It was a dark and stormy night. Well it is a little bit of an overcast day if you want to be pedantic. Our Northern Districts branch has organised a fun run launching from a friendly farmer’s paddock on the Waihou River, near Matamata. The aim, to cut our way through logs up the river to the Okoroire pub, if we can. On a clear run the trip takes one hour.
Seven boats have turned up. One adventurous party of poms… sorry did I say that? A group of English folk, new to jet boating in narrow waterways, turn up with their elderly fibreglass launch. After a bit of polite conferring they are persuaded to leave their currently undamaged boat on the trailer and to go with an experienced member.
Down the slippery slope we go – literally. Cows had been frequenting the bottom paddock and on the top half of the steep track leading down to it. With a shear drop-off to one side the track is thick with slippery cow residue. Our safety officer Doug Qualtrough arrives with his heavy yellow boat in tow. Most of us are up there to watch. Doug touches the brakes and all four wheels lock-up. His truck slides towards the drop-off. We all shout “Don’t brake, Don’t brake”. Bravely Doug continues to brake. Some of us gleefully whip out our cameras to get the unforgettable shot of Doug sliding over the drop-off and taking the fast route to the bottom paddock. We picture ourselves winning the magazine photo of the year award, of Doug’s yellow boat, sun* glinting off it’s shiny aluminium inverted bottom with the river glistening prettily in the background. Alas, it was not to be. Doug’s truck slides onto the non-cow-poo part of the track and all is saved.
In the bottom paddock it is cow-poo-city, especially the launching ramp. Only one or two people manage to drive their vehicle out after launching without needing a tow.
All boats finally launched and away we go… for less than five minutes. First log jam. Then the second, third, you get the picture? Fortunately all the logs are of a chainsaw-able size. Until Jeff’s chainsaw becomes jammed part way through a log. To the rescue comes Lindsay. On advise to cut from underneath. Lindsay so did. Part way through, the log does a twist. Now my chainsaw is jammed in the log, less than 600 mm from Jeff’s. To the rescue comes Karl Murton with his trustee hand cutter. After a valiant effect to hand-cut free the first chain saw, he drops the handsaw in the water. “Oh bother” says Karl, or words to that effect.
Now to the rescue comes Allen Meredith with his chainsaw, the only un-jammed one remaining. In a flash of foresight Lindsay ties a rope to the two jammed chainsaws to prevent them disappearing into the rapidly flowing wet stuff should they ever be freed.
We hold our breath to see if Allen gets his chainsaw stuck also. It appears there is someone in our party who knows how to cut a log as Allen frees us up in quick time. Finally we are able to move upriver again.
After two and a half hours and oodles of fun cutting our way upstream, we reach Okoroire. A break is taken with sandwiches and shop talk.
No dramas on the run downstream apart from an overheating problem with Allen’s boat that temporarily slows progress.
We finish off with a beer and some of the awesome BBQ kai that Doug regularly produces after these branch runs.
*Footnote: there is a degree of literary license in this story (if you hadn’t already worked that out). ‘Sun glistening off the aluminium bottom’ sounds much more interesting than the reality of ‘an up turned aluminium hull that bended with the colour of the clouds’!