Sunday, 7 May 2017

Rob and Cait go...boating ?


"I saw a boat today"

"OK".  What a random thing for the lovely Cait to say.  A week later...

"It's still there"

"What is ?"

"The boat"

"What kind of boat is it ?"

"I don't know.  It has a canape" 

A what ?

"You know.  One of those thingys for the sun"

Oh, a canopy.

"So why do you keep telling me about this boat?"

"I think we should buy it"

Well knock me down with a feather.

Unbeknownst to many, I have a long association with boats.  I spent my childhood around them, in them, being towed behind them.  I love boats.  I also spent my childhood around blokes cursing them, fixing them, trying to start them, taking them off to be repaired, constantly working on them, getting towed back after they broke down again, cracking the shits about them.  So as much as I love them, they are money pits.  My Dad had a friend who is a millionaire.  He owned a boat repair business.  End of story.  So when the lovely Cait announced her wonderful idea, I was a little excited, and a little scared.  However, we did drive to look at it, and one glimpse at her happy little face I knew that boat was ours.  She was already thinking over names for it.  Deal done. 

As I don't have time to mess with details, Cait organised the purchase, the registration...etc.  It was going to be all her baby.  The previous owners brought it around a week later, somehow reversed it down our scary driveway, signed the paper work, then drove away.  Leaving Cait the proud owner of a boat.  Welcome to your new owner "Elvis".

Of course they had to bring it around, as we didn't have a tow bar.  Cait organised this during the week, and close to $1000 later, we had a tow bar.  Let the burning of the cash begin.

Oh wait.  The trailer has a flat tyre.  Quick, get some more money from my wallet for the bonfire.

I spent a week tinkering around getting the engine started.  It hadn't been used for a while, and sitting outside languishing in the weather had not helped.  Each evening I would give the rope a few tugs (pull start engine) working fuel through the engine.  I began noticing a misty gaze in Cait's eyes as I tugged away.  Obviously she thought I knew what I was doing and was admiring my manliness.  "Will is start soon?" she asked.  "Yeah, soon" I nonchalantly replied, hiding my nervous worry that I could smell my credit card melting somewhere.  However, after a week of nervous tugging, Saturday afternoon there was a sudden roar of the mighty 25hp Johnson outboard motor roaring back into life.  There was also a London fog of oily smoke, but we didn't care.  Rob and Cait were going boating.

Sunday morning I fired up the beast again just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.  It roared into life, and life was good.  Cait meanwhile organised the all important picnic hamper that had to be just right to celebrate this momentous occasion.  Then lathered in sunblock, off we went.

Now was the moment of truth.  I had never ever reversed a trailer before.  For men, it is a test of manhood, a rite of passage, and my time had come.  With years of advice roaring in my head, hands clenched tight enough to crack walnuts wrapped around the steering wheel, dripping with nervous sweat, I nervously wibble wobbled our little boat down the ramp.  After endless corrections, repeated restarts, I somehow managed to get down the ramp.  I was a man at last.  I drove off to park the trailer, walking back to the boat ramp delirious with happiness.  The engine fired up first go, and off we went. Cait needed reassurance that we weren't going to crash into other boats.  She was picking out specks in the distance and asking "are they coming towards us?"  Technically, yes, but I was trying to explain that they were five minutes away, and we were going to be fine.  I handed the boat over to Cap'n Caiti for a while, and she putt putted along proud as punch, but still worried about all those other boats.

Captain Caiti
After a while Jerusalem Bay came into sight, so we turned in and found a spot to anchor.  A lovely long relaxing picnic ensued, and we were in heaven. Eventually though, it was time to fire up the engine and head home.

tug - bbbb - silence.  tug - bbbb - silence. tug - bbbb - silence.  

"Is everything OK" asked Cait.  "Yeah, it'll be fine"

But after an hour and a half of tug - bbbb - silence the motor still wouldn't start, I had chunks of skin missing from my hands, and the only thing running full throttle were my stress levels.  Cait had 1 tiny bar of reception on her phone, which allowed a google search of services.  Eventually we contacted Maritime Rescue, and waited patiently.  I warned Cait that it was going to be a large vessel, but she was still surprised when a miniature warship with a large "POLICE" on the side approached us.  Nervously Cait asked "will you be in trouble because you don't have a license?"

Technically no license is required if you run under 10 knots, so no, I wasn't in any trouble.  However I couldn't resist saying "but it's not my boat, it's yours.  You're the one in trouble".  Well didn't that joke go down a treat.  After calming her down and reassuring her all was well, the boys came alongside, roped us up, and towed us home.  Champions.

Back at Appletree Bay, the Police launch managed to crunch our windscreen to add to the fun of the the day.  We tied up, and I hustled off to get the car.  At this time, every man and his dog, and his kids, and all his mates were at the ramp.  As I jumped in the car and began heading to the ramp, an horrendous grinding, dragging noise began emanating from behind.  I was so incredibly stressed by this point that I just kept driving.  Just want boat out go home.  Soon non verbal with stress.  Even brain shut down soon.  Must get home. Want beer.

