Where it began

Huckleberry Finn style family holiday.

In the Australian Summer of 2009/2010 the Knox family set off on an epic trip down the Hawkesbury River just north of Sydney. It all started as a bit of an accident when the family were deciding what to do, most people had trips to Bali or Queensland. A fan of Huckleberry Finn, Tim suggested a raft trip.  “A raft trip, what a stupid idea!” came the reply from the entire family.  “I don’t think you’re seeing what I’m seeing, bear with me” said Tim. Apathy rained down but undeterred, Tim started to formulate plans.

On telling friends, their immediate response was “are you doing this for charity?”.  Initially not, but accidentally it became a means of raising money for our two good causes close to our hearts.  Tim was chairman of the local scout group and Leo, the middle son, was getting a lot of help from Sunnyfields.  

A good cause

Australians are great at getting behind a good cause, particularly if its a bit daft and we had a lot of help from local companies lending goods and services to help us on our way. 

Tim was very nervous about the whole adventure because effectively he’d get the blame if everybody had a rubbish holiday.  As it turned out, it was a trip that shaped all of the Knoxes and still today its thought of within the family as the best holiday ever and one that shaped all of their lives.

Sleeping in a puddle

Setting off was quite a moment as we had Channel 9’s News Program along for the day.  The feature was broadcast all over the country so friends on a proper holiday started texting.   Think of an Australian Summer and you’ll be thinking of sunshine and beaches and maybe a can of beer.  We had the beer.  That night, our first night, was particularly eventful.  It poured down with rain and because Tim’s camp bed managed to poke slightly more outboard than where the awning ended his bunk soon became waterlogged.  Panic ensued because Tim thought that he had wet the bed but with a little bit more reasoning as to the probable cause of the dampness he went back to sleep in his puddle.

Time started to go by a little more slowly as the family eased into the rhythm of the river.  The more downstream they went the more tidal the river became so there were periods when all you could do was set the anchor and sit out the adverse flow.  Effectively the family were camping on 8 sheets of plywood laid out flat but the main difference is that you don’t get the dirt that you get when you’re camping in your tent, which makes for a very tidy site.  

Because of the news coverage people along the river were taking bets as to when we would pass, only those used to the slowest horses were ever in with a chance.

Wisemans Ferry

New Years Eve was spent in Wisemans Ferry at the local hotel.  It was the only time we spent off the raft during the whole trip. The steak was good and the beer flowed and it was one of the more memorable New Years celebrations.  

After Wisemans Ferry the river became more saline, much wider and its banks are made up of mangroves.  As a family you feel very isolated particularly on an uncontrollable raft, but in many ways this was the loveliest part of the journey in amongst the very beautiful Australian landscape.  

We passed through Spencer and down to Brooklyn where the tides are particularly strong.  A danger here are the big fly-bridge cruisers but more specifically their wake.  Owners of these big boats, normally with a gin in hand, have a motto, don’t look back. And they never did, nor did they see the carnage they left behind.  

Professional raft builder

The biggest challenge of the trip was rounding West Head.  At this point we were exposed to the swell of the Tasman Sea. The same swell that makes Bondi famous for surfers.  We needed to get round the head and into Pittwater by 7 o’clock in the morning or we’d be facing breaking waves from the onshore breeze.  Nervously we started packing all of our chattels at about 4 o’clock in the morning.  By the time we got to West Head itself there was a 3 metre swell.  Whilst this looked a little precarious, Tim being a professional raft builder of at least three weeks experience was confident in the vessel.  A confidence that turned out to be well placed.  

By 8 o’clock the family were heading ashore in Palm Beach looking for an egg and bacon sandwich.  Job done and immense relief felt.

The next bit was easy, sailing south down Pittwater to Bayview in a few stages, enjoying the view and by this time, some good weather.

Carbon Neutral realisation

We’d had a wonderful and memorable holiday – raised a lot of money for the Scouts and for Sunnyfields. And all that very nearly carbon neutral. Peace, nature and tons of fun. Maybe next time with a little more comfort. 

Welcome to Mothership Marine.

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