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by Dan O'Cker - West Beach, South Australia - Australia

Part One - Part Two

With less than a week to go before the start of my voyage, my mind turned to some logistics. How much luggage could the boat take, how far could I row in a day, and how was I going to get to the start point at the Hume dam? I started car shopping and was lucky enough to find a cheap second hand SUV. I bought it, added roof racks and went tent shopping. The night before me and Jeffo set off on the ten hour car ride, I was busy sorting out my camping gear, fishing gear, clothes and food.

We set off the next morning and arrived at the Dam at around 8 pm that night. It was raining and cold. I had been preparing for, and was expecting dry heat. After camping in the rain overnight, I set off the next morning wearing my only warm clothes. They soon became wet in the drizzle, but I hardly noticed. The voyage I had been working towards was finally underway.

The Murray starts higher than the Hume dam, but without any means of carrying my boat around the dam wall, I made the low side of the dam my start point. The first few days were great, there were frequent stops for snacks and meals, fantastic scenery, and friendly locals watching with puzzled bemusement.

Lake Mulwala was packed with tourists and locals enjoying their weekend in ski boats, jet skis and canoes. Once I was halfway across the wind picked up, and the weekenders disappeared. Soon after small sail boats and kite surfers emerged. The chop was my boats first real test, and although it wasn't a comfortable crossing, it gave me an idea of how seaworthy she really is. By the time I reached the bottom of the lake most things were floating inside my boat, and I was exhausted.

Luckily for me a friendly local Carl, gave me a hand getting myself, all my soggy belongings, and my trusty boat around the lake's bottom weir and on my way downstream. Downstream of the lake the river was almost completely empty and calm. Only a few school kids floated downstream in tyre tubes.

The days rolled by, and I rowed on, through tiny country towns, past old rusty car bodies, and ancient gum trees. Sometimes the river was busy, most times it was not, and always there was another corner to get round. 13 days in, I met my parents and brother in Barham for a day off, and restocking. Then on I rowed. I met many friendly campers along the way, and saw so many great boats. Houseboats, paddle boats, sailing kayaks, timber ski boats, and even SUPs. Occasionally, the weather would hold me up, wind being the primary enemy. The heat (hottest was 44 deg) meant that a few days I would only row for a ½ hour between swims. Before long I passed the halfway mark. I experienced mixed emotions. Although I had rowed over 1,100 km, which I was pleased with, it meant the voyage was already half way done, and I wasnt ready for it to be over. Day 23 fell on Australia day. I ate a shrimp, and listened to all the Australian music I had. Although the shrimp was revolting, I had never felt so Australian.

Mildura was the next big town. I stopped in for a few hours chatting to locals, eating baked goods, and having several interviews for local news outlets. Soon after, in Wentworth, the Darling, Australia's second biggest river, joined the Murray, Australia's biggest river. After several frustrating days rowing into head wind, I met up with my partner, and had my second day off in Loxton. Then it was on to Waikerie, where I met up with a group of locals who were keen to have a test row up and down the foreshore. They packed my boat with local produce, clean drinking water, and sent me on my way.

Day 43 found me at the start of Lake Alexandrina. This lake was always going to be the biggest challenge, and risk, of the voyage. Over the weeks, as I rowed closer to it, more and more people had strongly suggested I finish the row at the start of the lake instead of trying to cross it. However, I had always been determined to finish the voyage at the bottom of the lake, where the Murray river enters the sea. I started the lake in the afternoon of day 43, but gave up after only a few hours as the combination of chop, and wind meant I was practically rowing on the spot. The next morning I tried again, but after less than an hour I had packed it in again due to chop and wind. I spent the day eating what food I had left, and considering walking the 20 km to the nearest town where I would have phone reception so I could call it quits and get a lift home. However, I sucked it up, had a good rest and set my alarm for 5am. First thing the next morning I drank the last of my coffee and set off for the river mouth on an empty stomach. The lake was completely flat, there wasn't even a breath of breeze. I made it to the Aboriginal township of Raukkan by midday, and gorged myself on Pasties and muffins. Then it was off on the last leg of the voyage towards the Ocean. I made it to the river mouth by 5pm and have never been so glad to see the sea. The voyage had taken 45 days, and I was ready for a hot shower, and a decent nights sleep on a bed.

Since finishing the row, a lot of people have asked me what I learnt along the way. Truth be told, besides learning how to row, I didn't learn much. I didn't 'find' myself, have any epiphanies, or spiritual experiences. I just built a boat and rowed a river. I met some interesting characters, saw a big slither of Australia, and ate way too many cans of beans. It was great, and that is enough for me.

For more details and photos of the build and the row, you can check out or take a look at:

It would be great to hear from anyone with similar interest or has any ideas for my next challenge as the Summer holidays are getting close...

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