Duckworks - Projects
The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

A River Cruise
by Greg McArthur

My 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 say.

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.