High and dry – how the tide tables turn
  |  First Published: June 2017

It’s not that I don’t trust Skipper, it’s just that I might not necessarily trust him in certain situations. Like, for instance, being stuck on a small boat in cold weather with him is one of those times I wouldn’t trust him, mostly with my raincoat.

The last time I trusted him, at Awoonga in about 1950, he stole my raincoat from the wet bag before I could get it myself. This time around, it was him with the wet bag, due to the rain that fell on us, and the fact that I had put the raincoat on the day before I left my place to go to his place and hadn’t taken it off, even in the shower.

And, okay, so I felt wetter than something that was really, really wet while I was cast netting in 30°C weather, but it was all worth it at 3am. Given that my boat had broken down and we were stuck on the river, and I had a raincoat on, and Skipper didn’t.

It’s a funny thing, but you feel so much drier if the people around you are wetter. And I know it’s hard to believe that a snafu like this really happened, but it did. Who’d have believed it?

Speaking of which, I’d rather not. I’d rather assign it to those deep dark halls of recollections that lurk in the lost and cobwebbed corners of my memory. But speak of it I must, or write about it at least. In some small way it’s good to air out my fishing failings. Goodness knows I’d have nothing to write about unless I write about failings.

It’s not as if a plethora of successful trips springs to mind every month. Fortunately for me, it’s often a case of deciding which snafu I write about. This one was a clear winner. Your boat breaking down and an overnight stay combined with several hours of paddling, rain and catfish is a hard one to beat, even in our range of duddliness.

Mind you, a boat breaking down is not uncommon. Plenty of people get stuck in that situation. It’s not unique. What’s unique is how we, as Dudds, tend to so elegantly and frequently get into these pickles, and how we keep doing it, getting worse and worse as time goes by. I’m not sure why the common denominator in these dramas is me. Go figure.

Anyway, in this case the batteries both gave out after dark. Luckily for me and Skipper, we were right at the end of the run-in tide, so we got a good three or four minutes of slack water before the tide changed. That three or four minutes allowed us to get a good 20m closer to the ramp before the water rushed back downstream. By throwing out the anchor we managed to end up 2m closer to the ramp than when we started. Bonus.

We sat back and planned our course of action. It was only 1km or so to the ramp. Easy. When the tide changed, and provided the wind stayed low, we could make it back with the tide with a strong 30 minute paddle. What could go wrong?

The tricky part was the six or seven hours waiting until the tide changed back.

Luckily for me and Skipper, that waiting was made easy because my boat has plenty of room to lie down to sleep, provided you’re the size of something that’s not very sizeable. At least the weather was holding… until the rain appeared.

Like I said, it was around 3am and it wasn’t that cold – for me, anyway. Not only did I have the only good raincoat in the boat, but I had plenty of exercise wrapping a cord cut from the rope of my cast net around the flywheel of my 90hp four-stroke. I knew that if I could just crank the engine over it would kick off, and get us going. Which I couldn’t, and it didn’t. Even Boobies would have had trouble with that pull, but it did take my mind off waiting and Skipper whining about the rain, and the cold, and not being a hobbit.

Eventually after a couple of months, the tide changed and gave us the chance to paddle back to the ramp before dawn, and spare us the embarrassment of being stuck on the river. Which is when the wind began to blow. After four hours of paddling we came to the understanding that we weren’t going to make the ramp.

We actually moved about 100m as the crow flies in that four hours. And when I say ‘as the crow flies,’ a crow flying in that wind would have covered 100m quicker than Clive Palmer with a sausage roll voucher. Admittedly, there was considerable wind resistance with Skipper and I standing up and paddling, but we couldn’t seem to make any headway.

I haven’t mentioned this to Skipper yet, but as the dawn broke, I realised we were on a mud bank in about 2ft of water, which would probably account for our lack of progress. I turned off the sounder before he could see. I might wait until after his double shoulder reconstruction before I tell him. Ah, such is life being a Dudd.

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