again a mess was almost too much to bear. But it passed.

The worst part of this was to be stuck under the branches of the mangrove trees, with little bits of branch all over the boat and in my hair, and tiny spiders darting down my shirt.

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We motored under a bridge and Wayne noticed the tell-tale ropes of crab pots. He excitedly steered towards them and neither of us noticed the water shoaling, but we did notice the log we were now jammed on. Rocking the boat back and forth like a see-saw remedied the situation, and I was thankful that the boat wasn't damaged. Up under the next bridge we did it again, but this log was larger and the boat slithered over it. The incoming tide was helping as well, it's force pushing us gently off each obstruction. I reminded Wayne, diplomatically, that it would be wiser to avoid the submerged logs, and ridges of rock etc. He was inclined to agree with me.

Water dragons started appearing in the trees, largish lizards that slid into the creek as we approached. Straw-necked Ibis, various wild ducks, kingfishers and water hens, all of them fled our prescence. The water this far up was mostly fresh, even though the tide pushed it higher. The sun was low now, we had wasted an enormous amount of time dithering with crabpots and junk and we turned the boat around at five pm, way to late to miss a night trip home. It had been sunny and pleasant all day long, but as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon a chill set in. The cold appeared to rise from the water around us.

Wayne was swearing. The bigger motor of the two had started flopping about again, jamming the going motor hard to starboard. I wondered why we dove into a large bunch of mangroves and turned to see Wayne flop the motor back over. Nothing was said. Five minutes later the same event was repeated. More flotsam was spied and the boat was steered toward it, the motor flopping again, the boat plowing into over hanging branches with the accompanying spiders again. Wayne was cursing blue murder. I had to tell him not to lean against the dead motor, that way it wouldn't flop over. I should have simply tied it down, but hey, I can be a lazy man at times. The aquatic pinball continued, bouncing from bank to bank and I enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way. Wayne finally stopped leaning against the motor (the tiller on the 2.5 Mariner was short and encouraged the leaning) and calm was restored.

The sun had gone by now and the temperature was dropping rapidly. A full moon lit the way for us, very nice I must admit, but the cold was becoming unbearable. Neither of us wore shoes, just flip flops and by the light of a torch my feet appeared purple. Each bend in the creek became all important, every wreck and moored boat a milestone. Flying fox filled the sky and we could see insect bats skimming the surface of the water as the moon broke through the trees. I was shivering now and Wayne had zippered every opening on his jacket closed. A train went by on the overhead track ahead of us and it gave me that lonesome, melancholy feeling that only passing trains at night can.

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The sun had gone by now and the temperature was dropping rapidly.

We passed a field on the right, lit by floodlights and with the typical yelling of a football training session. More time went by. Aquarium passage was around the next bend, a relieving thought. We neared the flying fox camp, then the laboratory and now the passage proper. I was freezing. There was the yacht moored to the creek bank, the owner had somehow managed to build a garden shed, barbecue and picnic shelter onshore without being caught. I intend to visit his yacht one day and ask him how he gets away with it. we left him behind and passed a large catamaran moored in the middle of the passage, with it's owner staring at us through the windows. I had an urge to be rude to the man but it passed.

As we approached the mouth of the passage we neared the converted boats, former yachts and trawlers that had been dismasted / decommissioned and had large houses built on their decks. Every time I pass them I wonder about the people in them. Do they enjoy this lifestyle? Are they hiding from the law, or society, or individuals ? Did any of them have anything to do with the back packs we found? All these boats are dimly lit, and apart from the father hanging clothes with his young daughter most of the occupants remain hidden, yet I can see movement. Odd.

Across the river to the jetty is a ten minute trip, we were definitely not stopping for anything because of the cold and our inadequate clothing. Wayne saw a crab pot three minutes from the boat ramp. He insisted on "visiting" it. It was the only crab pot we found that held a crab, but it was useful information to me. The mudcrabs are in the river, not the creeks. we did not take the crab, I promise. loading the boat and the return home was completely boring and uneventful, exactly what I wanted.

You know, the next day I inspected the gearbox of the Volvo Penta and realised that the shear pin had broken, nothing to do with the box at all. Presumption (and laziness) sucks.