Day 4 - 9th April 1999
The morning's fishing was to include an attempt to find the elusive Barramundi. Mark knew all the spots where the Barra were, and we headed out towards Centre Island, as depicted by the red route.
Centre Island also houses a remote, unattended meteorological station, which automatically relays weather and barometric information back to the Australian Bureau Of Meteorology.
The ideal method for catching Barramundi in this area was to cast and retrieve your lure, casting as close to the mangroves as you possibly could. During the course of our meander around this bay, we actually came across a Barra Boil, where the water would boil with Barramundi attacking bait fish such as mullet. We cast our lures just beyond the boil, hoping that as the lures were retrieved and ingressing the boil, a Barra would strike.
The Barra were infact in very shallow water, and at one stage, we jumped boat and were casting from the shore, walking up and down the beach as the Barra moved. We continuously changed our lures, to reflect different colours and patterns that might be more attractive to the Barra, hoping that we might find the right lure for the water, sun and wind conditions. The water was infact a bit murky, and extremely bright psychedelic lures are renown to work well, but unfortunately in our case, luck was not with us. Coho did infact have a run on a Barra, but he ended up losing his lure.
After about two hours of working the bay and reefy outcrops around Centre Island, we decided to troll back towards North Island. The weather was turning nasty, with heavy, dark, low rolling clouds moving in, and we could actually see a heavy rain front moving in towards us. We reached home base about 10 minutes before the front hit us. It was an absolutely amazing site to see. Try and visualise a wall of water falling from the sky hitting the ocean. One moment, the ocean is calm with the normal movements of tidal waves. The next moment, its surface is bubbling with the pelting of huge rain drops, falling almost vertically. The ambient air temperature dropped within 5 minutes from a balmy 35°C to a cool 25°C. Infact, the ocean water temperature was warmer, at a comfortable 29°C.
With the storm front taking hold, this gave us the opportunity to re-rig our tackle, have a couple of beers, and to wash some of our shirts and shorts in the rain. As the sun can be very unforgiving with sunburn and exposure, we had been during the course of the day, effectively and continuously applying layers and layers of SunBlock 30+ cream onto our exposed limbs, neck, ears and face. This of course would find its way onto our clothes. The rain naturally provided us with a global washing machine, and the shower was in turn extremely refreshing as well.
The afternoon's fishing produced more embarrassment than fish. One of the standard chores when it comes to boat fishing is that you need to fill the 20 litre petrol tank that's in the boat with fuel. Mark stores all his reserve petrol in 20 litre plastic containers under a huge, shady tree on the island. Usually, the fuel that is stored there is petrol, where as the diesel is kept elsewhere. Mark had recently received 2 x 20 litre containers of diesel from a neighbour at King Ash Bay, which was to be used for the generator. Visually, it looked like a petrol cannister. Admittedly, he did mention for me to check that the container was full of petrol, and not diesel.
Fuel to me is fuel, it all smells the same. Bad Mistake. We filled up the boat's petrol tank with the reserve fuel I had brought down from under the tree, and high tailed it out north along the green marked route (refer to above map). X marks the spot on how far we got. After about 15 minutes worth in trying to start the motor, we decided to take the external casing to the motor off to see if it was something as simple as a loose spark plug. They don't make boat engines like they used to. We were lucky to find the spark plug !
There was some fuel left in the hose that was used to fill the boats fuel cell up, and Coho knowing his fuels and oils exclaimed "this is diesel !" Our concern now, besides getting out of our quandary, was determining what damage the diesel had done to the motor. The first day, it was a damaged prop. Now, it was a potentially damaged motor. We seemed to be working our way up in the damage Richter scale.
We toyed with the idea of one of us swimming about 200 metres to North Island and walking to home base to alert Mark of our difficulties. This idea was rejected once we spotted a black tipped reef shark directly under the boat. We even look at grappling the ocean floor with the anchor to slowly make our way towards North Island - to demanding and time consuming. The alternative was to wait for dark, around 4 hours, for a search party and shine our torches in the night sky.
We found a near empty petrol cannister in the front of the boat, with about 1 litre remaining. We disconnected the fuel line between the motor and the fuel filter, and inserted it into the petrol cannister. The motor would start and run roughly, but only with the choke way out. Once the fuel line and carburettor was devoid of any diesel, it ran a lot more smoothly. We made tracks back to home base, and found Mark getting ready to look for us in the other Savage, the one with the damaged prop. It turns out that Jenny spotted me taking a cannister that appeared to have the same markings as the diesel cannister that Mark had received from his neighbours, and alerted Mark of the fact. Thanks Jenny.
Mark expelled the fuel from the boat into a temporary plastic container, and checked the motor and fuel filter. We refuelled the boat's fuel cell with petrol this time, and made our way north again an trolled for 2 hours around Watson Island till sunset. We all caught Barracuda and other varieties of reef fish, of which, all were released.
On average, we were fishing around 10 hours a day, and would normally raise anchor around 6.45pm, as the sun was going down. We particularly didn't like the idea of traversing the waters during a moonless lit night, as was to be the case for the week. Plus the fact that we were all hungry and looking forward to one of Jenny's mouth watering food creations, was an added incentive to head back to home base.
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