Rowing: Being Stranded
on the Yarra River

I liked rowing, but was never proficient at it. One afternoon, Dave Boykett suggested that I take a boat out solo. It was one of those summer afternoons where there had been a very heavy downpour of during a thunderstorm. The weather had cleared, but as soon as I got on the Yarra I realised that the current was much stronger the normal, from all the storm-water that had flowed into the river. I rowed upstream to the bridge at Swan St. Then with very little effort rowed back down stream.

To come in at the landing I needed to execute a u-turn on the river, just in front of the Scotch boat ramp.

The next part of the story seems somewhat unrelated, but there South Eastern freeway was newly opened, and much of the infrastructure used to construct the fly-over above the junction of Gardiners Creek and the Yarra had not been removed. In particular, about half the river was obstructed with timber piles arrange in a grid-like fashion under the flyover. Each timber pile was probably about 6 feet apart.

I commenced my U-turn, and as I was executing it, I could see my boat being carried quickly downstream by the fast current that day. As my boat became transverse to the current I could see that I was not going to complete the turn, before my boat hit the grid of pylons side-ways on. I was then stuck-fast against the timber piles. My right-hand oar was lodged in between the grid of piles on one side, and my left oar was pointing upstream, while the current pressed the boat against the grid of timber piles.

Everyone could see what had happened, so I didn't need to yell for help. The first boat to come to my rescue was a rowing-8, also on the river that day. This boat maneuvered its stern into such a position that I could reach out with my hand and grab onto the stern-post. Then the cox got the crew to row! I was being pulled sideways, and my boat was at the same time trying to capsize, from the side-ways force. Even so, the rowing-8 could not provide the steady pull required to pull my boat off the piles.

By this time the second strategy was being implemented. A small motor boat was launched and this time I was successfully extricated, without capsizing into the Yarra.


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