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other team members driving down on weekends and whenever
they could get away to assist in the construction, bar one crew
member, Greg Clark, whose home was in Huskisson, NSW. A bit
too far away to pop over and lend a hand every weekend.
The first boat completed was christened Lazy Gull, and
would be John and Greg’s home for the duration of the trip. The
second boat was for Mark Pannowitch from Adelaide, who was
only able to complete part of the trip due to work commitments,
while the third, named Chip Eater, was for Alan ‘Moose’ Marsh
and his wife, Pat.
They were all constructed from 6mm marine plywood, coated
with epoxy resin and a single layer of 200gsm fibreglass all over,
with additional layers of kevlar fibre on the underside and the
keel to help protect against snags, running up onto rocks and
gravelly beaches. They were painted a shade of white that looks
grey in some light, with bare undercoat on the inside.
They were all fitted with a grey canvas top, with zip out
front window so the bow could be easily reached, and zip-out
side windows to get a breeze while travelling, but with mozzie
protection for sleeping aboard each night.
The idea was to cook and socialise on land, but sleep aboard
in comfort away from the insects and other critters that inhabit
the river banks.
They reasoned that the trip should cover the continuously
navigable section of the river – from Yarrawonga Weir in NSW
to Goolwa in South Australia – totalling some 2,000km and
passing through a couple of dozen riverside towns, 13 -odd locks,
numerous conservation areas, State Forests, National Parks and
other places of interest.
They set out from Yarrawonga on a fine Monday morning in
October, cheered off by Rob Ripley, another Seagull enthusiast,
who had driven up from Melbourne to see them off.
About an hour later the Seagull on Moose’s boat died and
had to be swapped for the spare. Not a good omen for the start
of an 1,800km journey. However, they all arrived at Cobram and
camped the first night in the caravan park there, and woke to
warbling magpies and laughing kookaburras. Did the kookaburras
know something they didn’t?
After a few days of pottering down the river, stopping now
and then to tighten loose nuts, or to change a spark plug, and
changing the gearbox oil every night, they settled into the rhythm
of life on the Murray. Up early to get a start on the day, with a
goal to reach a certain kilometre marker or campsite at the end
of the day, but generally enjoying the trip and settling in for the
long haul to Goolwa.
They reached Echuca on day four, having been astonished
by a swarm of blue wrens in the morning, and startled by a red-
bellied black snake that John almost stepped on. A warning to
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