I loaded the Campjon
at three in the morning, well before first light. Wayne arrived
half hour later. Finally reached the boat ramp at 4.30 after all
the little delays that come when you plan a trip. The forecast
was for 15 to 20 knot winds from the south east, not very pleasant
but I was tired of waiting for fine weather. I had an eighteen
horse power Evinrude to try and I wasn't going to wait any longer.
We left the boat ramp with nav
lights twinkling and headed for the Brisbane River mouth. The
cargo and container ships were being loaded in the dark at Fisherman
islands wharf, but we left that behind us and headed for the winking
beacons that formed the Brisbane river Roads.
I gave the motor full throttle and we both smiled at each other,
it flew, absolutely flew. We exchanged the usual curses that meant
we were pleased and away we went, bound for Mud Island.
This motor was a dream to use,
circa 1972 and it looked it, but when I pulled the flywheel off
to service the points before the trip I noticed it had new coils
and points. The guy who sold it to me didn't lie after all. I
was rather worried about taking it out due to the length of the
trip I had planned, but there was no need to worry.
Mud Island! I would look out of
my bedroom window when I was six and dream of landing on these
islands. And now I was about to set foot on Mud, the first of
the Green Island group. The "sand beach" I had seen
in the past wasn't sand at all, it was a rim of dead coral surrounding
the Island. By the time we reached Mud first light had appeared
and we could see the bottom of the surrounding waters. Nice, but
I regretted not bringing the snorkelling gear or the underwater
was concerned about any lurking Mud Crabs"
I couldn't beach the boat because
of the coral, so we waded in knee deep water to the beach and
stood on a mound of dead coral. This island has a prehistoric
feel to it. Inside the dead coral ring is a swamp, and inside
that the island proper. I didn't go to it, I didn't have the foot
wear and I was concerned about any lurking Mud Crabs. They can
shatter a beer bottle with their claws, so what could they do
to unprotected toes ? Wayne agreed with me on this, nodding his
head furiously. The fishing was pathetic, not a single bite. It
was time to move on, the sun was up and the wind had changed to
the predicted Southerly which gave us an unpleasant head sea on
the way to St Helena .
St Helena is a former penal colony
site, it still has the ruins and herds of cattle that I saw on
it when I was a kid. We weren't allowed to go to the ruins, guided
tours only and the island had a ranger or two in residence so
we didn't push our luck. Wayne was hungry, he had already eaten
the sandwiches we had and was looking for more. Hell, it was only
7:30 AM, what was wrong with the man ?
I noticed a large amount of prickly
pear cactus growing on a hill, it was bearing purple fruit and
I had eaten them in the past so I decided to introduce Wayne to
them, the taste of them. I warned him about the fine spines on
the skin and how to remove them, and not to get them into his
hands because it was worse than glass fibre.
He nodded. I peeled a fruit and
was eating it when I noticed Wayne wincing. "Whats wrong
?" "These bloody spines! I cant get them out of my hand
and they're driving me insane !" He didn't taste the Prickly
Pear fruit after all, the spines distracted him.
St Helena is an excellent island
with rolling green hills, Fresian cattle and wild flowers. Hard
to imagine that people were flogged to death here. For minor discrepancies
too. I'm glad the 1800's are over.
The last island of the three was
Green Island, it was also the island I favoured the most as a
child, possibly because it was the closest to the mainland and
therefore more accessible in my day dreams. It was a dissapointment.
Covered in tangled scrub, and the small picnic shelter the council
had installed in the early seventies was rundown and overgrown.
I hate it when reality does that, shatter my childhood dreams.
St Helena was the best of the three
islands but one island remained in my sight, and that was Moreton.
I had visted Moreton before, around twenty years ago, but that
had been by barge and I walked around on foot. Exhausting to say
the least, it is a huge island compared to the others. The only
problem was the distance. Moreton bay is formed by the presence
of Moreton Island, and beyond it is the open ocean ofthe Coral
Sea. Moreton and Stradbroke island stop the wild seas of the pacific
reaching the bay, but it's a big bay and a lot of water to cross.