Trying to reverse, I soon discovered that I couldn't see the tiny trailer until it was way out of line.  With the ramp packed, I had no way to straighten, and needed to go forward and start again, to repeat the whole frustrating process.  As usual, after five minutes left alone Cait knew everyone's name and life story.  She worded me up on the wife hater alongside me, shouting abuse at his wife.  Cait then proceeded to kindly offer me advice about reversing that old mate wife hater had given her.  I just wanted to cry as I desperately tried not to become a wife abuser myself.  The party got better when old mate leaned across to offer advice to me as well.  Make it stop. Make it stop.  Eventually I got enough trailer into the water to make extraction possible.  Cait pointed out the bleeding obvious that the trailer was crooked, and should I try again.  No. 

As I hooked up and began winching the boat at a jaunty 45 degrees across the boat ramp, I noticed bits hanging down off the trailer.  So that was the grinding noise.  Did I care.  Not at all.  That boat was going on that trailer and I was going home.  Eventually we drove up the ramp, and were ready to set off.  Halfway up the hill, however, the grinding noise became incredibly loud and I had to pull over.  A quick glance told me there was nothing I could fix at this point, and anyway I just needed to get home before a blood vessel burst in my head.  As we drove along, the noise became louder and louder, and I became more and more anxious.  I had visions of the entire trailer disintegrating and the boat destructing as it crashed onto the road.  Dear God, please just let us get home.

Then suddenly silence.  Cait asked "did something just fall off?".  I just mumbled "I don't care" through stressed lips. In the rearview mirrors there was no tangled mass of twisted metal so to this day I do not know what miracle occurred.

Back home, a quick glance revealed that I was still the proud owner of a tangled mess of rusty metal that was incredibly somehow hanging from the trailer. Totally over the day, I chained the lot up, then settled into an Aperol Spritz and a million beers as the sun went down on a very memorable day.  It had been so relaxing to be out on the water. Maybe I could just have a quiet stroke in my sleep.

During the week I unbolted rusty mess that wasn't at all necessary in the first place. 

Another flat tyre.  The brand new one only a week old.  Tyre guys tell Cait "wow, so unlucky, that has never happened before". Naturally.  Can't tilt boat because it is missing a tyre.  While new tyre being organised, a week of rain fills the boat.

Boat in for repairs.  "Did you know you need a new trailer ?" Yep.

Ok.  Engine running.  Tyres pumped.  Same trailer, but still working.  Let's try this again.

Boat at the ramp, boat into the water, engine kicks, off we GO !  YES !  Rob and Cait are boating.

Dear Readers, I kid you not.  Just as we were high fiving, back slapping, popping champagne, the steering disappears, boat spins to the left and begins describing large circles around the upper reaches of the mighty Hawkesbury River.  I was SO over all things nautical by now. I clambered under the steering wheel to find loose cables lying on the floor.  A steering pulley had pulled free at the rear of the boat.   I had stopped the engine, but we were floating towards a group of fishing boats, so I needed to get us out of there quickly.  The engine predictably refused to kick. Cait looked anxious.  Pretending a calm I didn't feel, I eventually managed to get the beast started, then tugging on the steering lines like Ben Hur in the chariot scene, I managed to get us headed in a safe direction, then dived back under the steering wheel where I managed to jury rig enough traction to get the steering working.  In fact, it was better than before.  Cait thought we should head to the ramp, but we were finally on the water with the engine running and I was happy to cruise along.  We passed Maritime Rescue towing a boat, which cheered us up immensely.  We did a nice lap around past Mooney Mooney, then back to the dreaded boat ramp.

The first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.  The first rule of boat ramps is that there are no rules of boat ramps.  Compounded by random cars that cross behind you, or pull up so that you can't reverse and have to move forward again, starting the whole process over.  After endless frustratingly incompetent attempts to reverse the trailer, a large bloke pops his head in the window and asks "do you want me to have a go?".  Does he really think I will just get out of my car and let a complete stranger take control ?  Of course I did.  He soon discovered that you can't see the trailer, but with a lot more skill and experience than I possess, and a bunch of mates to guide him along, he wove that trailer in nicely.  Genius.  Cait had been waiting patiently and of course by now had everyone's life stories sorted, and she introduced me to a few new friends she had made. As we winched the boat up onto the trailer, it confirmed that Cait does not have a very good grasp of boats and trailers.  We got the job done though, and as we headed home Cait filled me in on all her new boat ramp friends.

Once home, I had decided that it was possible to get the boat down our incredibly steep driveway, then wheel it into place using straps.  Brilliant in conception, and whilst the idea has merit, I am now the proud owner of a great big hole in our fence (which thankfully stopped the out of control runaway boat from disappearing into our neighbour's houses).  Number One son yelled advice out the window: "you're not Superman you know".  Obviously.  Thanks son.  We eventually got the boat safely parked, but from here on in, we leave it in the street.  I ran some fresh water through the engine, tidied "Elvis" up, and there it awaits, wrapped in a big new blue tarp ready for it's next adventure.  If you don't hear about any more adventures, it means that everything is finally sorted.

Or we have sunk.  Haven't done THAT yet.

Stay posted.




  1. Love your adventure recaps! xx

  2. Couldn't stop laughing until I remembered our own boating disasters.

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