1992 Voyage of the Acushla
Written by Dan Daley
Not long after I bought the Allen Hotel I bought this beautiful wooden boat, I got talked into a marina berth in Townsville marina because they were going cheap from the receivers, the property was bankrupt like everything in Townsville, I had a thirty foot cougar cat twin hulled boat with a couple of 200 HP motors on the back, I used to go fishing on my own when I got sick of the world and all of my troubles.
On my way home from one of these fishing trips I got caught in a severe storm outside magnetic island, I got bashed around, hopelessly lost, could not see land for the rain and the wind spray, the compass was unreadable from the tumbling it never stopped spinning, I was near a reef and caught in the open in the dark, I had trouble hanging on, I had my head out of the window trying to see something to give me a bearing, after a hell of a night and a body that felt as if every muscle in it was torn I made it home.
I gave that boat to my sons and started looking for a bigger softer ride, the marina manager found a boat he thought I would like and showed me a picture, I fell in love with it, he had a mate Lang Kidby that knew boats and got him to look at it for me, he was a real adventurer type of guy that lived in Brisbane, Lang was one of those guys that did crazy shit that only crazy people do, he was on the TV on national geographic flying a plane from England to Australia in an old heap of shit that was supposed to be a copy of an Avron Anson or some sort of old bi plane, Bert Hinkler the Bundaberg aviator flew this trip sometime back in the thirty’s and made it into the history books, and Lang for some mad reason or other did the same flight following the same flight path , anyway National Geographic the TV series thought it was worth making a film, and they did because I watched the whole series years later on TV.
I go to Brisbane catch up with Lang and we look at the boat it was made from Burmese teak stunningly beautiful it was a pilot house cruiser its name was ACHUSLA, Irish for darling. The owner was an old guy, an ex car dealer, and he was getting too old to look after the boat, years later I was to experience the same shit.
I do the deal and buy it and I don’t know how to navigate, I ask Lang can you come to Townsville with me and show me how to navigate, deal done we load up and off out from Southport thank fuck Lang was with me I would have grounded her in the first mile, we make our way out to open sea, I love it, this life is for me, I had my older brother Tom on board with us, the waters like a mill pond, were going up the coast and pass the sunshine coast and head up towards Fraser Island the wind is picking up around twenty knots and I think shit this is better than the Cougar cat what a difference in rides plus the boats twenty foot longer and a lot heavier and made for travelling around the world a lovely motor cruiser, I knew this boat was for me, as the miles went by the wind started to pick up, the waves were a lot larger than us, the motion of the boat was making Tom sick he lay down on the lounge at the back.
I’m right into listening to Lang about how to navigate and a better teacher I could not have, he taught me how to navigate with all the depth sounders, the radar, the maritime maps, how to use the maritime lights to navigate this guy was the ducks nuts when it came to this sort of stuff, I found learning this very easy, the boats on auto pilot and were having cups of tea fantastic boat, even though it’s really starting to blow and the seas are getting rough the boats starting to surf down the wave and we go down the waves and straight up the waves, Lang starts to get sea sick not as bad as Tom, Lang lays on the floor moaning and a bit of puking, he asks me if I’m feeling sick, no I was good, later on its really starting to knock us around, and I’m getting a bit queasy, its now rough as guts were copping a real pasting and I’m just starting to worry a little bit, even though for some unknown reason I had a lot of faith in this boat, it was a weird feeling I had never experienced seas like this before, this was the real ocean and big , somehow I felt calm, to me it was like fate and if the boat was going to sink then so be it, to Tom that was not the case he thought he was going to die, I think Lang was a fatalist like me, he asked me if we had trouble right now in the middle of this storm. could you go down into the engine room without getting sick, I lied not a problem, good he said I couldn’t I’m to crook, fuck me Lang you’re the adventurer, yeah but this is seasick and I’m dying.
All night the boat heaved and tossed waves crashed over the boat water was squirting through the windows the radar got knocked out from sea water squirting on it, the auto pilot played up, Lang was hand steering the boat while I had a play with fixing it, I found out a fuse was blown found a new one from a very well stocked parts draw.
While everyone slept I was on watch there was a bunk in the pilot house, but it was that rough you kept falling out of it and I landed on top of Lang so I gave away trying to get a sleep, in the end I was so tired I thought fuck it. Without the radar Lang tweaked the auto pilot a few degrees to starboard to take us away from the big sand banks that ran out from the top of Fraser Island so as not to run aground, I him to it and went down stairs and lay down on one of the beds it was far less rough in the bottom of the boat a lot less roll I then went into a deep sleep from exhaustion, I was to tired to give a fuck.
Just before daybreak I woke up to check the boat, as I got up into the pilot house I could see these lights heading my way, it didn’t take me long to realize this was a bloody big ship bearing down on us out of the rain, we quickly turned the boat away to avoid a collision and wondered why those pricks didn’t do the same thing, most probably asleep, we got out of the way enough and I go and wake up Tom, have a look at this, have a look at what, I had to get him to look up towards the sky as this boat was very close to us and the light were very high up, I found out we were in he shipping lanes.
Our turn out to sea put us a few miles out of our way but it was better than running aground in the dark on the sand banks at the very top of Fraser Island.
The storm was still hammering away at us, I felt very safe in this boat as we got back to the top of Fraser Island daylight was starting I could see the waves crashing onto the sand bars it made me feel better we were a bit off course I would have hated to run into this lot in the middle of the night.
Tom’s adamant he is getting off at Gladstone, if you ever get any more great fucking ideas about going boating don’t fucking call me I’ve never been so bloody sick in my life, I tell him I have never seen anyone look as sick as him, green is a bad colour for the skin, his wife picked the weak bastard up at the marina, she even looked sorry for him, I asked him many times are you sure you don’t want to go to Townsville with me, a big no, years later I was in Hervey Bay on another boat and Tom came to the marina to see me, he complained he felt sick walking on to the boat it was rocking to much, it was tied up to the pontoon the smart arse, he was turned off boating for life.
We were in Gladstone for a few days to fix the radar and fuel up for the journey to Townsville, we went on an interesting detour from Gladstone up along this creek in between Curtis island and the main land, they drove cattle across this narrow water way at low tide, not a trip I would have taken but Lang was an inquisitive bastard and I got to do and see something I would never have attempted on my own.
Having Lang with me made this one of the most enjoyable boat trips I was ever to have in my life, we navigated all the tight routes through the Whitsunday Islands and went into places where few would go he taught me so much even the differences tides make to navigation and the speed some tides run at and how you can get yourself into trouble, we called into little bays and safe little creek anchorages, we went into the army’s bombing area near Rockhampton to get told get out. Certainly a great trip we arrive in Townsville and its back to the nut house called work.
After the heart attack thing I was pretty crook I had too much shit in my life and I used the boat to try and rest, sleeping on it at night after I knocked off work at night I needed all the peace I could get.