I had seen various wooden boats and steam launches at Goolwa rallies from 2005, and at Wentworth from 2007. My first meeting with the people was when WBA sent a fleet to Marlo to be part of the commissioning of replica PS Curlip, at the end of 2008. What a friendly and helpful group. I was there without Jessie II, but was offered a spare spot. I joined WBA, and have kept on meeting owners at further rallies. Jessie II hasn't appeared at many: often in SA when the Victorian division was rallying, once with a failed impellor (towed across Lake Nagambie), once with a failed trailer. I accompanied two Victorian members for part of their grand voyage from Echuca (departing Nov ember 2014) to Goolwa (arriving for the wooden boat festival).
Through the years, I had voyaged the whole water from the top Lake Hume to just below the mouth, but had never ventured down the Coorong properly, and never never completed my project to photograph every weir, bridge and punt, and to take Jessie II through every lock. Over the WABSA breakfast at Goolwa 2015, I became involved with Echuca. Jessie II had to stay in SA, and I had to join late (after attending the lock 1 foundation-stone centenary celebrations, and riding PS Marion voyaging through the night) but I had a ride in Morgan (my first time on the plane on a boat). Two WABSA events juggled trickily between returning from my Laos holiday (Mekong voyaging, plus other rivers), and leaving for my 40th anniversary Europe holiday. I skipped the Ukee weekend to clear time for Hindmarsh.
Jessie II had been with friends at Waikerie since the RMBOA Mannum - Caudo's ramble. I left Melbourne on Thursday, collected on Friday, overnighted on the grass at Clayton Bay, and
joined the group for dinner. Launching at the boat club was easy. My fears of skippering solo into potentially-rough water abated: the wind was lower than expected, and the clockwise passage was easy. My problems started when being almost tail-end at Tauwitchere: I tried to help the yacht out of the reeds, but lacked the power to manoeuvre it into the lock. After a couple of useless circles, we dropped anchor and waited for rescue by Gumleaf. That left me navigating by the chart once into the Coorong, and I was miscued. After tiptoeing alongside the causeway, I was ready to cut across to the channel when I saw Josephine Paule stranded. I went to the rescue.
I then tried to find a way through without going below 60 cm. I didn't succeed, and got stuck myself: the chart showed channel right of centre. Gumleaf rescued us both in turn; the channel was left of centre, and had plenty of water. For my convenience, I beached at Godfrey's Landing; other boats held off, with owners wading ashore. Morgan had collected my Deckie from Mundoo ramp when I was late. The evening was typical riverboat sociable. By Sunday morning, the wind had sprung up; our choice of clockwise had been a wise one.
Despite fears that I would stay beached, the tide did arrive, and I was off at 12.00 with the fleet. The continuing run was easy, bar for crossing over a dredge pipe. The 60 cm boats touched; I cleared with ease. After a locking where we all fitted together, I zoomed ahead to be out first, to make Greenings Landing in daylight, and set out for home. The others weren't far behind, and we all lingered for a farewell wind-down drink in the clubhouse, and to thank Barry for organising, and his deckie for cranking the lock for multiple boats. I made Greenings mid-evening, stayed aboard, transferred the gear in the morning, and made a leisurely run home to be onto Western Ring Rd after the evening peak.
A goal achieved, an adventure, new learning, with old friends and new: everything which a river rally should be. Hopefully, the goal of a multistate meeting at Wentworth Junction Rally 2016 will be achieved, and we'll meet again.