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From the Bilge


Category: General

Yes, this is another old salty yarn from way back in the 50's.

My dad Peter used to take me out to Carnac Island in an ancient 16 ft clinker built open boat with a one cylinder Chapman petrol engine. This engine must have been at least 5 horsepower and achieved a top speed of something like 4 knots ! This seemed really fast to a 6 year old child like me as I was used to rowing or sculling a dinghy which achieved about 2 knots ! So this was about twice as fast.

It was started by wrapping a 2" leather strap around the big flywheel and pulling it with a mighty yank, with fingers crossed on the other hand. One end of the strap had a small hole in it, which was carefully fitted onto a raised stud on the flywheel so it could grip, the strap could them be wrapped around the flywheel ready for the big moment !

Firstly, the fuel tap had to be turned on and the fuel would then gravity feed down to the carburettor and fill the float chamber. There was a little button on the top of the float chamber and this had to be jiggled until the bowl was filled to the brim with petrol. Then the choke had to be closed to suck some juice into the cylinder.

Normally, the motor would start after about 50 pulls ( and the same amount of curses ) but if it didn't, my old man usually unscrewed the spark plug which was clogged up with carbon or damp, or play with the mixture needle on the carby.

If this didn't work, he would remove the " maggie " ( magneto ) and fiddle around with that for a while. The maggie was always taken ashore after a trip in the boat and kept in the boatshed for security.... I mean GEEZ if anyone was clever enough to get the motor in THAT boat going, as far as I was concerned, they were welcome to it !

Once we got going though, it chugged away quite happily.

Anyway, back to GPS systems.

After an hour or so, we would emerge from the Swan River into the lovely blue Indian Ocean and after 'putt putting' along for a while the old man would slow the boat down and stop in the middle of nowhere. "Chuck the 'pick' over now Chris" he would say. So I would drop an ancient home made lead 'kellick anchor, attached to about 40' of coir rope. ( Coir is made from coconut husks)

"What's up Dad, why are we stopping here?", I would yell out.

"Oh, we should catch some nice snapper here", he would say.

'Dad, how do you know that?", I asked.

"Oh, because we are at the right spot", he replies.

A 6 year old is not easily 'put off ', so of course I would say " but Dad, how do you know?"

So the old man says..." see those smoke stacks down there ?( South Freo Power Station), and that Lighthouse ( Woodmans' Point ) ?"

" Yair "         " well they're in line" and "that steeple and the old Fremantle Signal Station ?"

" Yair "         " well they're in line too ."

" so what "    " these are the marks, and underneath the boat is a bit of reef and this is where the snapper like to be. "

" Oh".

Anyway, there were no GPS or echo sounders for small boats then, but the old systems worked well.

The trick, of course, was to write down the "bearings" when the fish were biting and come back to the same spot.

The fish had more of a sporting chance then, and there were plenty of fish about.

Have fun boating with your family and friends over the Easter break.

Chris 'Blowtorch' Mews and Lach Simpson