The screeeeeeam was really impressive. It got the instant and undivided attention of all aboard and brought heads up on the two neighboring houseboats and a cruiser some distance away.
But then the reason for the resounding excitement in the Smiths Creek anchorage hit the deck with a heavy thud and it was certainly worth shouting about. A huge flathead – all 53cm of it – and the first serious fish Lisa had ever landed!
Our Hawkesbury houseboat experience became legend and memories of the mighty hunter’s fishing skill are now ‘folklore’ when we talk about time spent in the peace which sits on Sydney’s doorstep.
It is an experience to be shared.
The meal which followed the new angler's triumph is an indelible part of the happy memory. There is absolutely nothing like fresh fish, straight from the water and onto the barbecue.
Lord of the Tongs, Graham, did amazing things with the catch while a tossed salad worthy of the occasion was created.
For eight days we became part of the friendly, warm, sheltered waters of the Hawkesbury.
From our start point at Brooklyn our 45ft., floating home Banjo Paterson from Luxury Afloat Houseboats made exploring, bays, creeks and water ways upstream and down extremely comfortable.
After a thoughtful briefing that particularly includes using the well marked map which lives under the transparent chart table in the houseboat’s lounge.
It is a permanent reminder of where to go and just as importantly where not to go. We planned each day’s motoring and noted channels, shallow waters and 'No Go' areas. Anchoring can be hard work, particularly when it comes to hauling up 'the pick'.
On our initial overnight excursion we headed upstream inside Milson Island and around Prickly Point to Berowra Creek. It blew a little through the night and we got the anchor so firmly imbedded it took about 10 minutes of heaving to get it out of the mud.
Our exit was achieved by following Bill’s practical briefing on how to handle the situation.
We 'sweated' the anchor line short, tied it off, and carefully used the twin outboards to motor over it and break the anchor out of the goo. We had two goes at that before we got it right.
But there is no doubt we learnt quickly, so we headed downstream and for the rest of the cruise used the many excellent public swinging moorings marked on the chart.
Tying up to public moorings requires hauling aboard the line which is permanently attached to each mooring buoy with Banjo’s boathook.
Some juggling with the twin motor throttles goes with it, but we quickly became boastful about our manoeuvres.
Our 'skill' was the result of another learning curve.
The moorings are much in demand on sunny weekends so after running a bad second to a pushy cruiser on our first attempt at picking up a mooring we made a rush when another became free.
In our defense there was not really time to make a full assessment of the mooring, so that is how we found ourselves trying to hook up a mooring which had lost its line.
After our recent frustration there was no way we were giving up that mooring.
So your correspondent hooked the mooring’s ring with the long boathook and began to stretch like a rubber band as tonnes of Banjo Paterson bore down on my arms.
The 'Lord of the (barbecue) Tongs', at the helm, saved me an unscheduled swim.
He applied gentle pressure on the twin outboard throttles and then his helping shoulders on the handle of the boat hook until two White Knights from a neighboring yacht got a line through the mooring and onto Banjo’s bow cleats.
There are a lot of nice people on the Hawkesbury.
Moored safe in Yeoman’s Bay, but seriously puffed out we retired for lunch and drinks. It is a beautiful place with a small estuary beach with warm inviting, shallows for splashing families at low tide.
Later we rowed ashore and around the bay in the unbreakable, workhorse dinghy which we trailed behind the houseboat in our travels.
It came with a reliable outboard, but sometimes it is a crime to shatter the peace with motor noises. This was one of those times.
That night we drifted off to sleep in the broad double beds which add their comfort to the forecastle.
Dawn next morning came with a strangely beautiful mist on the still water.
It turned nearby-by craft into a phantom fleet until the morning sunshine burst over the eastern ridges of the Ku-ring-gai National Park.
And so the gentle days went. We moored in a perfectly protected, kidney shaped bay off Cowan Water.
Sea Eagles fished around us and the sunsets across Ku-ring-gai National Park and the shimmering waters of Cowan Creek were the backdrop for pleasant dinners.