We were heading back to St Helena,
to see if we could sneak around the back and explore that part
of it without the Ranger's knowledge. This has more appeal than
actually asking, for some reason. It looked to be inaccessible,
but it gave us a full view of Moreton Island in the distant east.
I looked at Wayne, then looked at Moreton, and without a word
I headed toward it. Wayne realised what I was doing about halfway
across, too late to complain.
The trip across the bay was almost
uneventful, except for the occasion when I drifted across the
face of a wave, the full force of it slamming into the bow and
sending a sheet of water skyward. This cascaded down on our heads
and shocked the pair of us with it's chill.
Moreton loomed larger every minute
and I began taking snapshots each time we stopped to rest my hand.
The outboard's throttle is the classic twist grip on the tiller,
holding it fully open was a strain. Obviously I would need to
do some work on it when we were back home. I headed for the "Big
Sandhills", veering north as I approached and wound up at
two rusting steamship hulks. Skeletal frames and boilers, not
much else left. We were trying to decide wether to go north up
the island or south, both directions held interest but the need
for fuel made north a sure thing, there was a petrol station at
Wayne was all agog, he had never
been to Moreton island before and it was my pleasure to take him
there. We rounded shark spit and headed for Tangalooma point.
Beyond this was the island resort of Tangalooma which never really
held any interest for me. What was more interesting was the dozen
or so shipwrecks that formed an artificial reef nearby. I wanted
to nose the boat up to the most intact hulk for photographs, but
there was a group from the resort snorkelling the site and I had
to give them a 30 metre berth by law. They were flying flag code
A, the divers flag.
What the hell is this ?! It stung me!!"
Nevermind, we puttered around the
northern part of the wrecks instead.
Not far from here I noticed a bottle bobbing in the chop and pulled
up to it, Wayne dutifully grabbing and the attached line. I have
found abandoned crab pots before by looking for moss covered floats
and lines and this was one of them. Wayne strained to raise it
but broke the line instead, it was obviously rotten. Not far off
was another one in the same moss covered condition, so again Wayne
grabbed the line and hauled it up ( without breaking it). As the
crabpot approached the surface Wayne started swearing and shaking
his right hand, some soft coral was growing on the rope and he
had touched it. Soft corals can sting.
"Luke!! What the hell is this
?! It stung me!! C'mon, damn you (I wasn't paying much attention,
I was admiring the crabpot) My hand is swelling up !!"
I explained to him not to worry
about it, the swelling would soon go down. I had no idea really,
I was more stoked at the professional crabpot I now posessed.
I love finding booty, be it crabpots
or bronze propellors, it's all fun. The crabpot was a nylon collapsible
one, around four foot in diameter and was in excellent condition.
This makes four pots in four months. Who needs to buy them?
Again we went northward, we needed
to, the fuel was getting low for the trip back and I knew it would
be a harder journey home than arriving. Moreton Bay has a terrible
habit of increasing it's seas after midday, and with the turn
of the tide comes a shift in the wind. I had stopped to rest my
hand again when Wayne let out a gasp. A large Leatherback turtle
has surfaced close by and was studying us. Wayne became a boy
again, as he always does on these occasions, "Closer Luke,
get closer !" he insisted until the turtle dove away.
Then the dolphins came, edging
closer when I slowed down and swam around the boat when I stopped.
One of them dove under the boat and fooled around down there which
worried me, the motor was still running in forward gear. He resurfaced
a minute later. This had Wayne quite excited, you know? He loves
animals, and dolphin are highly regarded by everyone I know. They
became bored with the boat and swam off. To cap it all Wayne noticed
something move in the water as we were speeding along and insisted
I go back. I was going to tell him to jam it, I was sick of stopping
for every little flicker in the water that might happen to be
something of interest, but I went back instead. It was a Dugong,
I only just saw it before it dove out of sight. I have never seen
a dugong in the flesh , and this was only the briefest of sightings
but I felt it was worth it, just for the sake of saying I had
seen one. The bay has large herds of them but they are a shy creature,
and rarely seen.
I found Bulwer by locating the
two wrecks that mark it, a hell of a long way from Tangalooma.
