Well I finally pulled my CS17 Wildcat out of the shed. It had been nearly three years since she last got wet.
Two years ago I bought a holiday home in Noosaville, a beach side town one and a half hours north of Brisbane. It’s just near a boat ramp on the Noosa River. There was just one small problem- the CS 17 didn’t fit in the garage?. Luckily I had also previously built a smaller dinghy (a Welsford Golden Bay Dinghy) and a canoe that can fit in the garage and these have been well used in the last 2 years for sailing, fishing and exploring.
Finally we planned a bigger trip. Near Noosa is Lake Cootharaba and the headwaters of the Noosa River. Up the river is national park and some designated campsites the largest of which is Harry’s Hut. The plan was to launch at Boreen Point on the western side of the lake and sail to the entry of the river, motor up through the narrows and then camp a couple of days at Harry’s. The CS17 would be ideal as a camp cruiser and would easily fit enough gear and supplies for the three of us.
Well at least that was the original plan. I had intended to go with my son-in-law David and grandson Oliver (Olly-aged 8). My wife is not the camping type and she had suggested the girls (my daughter Melissa and granddaughter Elise aged 6) stay in Noosa and enjoy the resort town facilities while the boys roughed it. Elise would have none of that, not wanting to be left out of anything that her brother got to do. Her mother didn’t completely trust us with the 2 children so Melissa decided to come along as well.
That makes three adults and two children and all the gear in a CS17- I wondered if this was perhaps a bit too much. Nonetheless we planned and limited the amount of gear as much as possible and in the end managed to fit it in.
Departure day arrived and the forecast was good - mostly sunny and light to moderate breezes- so we launched and headed off. Despite the load she handled well, reaching in 10 knots of breeze and we crossed the lake in about 45 minutes for the 3.5 nautical miles to the river. The entrance to the river is a very shallow channel so both rudder and centreboard were raised, the motor bracket lifted to the shallow water position and the motor used to steer.
Once past the shallowest bit the rudder could be lowered and we powered on up the river. The first mile or two is quite straightforward but then the river meanders, narrows and the tree branches in the water and overhanging branches need to be dodged. Twice we had to heel the boat to simultaneously get the hull past an underwater hazard and the mast past a branch. The water here is now heavily stained from the tea trees and this results in fantastic reflections of the vegetation in the water. A mile later and the river again widens and a mile after that was Harry’s hut, our destination.
After camp was set up- two tents, 5 chairs, 5 inflatable mattresses, table etc- the children started exploring, finding the first of many goannas (only a medium sized one, about a metre). We went for a short walk to the original Harry’s Hut, a logger’s cabin from 70 years ago and the reason for the eponymous title of the campsite. As the sun was setting we cooked dinner (hotdogs with Chakalaka sauce with a nod to David and my South African heritage) then put the young ones to bed and celebrated the successful day with a couple of glasses of red wine before retiring for the night.
One unfortunate thing about experiencing Mother Nature is the alarm clock. Here we have a bird called the Kookaburra, several of which join together in a very loud and long chorus. This typically is at dawn and dusk but these must have been the early birds as they started at 4.20am?. After a breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs we headed upriver a few miles to explore and stopped at campsite 3- the limit for petrol engines. The river continues on for several miles to campsite 15 for paddlers. We returned for lunch at Harry’s after which the children went swimming and fished the rest of the afternoon.
Dinner was a paella (the socarrat, the crust, was perfect) again aided by a couple of glasses of red.
Camp was struck early the next day, the boat packed up and we headed back down river to the lake. Sails were raised in only 5 knots of breeze so we had a gentle sail home. It gave Elise a chance to finally get the hang of steering...the track was a bit wobbly for the first 5 minutes but then she maintained a good course for 15 minutes until she tired of the task. So to the ramp, back onto the trailer and a 20 minute drive home. Boy that shower was good!
In summary the CS17 is an excellent camp cruiser, able to hold a lot of gear and still perform well despite a rather heavy load. Three adults and two children would be a bit much for open water but on the lake and river it seemed fine. I was impressed but not as much as the grandchildren who decided camping by boat was the “best thing ever”?.