The boat – the real boat – now has a continuous rail underneath, making it easy to slide up the hillside, onto the ute and into the water. However, our first attempt to launch it it at Comerang bridge bogged the ute in sand. With the help of rearranged pebbles, a raincoat, spare trousers, and a young kayakker camping with his mates nearby, we unbogged, parked on firm road and tugged the boat down sand for its second launch. I arranged myself in the stern with space to stretch my legs along the inside decking, which is now in place, although still unglued. I lounged back against a cushion like a nineteenth century lady, although I didn't have a frilled parasol and an elegant dress, elegantly draped: just a hat that makes me look like a charmless lampshade and a life jacket to guard against mishaps.
We skimmed under the bridge and headed off down the river, trying to match the banks against the Eurobodalla road that has been our familiar artery now for 40 years. We recalled the evil poaching days of our youth when we used to string a net across the river with the help of the Bismarck, half a 44 gallon drum and all the boat we could afford. We'd throw a haul of mullet on the barbie: fresh, they tasted wonderful, without any of the despised mud flavor.
We rowed down the river seeing the world in unfamiliar dimensions. Down … the replicating reflections, undisturbed until oar ripples reached them. Through … shimmering patches of light to a sandy bottom. Out … to a line of mountains, changing position and visibility with every curve of the river: Comerang, Gulaga, Hanging Mountain, Sugarloaf. Mistletoe blossoms floated by and so did tiny amoeba-shaped sand islands: when they were tapped with an oar, grains of sand detached and disappeared down into the water. A flash of orange proved to be an azure kingfisher, and water monitors lounged on dead logs, heads alert. Large dark fish shapes zapped through the water as we zigzagged our way around sand bars, at one point gouging a track in the sand which was still visible when we returned by the same route.
It was a sand bar that stopped us after about 4 kilometres and we headed back to launch point. One of the kayakkers came over to lend his hefty youth to the business of reloading the boat on the ute, and it flew along the sand and up the ramp.
It's a long weekend, so we went out early to avoid holiday crowds. We launched near Bumbo bridge, and headed upriver to meet the end point of yesterday's row. As we we putting the boat in the water the sun caught a flash of iridescent green as a flight of ducks took off.
The early morning light and a gentle wind gave us shivering reflections, unlike yesterday's still ones: the rusty stamens of casuarinas, the white pea flowers of black locust, the intermittent patches of green bank, the delicate fronds of maiden hair fern, the pale trunks of eucalypts. A pair of hawks crisscrossed the river ahead of us; three plovers (species to be determined) flew beside us, red legs trailing; pelicans cruised along the other bank; a kingfisher's call was very near, but we couldn't spot the elusive songster.
A black and white cow peered at us curiously through the low branches of a tree and we were amused until we saw another cow, obviously trapped, struggling to get out of the river. We turned around, with one reach to go to meet yesterday's row, looking for landmarks so we could find the farmer and let him know. The granite church at Bodalla looming in the distance gave us the necessary orientation.
We rowed back lazily against tide and freshening wind, and into the hotting-up sun. The oars created miniature whirlpools and dropped circles of ripples onto the ruffled surface. Their shadows appeared on the sand below us. The rower changed position to scull, but a few adjustments need to be made before he can scull effectively.
Movement caught our attention. A head was looking at us, attached to a sinuous body coiling along the surface of the water. As we debated its markings – python? or tiger snake? … hard to tell for sure when the pattern was wet – it changed direction and began heading towards us, drawn by the vibration of oars and the movement of the boat. We backed off, until it lost interest and retreated to a dead tree. A python in the boat could be charming: not so a tiger snake.
Our predictions of crowds at the launching place proved wrong, as predictions usually do. We tugged our boat out without drama, although not without effort, and headed off to find the farmer, a beer and an afternoon doze. I don't know why lounging back and lazy looking is so fatiguing. I haven't even touched the oars yet.
Plans for a Monday row were aborted by the weather forecast: rain and high winds. I like the sense of being dominated by nature in this way, needing to know what it's up to and accommodating it.
Note: The forecast was wrong! It was a beautiful sunny day with a light wind, but gluing in the decking, raking up and burning off took precedence over boating.
This blog has been brought to you without photos because, sadly, my dunking last weekend killed our boating camera. I have a sneaking suspicion that I see more and store more when I'm not depending on the camera as an adjunct memory and set of eyes.