At Sea With Murphy

In chapter 17 of his book, Living with Murphy, Lionel’s old nemesis took the wheel when all Lionel wanted to do was catch some flathead…

The Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland, Vic, is quite beautiful.

Besides careering around Australia taking pictures of children for the dreaded school photos, we looked after the RACV Caravan Club’s foreshore camping area on the shores of Port Philip Bay, Vic, during the summer months and it was here that Murphy proved he is no land lubber.

I’d bought a little rubber duckie with a Mercury 2hp motor with the idea of doing a bit of fishing. Because it had a motor, it was classed as a motor boat, and had to be equipped with the same safety gear as larger boats. By the time I’d loaded flares, anchor and chain, a waterproof torch, baling bucket, lifejacket plus fishing rod and attendant bits and pieces, there was hardly room for me. Despite this, Murphy managed to squeeze aboard and we set off on our maiden voyage.

I motored gently out into deep water and drifted while I fished. A yacht race was in progress further out but I made sure I ran the motor and kept going back inshore each time I started to drift. I caught quite a few flathead and was feeling very pleased with myself when I noticed I’d drifted a bit far out.

When I started the engine, it only ran a few seconds and fizzled out. No amount of pulling on the starter cord could coax it into life and I was getting nearer and nearer to the yacht race. Looks like I’ll have to row back, I thought. Okay, where are the oars? Not there. I’d left them on the grass near the caravan. What now? I know,­ I’ll throw the anchor out. The new rope went into a tremendous tangle but I threw it over anyway hoping it would slow the drift, which was taking me constantly nearer those pesky boats.

I’d read that in distress you stand up and put your arms up to attract other boats to your plight. What other boats? Besides the race in progress, there were few other craft on the normally busy bay and the ones that did happen past just waved a friendly greeting and continued on their way. Eventually, a good Samaritan came to my rescue and threw me a rope. There being nothing much to fasten it to, I just held it and steered with my bum while water washed over me as we headed at a good clip for the distant jetty. Murph still hadn’t finished with me. A rowlock came off and went to the bottom as I tied up, and after I’d walked home for the oars, the rope caught in someone’s mooring line and stopped me getting away, much to the amusement of a couple of pimply, sniggering youths on the jetty. Finally, the boat deflated on the grass behind the van as I was having a very late lunch. A flathead spine had punctured it!

During our time in Sorrento, Vic, the local council built the club a lovely new toilet block just in time for the busy Christmas holiday season, but their plans hadn’t allowed for a certain Murphy fellow. Just two days after the members arrived, the septic tank was full to overflowing and we had to close the toilets and showers until the tank could be pumped out and extra capacity installed. They were not happy campers.

We travelled the country for three years taking school photos and our friend was never far away. Floods had closed some roads in central Queensland for a few days when we worked at the high school in Capella and our next stop was at Dysart in the Bowen Basin coalfields. When we inquired about the roads, the helpful teacher assured us the road was open and we would have no trouble. What she didn’t say, or perhaps know, was that the road was gravel, had only been reopened the day before and was in places just mud. Towing our caravan through the boggy conditions we were not amused and the teacher would have been told a few home truths if we had been able to talk to her.

Murphy nearly caught us out on another occasion when we left Springsure in torrential rain to go back to our caravan at Emerald, but they didn’t close the road until a short time after we had managed to ford the floodwaters.

Leaving Emerald to drive back to Melbourne for the school holidays, we travelled on fairly rough Queensland country roads and I mentioned that the van was bouncing a lot. It was no wonder as the suspension had broken and the weight was being carried on a ‘bump’ stop. We discovered this when we backed onto a site at Eidsvold where we left the van until we returned at the end of the holidays. The RACQ repairer told us he had never seen that sort of suspension before but while we were waiting for spare parts, he towed in another van with exactly the same trouble. Murphy was a busy boy that week.

After travelling on another rough country road in central Queensland, I went into the van and discovered that I’d forgotten to take the VCR off its shelf and it was hanging by the antenna lead and bouncing on the floor. It’s strange but it was never any good after that!

Sunset from Lionel’s verandah.

Have you ever wondered how just a little red wine can create an enormous mess? Murphy has ruined countless white tablecloths that way but I always seem to get the blame. One night in the caravan, I was on my bed, quietly reading a book and sipping a drop of red, when Murphy tipped the glass over. Now, there was only a little drop left in the glass but it managed to soak the cover on the locker between our beds, get up inside the portable stereo that sat there, drip on the carpet and some even found its way onto Vi’s bed cover. She was not amused when I remarked that I wished it had been my bedspread as I could have sucked it all night.

Murphy’s pretty good at spilling things. He once tipped a cup of hot coffee into my lap as I sat in an airplane on the way to Singapore. It was very awkward as I was sitting in the centre of a group of people in a 747 at the time.

Something he specialises in above all others is anything electrical or electronic and we have a long line of deceased fan-heaters, VCRs, transistor radios, and of course ­computers.

We had an Amiga 2000 that was second hand when we bought it, so we invested in a new one of the same model thinking a new machine would be trouble-free. How naive can you get? That computer chewed up information on floppy disks as fast as you put them in. Every time I took it back to the repair shop,­ a round trip of about 120km, they found something wrong and swore they had fixed it. I swore because they hadn’t! Eleven times I took it back and 11 times they fixed obscure problems. Once they had tested it continuously for a week and when I went to pick it up, they turned it on to demonstrate how well it worked. It copied one disk and it went back to its old tricks. Murphy gave up when they stripped it to its basics and rebuilt it with a brand new motherboard.

When I traded it on a new Amiga 1200, the genlock I use in video production wouldn’t work. Someone had done a factory modification to it when it was new and although it worked fine with one computer, it refused to accept a different machine. The list goes on and so does Murphy’s ingenuity. He has twice burnt out vital parts of the insides of camcorders and they would have to be the most expensive spare parts in the world.


Back from the ACC muster at Goolwa, I’ve been to Gippsland, Vic, and our branch muster at Seaspray right on the Ninety Mile Beach.

Santa about to go to work in Seaspray!

It was quite windy but I managed to get to the beach a couple of times and it reminded me of a picture hanging in my home. It’s a shot I took when flying over the beach in a helicopter from Lakes Entrance a few years ago. I put the pic on Facebook and my clever grandson, Cam, had the picture enlarged and framed and gave it to me for Christmas.

It was pretty cold on the beach but I walked down there a couple of times, and saw how the beach was almost deserted. On the way back ‘home’ I saw some lovely ‘animals‘ on one house path.

Of course, Santa came down from the North Pole and distributed presents to the muster amid lots of laughter! Guess who put on Santa clothes and pretended to be the jovial old Father Christmas. You guessed right: it was me as usual.

The picture Lionel took from a helicopter is now framed and on his wall.

Yemmy, my Mercedes motorhome, had developed a grinding noise at low revs and I called in at my friend’s place in Officer, Vic, to try to fix it. Unfortunately, all our work was in vain and so I took him to a motor repairer in Horsham, Vic, to find out what was wrong  After lot of checking they said it was a worn muffler and Yemmy will get a new one in the New Year. In the meantime, he will be resting while I play carols with the band in a couple of places before heading to Melbourne and my grandson’s place for Christmas.

I hope you all have a great Christmas and that the New Year is kind to you.