I didn't remember it being that far from my last visit, but that
was twenty years ago. I drove the boat between the two wrecks
to beach it, the water appeared calmer there and it would shelter
us from the wind. Mistake ! The beach had become a surf beach
and we took three waves over the transom before we could get the
boat off the sand. I tried further down and again, no luck. Surf.
Finally Wayne jumped off with a jerry can and stumbled ashore,
I couldn't place him any closer than I did which meant waist deep
don’t like swimming in shark infested waters"
He walked up to a couple in a four
wheel drive and asked directions, they quite graciously drove
him there and back. Meanwhile I motored out into deeper water
to wait, and to bail the boat out. Wayne was back, waving at me
and the transfer from the shore to the boat went fairly well,
no swamping this time. We made a snap decision then to head back
home, the surf made it impossible to beach, and anchoring in calm
water placed us too far offshore. I don’t like swimming
in shark infested waters.
I nosed the boat around, and as
I knew it would be, the southerly wind that had been blowing all
day intensified. We had no choice but to head into it, with the
bow slamming and pounding at anything faster than a walking pace.
This was going to be grueling. I was immediately pissed off. I
turned the boat westward, that's where Brisbane lay but if I kept
that course I would end up at Bribie Island, way too far north.
We pounded for an age into the south, with small movements west,
then I headed south/west, the best compromise.
This was OK, I could reach full
speed most of the time, until one of those bow slapping waves
came along and sent the water skyward to drench us as it returned.
The wind increased again, I was unintentionally heading for Bribie
Island again, I was annoyed again. Wayne fell through his seat
from the pounding, something I didn't notice at first until I
heard him calling my name over and over . The reason for my not
hearing him being the outboard at full throttle beside my left
ear. We stopped and jury rigged a seat from a plastic storage
bin and a sheet of ply. This lasted fifteen minutes before the
bin shattered, then we placed the ply over a bulkhead.
Wayne was uncomfortable with this
and I really don’t blame him, I wouldn't like to ride a
bucking sheet of ply in a rolling, pitching boat with a quartering
sea and the occasional drop into a deep trough. That's how it
was all the way back, climb the back of the wave, drop into it's
trough with a resounding thump, Wayne's butt working back and
forth on the piece of ply. I was no longer disgusted by his crack
showing, it no longer mattered and he no longer cared, apart from
the feeble attempt to pull his pants up after one particularly
vicious wave sent us sprawling. He wanted to stand up but I wouldn't
allow it, Wayne is a big man, and all that weight aloft would
make the boat roll more than it already was.
I finally saw the cranes of Fishermans Island wharf at the Brisbane
river mouth, and soon after located the beacons of the "roads".
The struggle was still on, we needed to continue south/west until
I could align the river westward.
Finally it was over, I was heading
true west down the river and apart from a stupid combined decision
to look at an area near the mouth (we grounded the boat with the
wind against us and I was screaming with rage) we arrived safely
back at the boat ramp. Sheer relief and hot meat pies at the store.
The owner small talked us for a while and we discussed the trip.
Wayne and I both agreed that at no point during the trip back
did we feel in danger, the biggest worry being a sudden change
in the weather, or increase in the size of the waves.
The day ended (it was 5:30 by
now) with an act of carelessness on my behalf. I went to the boat
and brought it around under power to the ramp while Wayne started
the car. I milled around at speed, doing circles and figure eights
waiting for a pair of fools to leave the boat ramp with their
dinghy. Wayne backed the car and trailer down the ramp and these
two became silently indignant, moving the dinghy across the ramp
into my path as I approached. I spun the boat around, but I was
so close that the prop struck the concrete of the ramp. I lost
forward gear, which isn't really a problem, a simple adjustment
when I was home fixed this, but it was very real problem at the
ramp. I had to reverse the boat up to the trailer and spin it
while Wayne caught the bow. Only one attempt was required but
we were tired and it was a strain to hold the boat against the
The boat was loaded, we drove the
car home and Wayne went his way. This was a brilliant day, and
I said to Wayne at the end of it "If we dont take risks and
look for the excitement of it, it's never going to happen. Never
" Wayne agreed fully. I was talking more to myself than Wayne.