Your correspondent broke the 'No Go' rules at pretty, friendly Cottage Point and brought big Banjo up to the public jetty.
No excuses, I missed the exclusion in the hire agreement.
There is a good reason for caution.
The Luxury Afloat Houseboats flagship is a big, heavy ship with a lot of windage. Better to pick up a mooring and use the dinghy than foot the bill for a major mistake in a crowded anchorage.
There are many proud boat owners around Cottage Point and their craft are beautiful and potentially expensive to repair.
We did not do any damage with our jetty manoeuvre.
Boats have been part of your correspondent’s life since childhood and the big houseboat is fine in open water, but it can be a learning experience in close work and crosswinds.
Cottage Point General Store made us welcome.
We savored good coffee on the verandah and enjoyed the view over Cowan Water.
It is a great way to enjoy doing nothing in particular. We added some provisions and took some time to meet the head chef of the famous Cottage Point Inn, restaurant.
It was originally a boatshed and General Store. It became a restaurant in 1970. It is open all year around, but the opening hours vary with the seasons.
It is at the junction of Coal and Candle Creek and Cowan Water and guests come by road, ferry, private craft and seaplane.
Then we ambled on to the seclusion of Smith’s Creek and the screeeamingly exciting flathead.
On route the rocky ramparts of the National Park, shaggy gums and ever changing light make for a really natural experience.
We took hundreds of photographs, did a little work, fished, swam, talked, ate, read, slept, rowed and motored about. We found a shallow, sandy bottomed cove with crystal water and floated belly up watching clouds and birds.
Then we moved to Jerusalem Creek, past exposed Little Jerusalem Bay and around Shark Rock Point to another completely sheltered mooring with an estuary beach exposed by the low tide at its head.
The ragged, rocky shores captured the artists in our crew and Michele and Lisa worked at capturing the magic shapes in charcoal.
The good weather just went on and on.
At low tide a rather dog-eared fox trotted onto the drying sand to feast on soldier crabs. He was sudden death for any among the hundreds sidling about unfortunate enough to be too slow at digging in.
The fox did better with crabs than we had to that point despite our varied strategies with our crab pot. Then on our last night 'The Lord of the Tongs' out-foxed the crustaceans and landed three fine blue swimmer crabs in the pot.
They became part of our thanks to Bill and Luxury Afloat Houseboats for a unique experience.
We headed for Brooklyn past a run of inviting beaches – Fisherman’s Beach, Eleanor Beach, and Gunyah Beach.
We kept an eye on the channel markers to keep us in deep water as we passed Dangar Island and headed upstream past the stone abutments of the first Hawkesbury railway bridge which was opened in 1889.
It was an engineering challenge on foundations which are the second deepest in the world. Sunk to a maximum depth of 162 feet below high water, they were the deepest bridge foundations of their time.
Alas, when one of the bridge pylons moved the bridge was closed.
Its successor was opened in 1946, despite wartime constraints, by workers and engineers of the NSW Government Railways who solved the problems of the first bridge.
A public ferry makes the run to Dangar Island every day of the week from the Brooklyn public jetty. Or you can cruise with the Riverboat Postman on the mail run along the Hawkesbury.
Bill’s partner, Gail, came by powerboat to take command for the tricky stern-first arrival at the Luxury Afloat’s moorings. She made the manoeuvre look ridiculously easy.
Before we left some happy news came ashore from our sister ship the Henry Lawson. Paul Bourke from the Sydney suburb of Concorde, proposed to his Bev on a magic night in Yeoman’s Bay. It was a top deck affair with Paul on bended knee, and Bev said yes.
Once off the water we headed to the closely linked Sydney Hills.
The Hills District is a cosmopolitan, shopping and accommodation hub with restaurants and cafes set in leafy streets. The feeling is open bush and Sydney’s only State Forest is part of the area.
In villages like Galston, Kenthurst and Dural the options include orchards, antiques, craft stalls and nurseries.
