A group of six boats and nine travellers set off from Tocumwal to travel downstream to Echuca and Torrumbarry. The trip was planned to coincide with the Cape Horn winery trip up from Echuca, and we were going to meet the fleet of paddle steamers coming up from Echuca at Cape Horn.
Intrepid voyagers at Tocumwal
Penguin loaded for travel
After a blessing of the fleet, we set sail under the Tocumwal bridge for a photo opportunity. Downstream of Tocumwal almost every bend had a nice sandy beach, with lots of campers and day trippers around. Our first night was at one of these beaches. There were koalas in the trees, lots of kookaburras, cockys and other bird life.
On this trip it was all about the journey not the destination, so daily distances were limited to about 20 to 25kms. This allowed us to depart about 9 am, and then choose our next camp site at a pre-arranged mileage or named location, by around lunch time or early afternoon. We carried all fuel, supplies and equipment, and camped on the river bank each night, at some terrific spots.
As soon as we stopped, firewood was gathered and the camp fire lit. The afternoon was taken up with walks in the surrounding bush, reading and relaxing by the fire setting up the tents, or attending to various household chores.
We soon established a routine for travel, with Jim Stockton setting off an hour before the rest of us as he liked a drift/row along with the current enjoying the peace and quiet watching the bird life. We generally caught up with Jim by morning teatime and I would pull up on the bank with him for a cuppa. He would then motor the rest of the way for that day. Consequently if we did a fuel consumption test, Jim would have won hands down.
Agnes - Washing day
Moonshine and Hussy Enda
Andrew and Hahn in Mars left next as they were a little slower than other boats. Russell and Margaret Hurren in Agnes and myself in Penguin followed. Ian and Fran in Hussy Enda and Graham in Moonshine left last as they were the quickest boats, but also both having outboards needed to keep a little speed on to enable manoeuverability in the current which was running at about 4 km/h.
By day 2 we were in Barmah forest, and there was nobody around and no other boats on the river. We stopped at old log cutters landings, where the low river banks enabled us to step ashore easily, and there was usually a nice clearing to camp in.
The first stop where any sort of supplies was available was Picnic Point at Mathoura on day 5 at the caravan park. At Picnic Point the Murray splits in two, forming the Edwards river which heads north to Deniliquin, and the Murray continuing south. Here we entered “The Narrows” an area of narrow river, swift current and lots of snags in the way. We stayed close together in case there was any need of towing or rescue if a boat ran into difficulty.
Russell and Margaret in Agnes went the wrong side of a snag and bumped over a tree trunk. This did no damage, but did pop the rudder off the pintles, resulting in loss of steering. There was another snag dead ahead and Russell had no choice but to hit it. Again no damage and he was able to get to shore where the rudder was refitted.
This narrow section was passed by the time we reached Barmah Lake, then a short distance to our overnight stop at Barmah. On this stretch, the river was wide and clear, but in the middle of the river Penguin hit a hidden snag, with the sound of splitting wood. I hoped it was the tree branch but no - it was one of the planks splitting over a length of about half a metre. I quickly checked the bilge expecting water rushing in, but all was good. The timbers remained tight, and the split did not prove any problem for the rest of trip. Now at home, repairs are underway.
At Barmah there was a store to restock fuel and food, and we could get showers at the caravan park.We enjoyed dinner at the Barmah pub, and won a meat tray in the raffle. Next night we did a big combined BBQ over the fire.
At Cape Horn on the Saturday we were joined by another 12 boats, including most of the privately owned paddle steamers from Echuca, and WBA member Roderick Smith in Jessie II . After all boats were safely moored a big camp fire was lit and the group enjoyed socialising with music and singing by talented musicians. Next day we left our small boats, and travelled on paddle steamer Tooraloora, with Harry and Margaret up to the winery for lunch.
As I had to be in Sydney in two days time, I left the fleet here and travelled directly back to Echuca for the night before returning to Tocumwal to collect the car and trailer, drove to Yarrawonga to assist with organising the funeral for Jenny’s mum who had just died, then back to Echuca to retrieve the boat and home to Melbourne. The other boats continued for another 4 days to Torrumbarry.
Penguin used about 30 litres of fuel, about half of what I carried, (as my son Andrew said, re fuel, you can either look at it, or look for it). I ran a gas fridge when ashore, and the 4kg bottle lasted the week and ran the fridge very effectively. I took an Oztent which although heavy to carry and bulky, could be set up in 30 seconds so was ideal for overnight stays for this trip.
This was a great trip with a friendly bunch of people, and I would definitely do it again at some time. In fact Ian and Fran are proposing to do the section from Torrumbarry to Mildura in early October 2020. Contact Ian Cartwright on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. Report from David Stott
Ian and Fran Cartwright from Bendigo in Hussy Enda II
Graham Lynch from Queensland in Moonshine
Russell and Margaret Hurren from Nagambie in Agnes
Andrew and Hahn Campbell, Melbourne, in Mars.
Jim Stockton, Melbourne, in his Drascombe Lugger,
David Stott, Melbourne, in Penguin.