estuaries and dinghies

To: "birding Aus" <>
Subject: estuaries and dinghies
From: Goodfellow <>
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 06:52:56 +0000
Hello all
The Scrubfowls (my women's group) went to Fog Bay southwest of Darwin on
the weekend, to do some birdwatching and fishing. Let our experience be a
warning to anyone hiring dinghies to watch birds.

 We hired two boats between the five of us, on the Saturday afternoon and
the Sunday morning.  We had problems with three out of four of the

In the worst incident the starter cord pulled out of the engine! My
friends were in a tidal creek at the time (Sally and I were out on the
high sea in the other dinghy).  Sue opened the tool box to prepare to
have a go at the engine, and found no tools.   Noticing the size of the
company they were keeping (both mosquitoes AND crocodiles) they didn't
want to stuck on this waterway overnight so decided to start paddling.
And then found they only had one oar! So Sue rigged a bag over the dabnet
and they were on their way.  All was well until they neared the mouth of
the creek and found themselves in danger of being swept out to sea. They
threw the anchor out and then one of two men on the bank bravely swam out
and helped Sue wind the starter cord back on.   Sue believed the engine
hadn't been serviced regularly. Incidentally Sue owns a 4.5 metre
runabout, and I've both owned a boat and hired many dinghies both for
recreation and as a biological consultant, so it wasn't as if we were
ignorant about dinghies and engines.

Meanwhile Sally and I were struggling to start the engine in our dinghy.
Anyway we managed to get back to shore without too much difficulty.  The
owner of the boats, Des, told us that he'd give us 'better' boats the
next day with 'zip' starts that wouldn't be hard to use. By that I
understood they would be more reliable. Sure!

Sue's boat had no difficulties the next day, but mine was running rough,
and stopped  about five hundred metres from the beach.  I restarted it
easily, but then it failed again and neither Sally nor I could start it.
We were in danger of being swept onto rocks and so threw out the anchor
before beginning to row back to whence we'd come.  The owner had been
keeping an eye on us from the shore and suddenly appeared on the scene in
another dinghy.

'You're the problem,' he said to us, 'You're not strong enough to start
the engine.' (In spite of us already having started it!) He fiddled
around then announced he'd found a problem - a rusting spark plug, and
then another problem (didn't hear what he said it was).  He ran the boat
hard for a little while, but it still sounded rough when he tested the
motor again just before leaving us.

For the next hour or so the motor behaved itself.  And then it stopped
again, this time for good. Just as well I hadn't gone to the little

We were anchored off a reef and fished and watched the terns (Little,
Crested and Lesser Crested) till Sue came to tow us back in.  Back at
Dundee the boat-owner had a go at starting the engine again.  When I left
he was still trying.

When we remonstrated with him later he started blaming my (and Sally's)
lack of strength again, actually telling us he'd started the engine
easily when we'd returned. That little lie really impressed us as did his
glossing over the lack of tools and oars on the boat that broke down!  I
told him that seeing he felt that we were the problem I'd be advising all
my women clients not to use his services.

However we weren't in quite the position of Drs. Nicole Duplaix and Ellen
Rudolph on their recent trip to Suriname photographing otters
<>Suriname - A Tropical RainForest

'And then there is another type of adventure: the unexpected.Our trusty
15HP outboard engine left us stranded at the way at the top of Kaburi
a very long haul by paddle back to camp. The starter cord broke and we
had no
way to get the engine going again. Ellen saved the day when she
her long boot shoelaces ?Äì just the right length and strength to yank
engine back to life. We putt-putted back down as if nothing had happened.

They're really looking forward to their next assignment.

"Ellen and I will be doing a quick book project in France, in May
and June. It?Äôs for a guide to the quaint villages and markets of
Provence for
a French publisher. Tough assignment, right?¬Ý The culture shock contrast
between Suriname and Provence will be staggering. No malaria pills
needed, no
days sitting in a canoe watching for tell-tale ripples in the water
announcing an otter nearby. Just fresh goat cheese on crusty bread with
tapenade and a glass of C?¥tedu Rhone sitting on a hill somewhere waiting
the light to be just the right glow of orange over a hilltop village in

I think I'll join them.

Best bird of the trip was dead unfortunately, a beautiful Black-breasted
Buzzard, the second road-killed bird of this species I've come across in
two weeks.

Denise Goodfellow  (Lawungkurr Maralngurra)

Follow these direct links to my work on the web:
Four Short Stories

Birds of Darwin Sketches

Birding & Natural History in the Far North

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
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