For a guy with skin as fair and Anglo-Saxon as mine is, it is surprising the amount of outdoor activities I pursued in my early years. It was obviously a Boy Scout thing with a lot of hiking, mountain climbing and canoeing; then later owning a Hobie catamaran.
For a number of years I had been using the Canadian canoes owned by the Indooroopilly Boy Scout Group, where I was a scout master. As opposed to the single seat kayak illustrated above, the Canadian is an open canoe requiring two people to work the craft and able to carry a third person or a lot of equipment – thus making it very useful for trips and a vehicle for camping.
My only attempt at building a canoe was whilst I was a Scout Master at the Albion Group. The Venturer Scouts there heard me speak of paddling on the Brisbane River with Canadian canoes and wanted to have some for themselves. It was resolved that part of the project was for them to build their own. I followed suit with constructing a kayak for myself. Appropriate plans were acquired and then the search for materials. I was using a framework of Oregon pine with upper trim of cedar. The Oregon pine was relatively light weight, bendable and easy to work with. The cedar trim was an affectation that was there for aesthetic reasons as well as being a soft and easy timber with which to work. The framework was then covered with canvas that was treated with paint to provide the necessary water proofing.
The Canadian canoe was also ribbed with Oregon but then clad with marine ply strips. Hence it was much more robust (suitable for teenage boys) and a far sturdier craft.
Whilst much paddling practice was done by launching from a point just upstream from the Indooroopilly Bridge where there was easy access into the Brisbane River, we also canoed many times on the upper reaches of the same river. This was all prior to the construction of the Wivenhoe Dam. There were many road crossings that enabled easy access to launch the canoes and camping spots could be easily found. I saw my first live platypus in the wild on one of these trips.
A major canoe trip was a journey down the Tweed River from the first navigable water in the head waters (launching off the Uki Road) to Fingal Heads at the mouth of the river. Done in the company of fellow St John’s Wood Rover Scout Geoff Knott, this multi day trip took us through fast moving currents, around fallen trees and low level bridges into the head winds and tidal flow of the lower reaches. Byangum, the metropolis of Murwillumbah, Condong, Tumbulgum (a good camp site), Stotts and Dodds Islands, Chinderah and on to Fingal.
My final active connection with water was the purchase of a 14′ Hobie Cat in the mid 1970s. A close friend (Gary Edgar) already had such a craft and it was under his tutelage that I bought and then learned (poorly) to sail the catamaran. As I was to learn, whilst the 14′ version could be a handful, the more well known 16′ version was a killer to the inexperienced. The smaller craft could be handled by one person but two crew were needed for the larger one.
Such were the halcyon days of photography in the late 1970s, a few photographers who owned catamarans would gather for a weekday afternoon of sailing and drinking and telling of wild and improbable stories. These included David McCarthy (advertising photographer), Will Street (colour laboratory owner) and Graham Jurott (Queensland University medical photographer) and others.
I was also to take the Hobie on a holiday to Noosa. My Nikonos III underwater camera was used most whilst I owned the Hobie.
The Hobie, with it’s iconic Tequila Sunrise sail full of wind, was a dramatic and striking sight – even if was on a final coast onto the shore.