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Motorcycling to Port Douglas
My promotion did allow me to buy a bigger bike. We now had a 750 Honda 4.
Before Ryan, our second son, was born, and before we built our house, Eileen, Kristian, who was about seven months old, and I, lived in a rented beach house with a fantastic view of the ocean. The house had two rooms; the bathroom, and the rest. The bathroom was down two steps, and only had the toilet and a shower. The main bedroom was partitioned inside the house by two walls that did not reach the ceiling. There were however, beds and lounges to sleep seven people in the 'rest of the house'. If you fell out of the spare double bed you could grab hold of the washbasin and pull yourself up.
There was no garage, just a covered concrete area near the bathroom. This was where the bike was parked. I needed to strip the engine down in a dust free environment. I did it on the floor in the house, using Kristian's plastic wading pool to catch oil. Eileen still reminds me of that day as I left for work with a friend. I called to her, "Keep Kristian away from the bike parts".
Not long after we moved into our own house we had two rug rats. So many people. Not enough seats. Thank God for Nanna and Grandad
Our first big bike trip was north, a nice warm direction. Our plan was to ride to Port Douglas, a thousand kilometres away in far north Queensland, and back. This was a very pleasant trip, and apart from indelible mental pictures of beautiful scenery, there were only a couple of incidents worth telling that remain in my memory. The road between Cairns and Port Douglas follows the coast, with the rainforest on one side, and the ocean on the other. It was about thirty minutes of wonderful bike riding corners. I don't remember which year this was, but it was only a few years before Christopher Skase commenced the development of his Mirage resort, which eventually turned the town from a sleepy fishing village into a busy tourist Mecca.
As we rode north from Cairns we noticed many bikes coming back. We also noticed more than the usual number of police cars, especially when we actually got to Port Douglas. Bikes and police cars were everywhere. Except near the pub. Port Douglas had, and may still have, only two public hotels, both within easy walking distance of each other, regardless of your state of inebriation, which is probably why drinkers are not too concerned about being evicted from one. We parked near one and proceeded to the door. There were two well worn wooden steps from the footpath to floor level. The door was shut. Printed in white chalk on the steps were the words, 'We will not be open today'.
Apparently, the previous night, an argument had developed, and one overzealous patron produced a pistol. The publican had then produced a shotgun. Size matters, and nothing much more happened.
On our return trip south we stopped in at Mission Beach. If Port Douglas was a sleepy fishing village, Mission Beach was just asleep. Two or three short esplanades of beach houses, and the occasional track to the sand, and that was it. It was a very hot day so Eileen and I decided to go for a swim in the ocean. It was not marine stinger season, so instead of unpacking to find bathing togs, we stripped off and went in. We got out and sat on a fallen tree to sun dry. With no previous sign of human habitation or presence for a kilometre, the rainforest behind us started making sounds of movement. Out of the jungle came a platoon of soldiers, dressed in full battle kit.
With several barely audible words like, "Good afternoon". "Excuse me". "Sorry", they trudged off along the sand before disappearing into the jungle again. While thinking how wonderful it was to know our national defence was in good hands, we hurriedly got dressed and rode off.
When we arrived at Proserpine, we looked up a friend I had met while completing that promotional course I had done in Brisbane. He had a boat. This was a sailboat. Eileen and I had never been on a sailboat in our lives. Tony had injured his back, so Eileen and I lifted his tinny onto the roof of his car. 'Tinny' didn't disturb my spell checker, but for those who don't know, a 'tinny' is the word Australians use to describe an aluminium boat, usually up to about 5 or 6 metres in length. We would need this to row out to his bigger boat. We drove to the town of Airlie Beach and launched the tinny. Out in the bay we boarded his ketch. A ketch has two masts, which means you can have more sails up than a single-masted sloop. We put them all up. As we were sailing out towards the Whitsunday Passage, we noticed a lot of boats coming back in. Why? It was a glorious day.
As we rounded the headland and sailed out into the passage, with twenty-five knots of wind coming from the southeast, we tried to sail to Daydream Island. This island was southeast of us. Did I forget to mention that as well as having an injured back, Tony had only recently purchased this sail boat, his first. We somehow got the head sail onto the wrong side of the boat, where it got caught. This did not help with our steering. Luckily the ketch had an auxiliary diesel motor, which we then used to great effect for forward motion, although it still didn't help a lot with our steering.
We never did make it to Daydream. With the headsail out on one side of the boat, and with the rudder on full-lock the other, we could only sail in a straight line. Straight in front of us was South Molle Island. In the lee of South Molle we got the sails down, and proceeded to motor towards the jetty and tie up. 'Would the person who owns the sailing vessel tied up to the jetty please move it? You are in the flight path of the helicopter.'
Loudspeakers are impersonal things. Everyone around knows what is meant. I looked at Tony and said, 'I thought helicopters went up and down'.
We untied, and only Tony and I motored a short distance away and dropped the anchor. We then rowed back to the jetty in the tinny. The tide was fairly full, so the water was not far below the jetty. We both grabbed a hold of the jetty and Tony tried to heave himself up. He failed. He was then swimming around under the jetty trying to grab the cigars his father had sent from somewhere where good cigars come from. They had been in his shirt pocket.
I was then hanging under the jetty with both arms around a large horizontal pole. One foot was against another beam with my toes gripping it. Around my ankle was Eileen's handbag hanging by its strap. Why I had it I do not know, as Eileen was on the jetty. The tinny was upside down.
Eileen told Tony to swim to a ladder that was only about six metres away, but had escaped our notice. Somehow I got Eileen's handbag to her, fell into the water, and swam to the ladder with the painter for the tinny in one hand. With the tinny safely floating right side up, and tied securely to the jetty, Tony and I walked towards the resort bar to get a drink. Eileen told us that the tour group watching our antics had been saying we were drunk anyway. The other thing she heard was that a large Hammerhead shark lived under the jetty.
Later that afternoon we motored back to Airlie Beach in perfect weather. The south easterly had eased to about fifteen knots, and if we had been bothered to put even one sail up, we would have had a lovely broad reach home.
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