Chapter 46

Trimarans are most stable upside down!
In the office one of our technical officers, Bill Wilson, had a trimaran he had built several years earlier and it was not fast enough for him now so he decided to sell it. It was a Hartley design, 28ft. extended to 30ft, a Hartley ‘Sparkle’ called ‘Coolaroo’. My attitude at the time was that trimarans were most stable upside down, but Bill had completed several Brisbane-Gladstone races in it in the multi hull division, so I said I would like to see it before some silly person bought it.

In reality Betty was disinterested and when I asked her what she thought about it the comment was to the effect “well, if you must have it, then get it”. I was always interested in boats and sailing but had not participated in boating actively since my school days so thought, why not. We did not have the ready cash so I arranged for a personal loan from the bank for $3000 and bought the boat. While it on the slip I repainted the parts needing attention and became familiar with sailing again. We left it at Bill’s place for a few months then I got a pile mooring in Doboy Creek at Morris Marina. Hugh and Joan got the marina piles when they bought the caravan park and boat building business so I got a mooring between two piles opposite the slipway. Being a shallow draft, a mooring was available and the small dinghy could be left in the dinghy rack on the jetty where there was a crane to haul the dinghy out of the water and swing it over the deck so it could be stowed in the rack. It only took a short time to get accustomed to the boat with its outboard motor. Outboard motors have peculiarities of their own and this one had a habit of the starter pulley coming loose at times. Now, whatever spare time I used to have was spent with this new toy.
The first Easter we had the boat we took it to Day’s Gutter, off Moreton Island, and anchored there where we met up with Jim and Robin Wright. Jim owned a large Halvorsen cruiser, “Kuringai” and Robin was learning music from Betty. It was interesting to compare the difference between the facilities on each boat from Spartan conditions to opulence, but at least we were out over the bay and enjoyed walking through the public oyster beds at low tide. We were entertained on board one night when a strong wind warning came up for the next day, so we went back the boat and prepared to leave at first light. The wind came up and we left under staysail and motor and ran across to Wellington Point where we sheltered in the lee of the point. The wind was increasing in strength so we decided Betty and the children would go back by car. We rang Nick and June Von Berky who came down from Brisbane. June took the family back while Nick came across Waterloo Bay with me. The boat was under staysail alone and handled well, so we motored through the Boat Passage and up the river to the mooring. That trip gave me a warning of what could happen if you got caught off guard and we were lucky that time.
There was another trip when we took friends to Green Island and went ashore. I spent most of the time rowing back and forward in this small dinghy and handling the boat. When we got home Betty said words to the effect, “I never saw much of you out there today”, to which I replied, “Well someone had to handle the boat the dinghy”. I can see now that just as I could not participate actively in Betty’s music scene, she could not commit herself to this type of boating scene even though she tried. There was the time we planned to take the boat to the Gold Coast during the August holidays, or, I thought we planned. However, for some reason Betty decided she was too busy, or did not want to go, so said “You and the children go…” which was what we did.
We spent the first night anchored off Fisherman’s Island at the mouth of the river and during the afternoon went into the mangroves lining the shore … it was like being in a strange forest even though we did not go far into them. Next day we went across the bay and anchored at Canipa where there was a sand loading jetty and a large sand slip. I don’t know how much of this the children took in as they seemed more interested in reading Phantom comics down below. We motored and sailed through Canipa Passage to Jumpinpin Bar, then to Pandanus Island where we spent another night. Sailing along Tipplers Passage we crossed the Broadwater and noticed how Paradise Point had developed in the last twelve years since I worked there. We then found an anchorage on the Southport side of the Basin, outside the main channel and north of the Nerang Bridge where we spent a couple of days. Here you could row ashore and leave the dinghy on the bank, then walk to the new supermarket for shopping at Southport. Ian came and met us and took us around to see the coast. We returned home following the Main Channel and going through the ‘Crossover’ with the incoming tide. I’ve forgotten where we anchored that night but from there we sailed past Cleveland and King Island to the Darcy Light at the entrance to the Boat Passage, then through the Boat Passage. The tide was low so we had to wait when half-way through for the tide to rise. Then a short run to the mouth of Doboy Creek and we were back at the moorings. We rang Betty who then came down and collected us. It was a good trip and a pity Betty did not come with us. It should have sent warnings that all was not as stable as it could have been and we continued on our busy existence.

Chapter 45

Relieving Area Manager

In 1970 I was seconded to Townsville for a few weeks relieving the area manager who unexpectedly had to take leave and there had to be an engineer there for several contracts in progress.

Another job took me to Cape Moreton where I flew to Cairns to board the vessel then proceeded past Bouganville Reef to Willis Island. Bouganville Reef had a vessel which had been wrecked on it years ago and it looked foreboding. Willis Island was a coral island with very few palms. It was a manned Weather Station where three officers did a year before being relieved. The island was self-contained, relying on the Cape Vessels for supplies and services. The staff were not permitted to have boats there to go fishing because there was no one to help if things went wrong. There was almost a year’s supply of frozen foods, vegetables, tinned foods and alcohol. Their job was to record weather and release and monitor helium filled balloons at regular intervals. Power was generated with diesel gen sets and I think they had three sets. There was always a welcome from the island when the Larc from one of the Cape Vessels drove through the arch showing “Welcome to Willis Island”. We then went to Lihou Reef to check it for an automatic weather station and then to Flinders Reef. Coming ashore in Townsville I then flew home.

I was happy to be back into a normal routine. Betty was putting her musical talent to use, apart from teaching she started writing an operetta, “Marco Polo” for children, telling Marco Polo’s story in music and song and this kept her busy in her spare time. There was a lot of work going through the office and the house was still not finished. Our week-end social life was always busy.

In 1971 Ian and Lesley bought a motel site on the Pacific Highway at Mermaid Beach and built a Spanish style two-storey motel. I did the structural design for this for Ian and it went together well. They called it ‘Costa Brava’ and it was still there last time I looked.