Living, as we do, in the Hills and Hawkesbury areas we are fortunate to have some amazing waterways to enjoy. The majestic Hawkesbury River and its tributaries such as Berowra Creek and the Colo River have provided us with a means of transportation in our early days and beauty spots for relaxation.
Some thirty years ago or more, the late Gordon Mandin, and his wife, Joan, operated the historic ferry “Macquarie Princess” as a cruise vessel along Berowra Creek and the Hawkesbury.
My wife and I had some great trips on this vessel and one recollection I have is when I had some family members from interstate and their friends join us on a cruise during which Gordon allowed me into the wheelhouse and for me to take the wheel of this historic ferry for a part of the way along Berowra Creek.
We got to know Gordon and Joan from our days with Sydney Hills Tourism which, at the time, was the Tourism body representing tourist operators in the Hills district with my wife being the Secretary of the group.
Amongst other members of the tourism group were Tom and Hilda McQuillan who, along with their son Simon, operated “Able Hawkesbury Houseboats” at Wisemans Ferry. Tom, I also discovered, once was a ferryman in my old hometown and birthplace of Bristol, England in his younger days.
During the late 1980s it was decided that the Christmas party for the Tourism body be held onboard one of Tom and Hilda’s larger houseboats in the middle of the river. It was a great evening where we enjoyed some of our great local seafood.
The locally caught prawns were amongst the best I have ever tasted. That night Tom amazed us all by drinking a glass of water straight from the river, proving to us that the water was so pure.
A couple of years later, my wife and I decided to hire a houseboat for a week from Tom and Hilda and cruise along the beautiful Hawkesbury and MacDonald rivers and watch the world go by as we relaxed on board.
Well, that is what we thought we would do; however, I was enjoying myself so much that I wanted to see as much as I could of the river. During the week I wanted to explore every little bay or inlet that I could see whilst my wife just wanted a restful river trip and pull over to enjoy a relaxing lunch or meal every now and then.
For me, as soon as lunch was over, I was upping anchor and at the wheel of the boat and away. Tom had said that we had enough fuel on board to last us for the week we had hired the houseboat. He said that he had only one customer in the time that he had been operating the business who had ever run out of fuel.
Little did he know of my desire to explore and discover every nook and cranny of the Hawkesbury that I could find. As a result, our trip became a series of memorable incidents.
There was the getting stuck on a sand bank near the Hawkesbury River Bridge at Brooklyn as the tide was retreating and getting up at 2.30am to move the houseboat once we realised the tide had come in and we could float free.
There were also problems when travelling near oyster leases when you had to be careful that you had sufficient room not to be carried over them by the tide.
I had failed to keep watch over the fuel gauge as I discovered near Spencer when the vessel’s motor came to a stop. This in the days before we had mobile phones.
My wife was not pleased when she had to take the “tinny” and row ashore, clamber over a rickety jetty with 4 out of 5 planks missing and find a phone somewhere out in the sticks. We were in luck when she found a weekender where the owner was just locking up to go back to his home in the suburbs and who had a phone in the home.
She telephoned Tom who then sent his son, Simon, out for the hour-long trip by boat to where we were situated on the Hawkesbury with a can of fuel. My wife has never let me forget that holiday!