Practice Weekends


THE first practice weekend was organised for the weekend of 8-9 November 1980, to coordinate the efforts of all participants, ascertain the performance of equipment and provide an opportunity for members to get to know each other.

Early on Saturday morning Ted Whitney, Harvey Webster, John Haynes, John Mole, David Whitney, Peter Haynes, Rob Craker, Rob Whitney, Dave Eggins and Victor Watt departed for the start point – a bridge about 20 kilometres upstream from the Harvey Estuary. The boat crews  were to travel downriver and rendezvous with the support crew at the overnight stop on the shore of the estuary.

During this trip we tested CB handheld radios. The results were discouraging and we decided to obtain more efficient means of communications.

David Whitney and I put the Cleveland Marine prototype V hull through a rigorous workout. We were less than impressed.

The river trip proved to be fairly uneventful other than the problems encountered from lack of water. The support crew, however, had a more interesting time. The boat crews arrived at the rendezvous point  – but no support crew. Ted had bogged the truck after taking a wrong turn and backing into a ditch when turning around. Harvey used the winch on his Landcruiser to extricate it, Eventually the truck and all equipment arrived at the overnight campsite and, after initial teething problems, camp was set up. Discussion about the performance of the radios, the V hull and the equipment went far into the night.

On Sunday morning we set out for the mouth of the Serpentine River. There was a stiff south westerly breeze, low tide and conditions were rough. Along the way we practised keeping together in convoy formation.

The journey across the estuary took one hour and forty minutes.  The prototype V hull handled the choppy conditions no better than it handled the river conditions the previous day.

The boat crews couldn’t find the support crew at the rendezvous point so they set off on the return journey. Contact was eventually made at Dawesville, were the boats were refuelled.

At camp that night discussion was about the quantity and type of equipment.


THE second training exercise was held on the Murray River (WA) over the weekend of 13-14 December 1980.

Bob Craker, Dave Eggins, Kim Epton, John Haynes, Peter Haynes, Adrian Malloy, Vic Watt, Harvey Webster, David Whitney, Robert Whitney and Ted Whitney departed for One Island Pool at 2.30 p.m.  (only 1½ hrs late) and arrived at what is a beautiful camping area about 4.00 p.m.. The road into the campsite parallels the river through many kilometres of beautiful scenery. The water is plentiful and clear with only a trace of salt. Natural campsites with plenty of cover abound. Flies and mosquitoes are the only detraction.

We established camp more efficiently than previously. The evening meal was underway in sufficient time to allow another test run of the boats on the water.

During the evening discussion took place concerning the design of the boats to be used on the expedition. Cleveland Marine had agreed that the V-hull was unsuitable and were prepared to build the boats to the members’ design. These specifications were presented to them in mid-December and the design was accepted with the exception that the planned hydro-battens were deleted and a slightly curved transom was inserted.

That evening we found out that we needed a larger capacity genset than the 300 watt unit we had.

On Sunday five boats set off for Baden Powell Waterspout.

A few kilometres short of the destination Dave Eggins’ motor broke a propeller shaft. Robert Whitney dived overboard and retrieved the propeller and what was left of the shaft. The ease with which he found it illustrated the value of silver painted propellers. Dave’s boat was towed to Baden Powell Waterspout and the crew were interspersed among the already overloaded boats.

The waterspout is a granite bar extending across the river and honeycombed with interconnecting underwater tunnels and passages. Some of the intrepid venturers just naturally had to explore these, much to the consternation of some of the other members of the group.

Dave’s boat and motor were loaded onto the 4WD and, to lessen the load in the boats, a number of the group travelled with it back to camp.


© Kim Epton 1981-2022
936 words, 9 photographs.

Photographs by David Whitney and Vic Watt.

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