This is a gardener’s idea of heaven; there are about 60 nurseries in the area. Hobby Farms add a great range of produce to the excellent selection of fare to be had.
We stayed at Dural Village Tourist Park - This is a favorite family park well located to enjoy the best Sydney has to offer...that includes the CBD, Sydney Harbour, The Hawkesbury, Blue Mountains, National Parks and lots of local attractions.
The accommodation ranges from powered and ensuite caravan sites to family cabins and units... and the leafy park is so clean!
A member of the Top Tourist Park Chain, Dural Village is about 10 minutes from Pennant Hills at 269 New Line Road, Dural. If you are coming from the north, take Boundary Road off Pennant Hills Road (7km) or from the south, follow Highway 7 to Castle Hill Road, then turn right onto New Line Road (6km). It is opposite the Golf Driving Range.
It is said that the park offers accommodation which is among the best value family options in Sydney.
Your correspondent agrees. It includes powered and ensuite caravan sites to family cabins and units which can sleep up to six. Superior spa and sauna units are also available. All units and cabins are self-contained. There is a well kept swimming pool and barbecues. There are also facilities for basketball, tennis, a games room and shop.
The Hills District was the scene of the Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1804. The confrontation is significant in the evolution of democracy in Australia. It was the first armed conflict between Europeans on Australian soil.
It is named after a similar event which occurred in Ireland. Convicts, many of them Irish, escaped from the Government Farm at Castle Hill with a plan to seize a ship in Sydney and sail to Ireland.
Troops of the NSW Corp and civilian supporters defeated the convicts at Rouse Hill. Fifty years later the password 'Vinegar Hill' was used by Diggers defending Eureka Stockade.
There are things which come up as Must See and Do while you are in the area.
They include a walk on the sweat and blood marvel of the convict built Great North Road. Chain gangs hacked the road out of the native sandstone between 1826 and 1834.
The buttresses of the road’s retaining walls at Devines Hill look like a fortress. Take in the local art galleries, enjoy good coffee in a nursery café and give your body and taste buds a treat with fresh produce bought at the farm gate. Road side stalls provide an array of fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, honey and preserves.
Live jazz is a likely experience at the The Pines in February, March April and May. Followed by September, October and November. In fact that is the address for the Sydney Hills Visitor Information Centre, 656a Old North Road Dural (The Pines historic property).
How Houseboats work:
What? – Banjo Paterson – up to 10 berth houseboat.
Where? - The Hawkesbury, NSW. Internationally famed cruising area. Brooklyn is about 45 minutes drive north of Sydney (off-peak). It can also be reach on a scenic Sydney northern rail trip to Hawkesbury River Station.
When? – All seasons.
How? – No licence required you drive yourself. At least one member of the crew must be 21 years or older. There is a thorough briefing before you set off and conditions apply on how you handle the boat and where it can be taken. The briefing includes an intro to the electric vacuflush toilet on the 45 footers.
Who? - Luxury Afloat Houseboats Kangaroo Point Old Pacific Highway, Brooklyn, NSW. 2083 Phone: 02 9985 7344. email:
There is free lock up parking for clients’ cars.
Map ref: Gregory's 75/D9, UBD 55/P9, Sydway 137/D13.
How much? – Prices are seasonal. Please check prices before booking.
Easter rates - 45 footer $2690, 33 footer $1990 rates current for 2012.
45 footer – Prices range from $1390 for the weekend in the low season to about $2600 (4 days) in the Christmas – New Year peak period.
33 footer weekend - 1 pm Friday to 4pm Sunday, $890. Midweek three nights $790.
Higher rates apply for holiday weekends. All rates include GST. There is an $22 service charge per running hour which covers fuel and gas costs.
Pets are not permitted in the Royal National Parks which includes the waterways. For more information
contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia Directory
Phone: 02 6294 1941
Fax: 02 6284 9275
Pets are not permitted in the Royal National Parks which includes the waterways.
For more information