We could not locate the Lock Keeper to arrange an early morning passage through the Robinvale lock so, having done a recce the previous evening, we decided to portage. This entailed manhandling the boats down a steep rock embankment. With only two boats on the water extra personnel were available (and needed) to assist.
After the boats were sent on their way we dropped off Adrian and Bernie back at the caravan park to finish off dismantling the camp. Tony and I then sped off to the first planned fuel stop. This stop was near Tonga Station and was the longest distance between refuelling stops planned so far. Murphy’s Law was to come into play.
The boat being crewed by Greg and Michael broke down. After discussion with Kevin and Stewart in the other boat Greg and Michael, being lighter, decided to swap boats and press on to the Tonga Station refuel stop, where Tony and I were waiting. Meanwhile, at the refuel stop, I speculated on the lethal potential of a crazed, wild boar penned at the rear of the old station homestead, should it get free. The wind was cutting, bitingly cold.
After Greg and Michael arrived and advised us of the situation I sent them on their way, solo, to Mildura, hoping that no misfortune would befall them – they were on their own. The lack of access meant that Tony and I had to drive many kilometres back to Robinvale and then head downriver again but on the opposite bank.
Comms were very poor but I managed to contact The Bus crew and advise them that we were going to search for the disabled boat and therefore would not be able to refuel the remaining on-water boat. The Bus crew would have to obtain fuel at Mildura and refuel the boat.
Tony and I then returned to Robinvale, crossed to Victoria, and searched for the stricken boat on the southern bank. After a great deal of searching we found Kevin and Stewart and took them to Mildura, arriving just after Greg and Michael had left.
The crew in The Bus had managed to get from Robinvale to Wentworth by following road signs only, and without reference to maps. Their inexplicable reluctance or even inability to attempt to use a map resulted in them heading up the Menindee Road following the Darling River when they left Wentworth. As Tony and I set off in the Triton to once again follow the boats, I noticed The Bus heading in the wrong direction. I radioed them and directed them back to the Murray River. Frustrating!
The road paralleled the river, enabling us to call into the river at a couple of points and see the boats.
Rain clouds gathered ominously as the land crews arrived at Lock 8. The Lock Keeper was out fishing. The was no alternative but to wait for him and the boats. The Lock Keeper and darkness arrived at the same time. He’d had a successful fishing foray and was quite amenable to our request to camp on a portion of his vast expanse of neatly maintained lawn – a request facilitated by a six pack of Emu cans that bought back memories of his time spent in Esperance.
The boat crews arrived just after dark, just as the rain started lightly falling. Cooperation from the Lock Keeper meant a speedy passage through the lock for the two dinghies. The boats were hauled up a steep bank just downriver from the lock. No sooner had The Bus crew pulled into the allocated position than the rain came with a vengeance. Kevin and I set up camp while the boaters tried to get warm, and the others sheltered. We quickly established a comfortable and dry camp.
Lessons learnt on Day Five were:
- On breakdown, stay with boat, identify location.
- Map reading is more important than sign reading.
- Grease for the wheels is always need.