A River Cruise
by Greg McArthur
lovely wife Kellies' birthday was coming up ( on the pain
of death I cannot mention which decade she was going to enter,
lets say 21??) and I had to find an idea of what to do, and
where to go, to celebrate this momentous occasion.
One idea was the African restaurant
up in the hills near Maleny, exotic foods, great location, views
for miles out to the ocean at the Sunshine Coast.
But it was too far to drive home
to Brisbane, Australia after dinner and drinks, and local accommodation
was a bit pricey for a lot of the guests that wanted to be a part
of the party. I work down by the Brisbane River, and at times
can't help but look at all the yachts moored there. Ah, the dreams!
Could I fit the river, our boat, and a fine meal in to the plans?
We decided "Oxleys On The
River" could be the sort of place worthy of such a scheme.
The basic plan, put the boat in the water at the boat ramp at
West End on the Brisbane River, spend the day sightseeing with
some selected friends, then head over to the restaurant to meet
some more friends for dinner.
"Oxleys" have their
own two level floating pontoon outside, its length is
enough for about six boats as long as our 20' Austral, so after
making our booking and getting permission from the owner to use
the pontoon, we were set.
Saturday morning, bright and early
we headed down to the boat ramp and launched "Yakumin"
into the river. We had arranged to meet our cruising partners
at a public jetty near West End about 10 am so headed upstream
to pick them up. Much care is needed at this jetty as its made
of concrete, and careful placement of fenders is needed to keep
the boats side from its rough edges. Its also very slippery on
the lower steps that go under at high tide.
For those that don't know Brisbane,
the City is about 17 miles from the mouth of the river. Its about
60 to 100 meters wide, min. 7 meters deep over much of its width,
and is tidal, so currents change from 2/4 knots down stream to
1/2 knots up during the day. It winds through about 7 bends over
8 miles through the city region, and under 6 bridges.
It was another beautiful Brisbane
Autumn day, not a cloud to be seen, and nice and warm at 28c,
but of course no wind, so we motored down through the city, checking
out the sights from a perspective not seen before.
Funny, those bridges which are
very high, just don't look like they are all that much higher
than the top of the mast, but bigger boats than ours have been
through, so we pressed on.
Down past all the mansions, the
many new blocks of "up market" units that now line the
river, and on to the Hamilton Reach, where we dropped anchor,
outside the dinghy sailing club, amongst a lot of moored boats
of all sizes.
Lunch consisted of Antipasto and
assorted nibbles washed down with some fine white wines, while
we discussed the various merits of the different world cruising
boats around us. After lunch we headed a bit further down stream
past the cruise ship jetty and the naval patrol boat, until it
was time to head back for dinner.
We moored a bit upstream from
the restaurant and whilst getting changed, started to really notice
the wake from the "Citycats", a large fast catamaran
(just like a council bus but quicker) which passed by every 20
minutes or so. They create a double wake, first a small series
of ripples that start the boat rocking from side to side, then
a bigger, more spaced out set of waves, that really accentuate
the motion, and sets the boat into a very violent rocking.
Oh well, it only happened twice
every 20 minutes or so, once from the upstream cat and once when
it came back down. Kellie had all sorts of fun applying makeup
when the interior light blew, (of course, no spare globe), and
a passing "Citycat" didn't help. First job at the restaurant
was into the ladies loo for a quick wipe and reapply.
Dressed up and ready to party,
we headed over to the restaurant to meet the others and celebrate
the occasion. We tied up to the pontoon, lots of fenders out,
and headed towards the door. I looked up and saw a "Citycat"
coming downstream, I looked around and saw another coming upstream
at the same time. "Great", I thought, a double wake.
We stopped and waited to see what the effect would be, the ripples
came in together and "Yakumin" started to rock. The
second set of waves arrived and the pontoon started moving, it
felt like it was moving about a foot up and down. The boat was
swinging wildly and the top of the mast was nearly touching the
gutter around the restaurant roof, and the spreaders seemed to
miss the massive plate glass window (which is the back wall),
by mere inches. I closed my eyes and waited for the sound of breaking
glass, but it didn't happen. What to do? It was too late to change
our dinner plans now, a dozen guests were already entering the
restaurant through the front door.
We put the rest of our fenders
between the boat and the pontoon, and hoped the additional distance
would give us a safe margin. We went in for dinner and I spent
the next 20 minutes waiting for the next 2 ferries to arrive.
Again the boat rocked wildly, but there seemed to be just enough
clearance from the building for the mast not to hit. A couple
of wines, a great seafood dinner, good company and I started to
relax, I sat with my back to the window as I couldn't watch the
boat without worrying, and half way through dessert an enormous
"clang" was heard, and the whole building shook after
a larger than usual wake passed under the pontoon. I spun around
expecting the mast to be bent in half, but it looked quite ok.
I asked a waiter what the noise was, and he said, "don't
worry, its just the pontoon hitting the building after a big wake,
it happens all the time".
Its ok for him to say that, its
not his mast, just inches from thousands of dollars worth of plate
glass window, and I was not sure what the insurance company would
Needn't have worried however,
the night went really well, the mast and the building never met,
and everyone had a great time.
The "Citycats" stopped
around midnight, so Kellie and I jumped aboard "Yakumin"
and went for a night time cruise up the river to find a quiet
place to anchor for the night. The city lights were twinkling
and it was very peaceful as we motored along at about 2 knots.
The birthday bottle of wine and chocolates Kel smuggled on board
at the restaurant made a fine nightcap before bed. In the morning
I woke early, and put the kettle on for that essential early morning
coffee. The sunrise was magnificent shining up through a couple
of early thin clouds.
While sitting in the cockpit I
saw the first of many early morning university rowers, heading
down river for their training. One was heading straight for the
front of our boat so I called out "Good Morning" and
he nearly capsized as he spun around, "Bloody heck"
he cried, "your not usually there", and on he went muttering
under his breath.
He was the first of many, and
I said to Kellie "we are going to have to shift, before someone
drowns or dies of a heart attack". I think they should have
a rear view mirror if they are going to row backwards without
looking, I don't know how they keep from hitting the bank or other
moored craft. After that the "Citycats" started up again,
so we decided to head for home, and went back to the boat ramp.
I discovered that during the night
someone had decided to inspect the contents of our car, through
the window that they smashed to gain entrance. Nothing was stolen!
There was nothing left in the car worth stealing, but of course,
the cost of the window exactly equaled the amount of excess that
I would have had to pay if I wanted to claim on
All in all, we did have a great
trip up and down the river, the dinner was terrific seafood, and
it was a great weekend, with good company, just a bit more expensive
in the end than we had planned on. I wouldn't use the West End
boat ramp again for an overnighter. That is the first time that
we have been vandalized at a boat ramp, and we have left the car
at many over night, from Cairns down to the Tweed
If we were to do it all again,
I think the ramp at Bulimba, would be better. It has a new public
pontoon, and is very busy with lots of fishermen coming and going
all night, less time for vandals to have their wicked way.
The "Citycats" make
it hard to have a peaceful mooring, and I wouldn't tie up at "Oxleys"
again. The mast was just too close to the building for comfort.
But then again, it was just one of those things that I had to
do. Once only though.