So it was at idyllic Quandong Beach when Mr Massive Caravan tried to pinch our views a few hours before the boys from Broome had to be rescued twice on the fishing trip from hell.
The hapless fishermen were rescued late in the day by the Kiwis, bogged going to get their boat trailer, visited by alerted cops at night, bogged in the incoming tide and saved again by the rescue services in the wee hours.
With Sheree from Albany and a young English couple, Sam and Amy, we had three friendly camp spots overlooking our beach. We had an acquaintance of less than 24 hours but quickly became a tight clan of five when Mr M.C. and his wife arrived. He greeted no one but strode past us beachside, viewed our view and rudely hauled his 10m of car and caravan between us and the sea.
Objections were promptly raised. While the others argued I made it clear I was part of the clan by standing firmly in the background with my hands on my hips. My body language might have done it because Mrs M.C. decided having a fantastic site in the middle of a hostile clan might not be worth it.
They hauled off. We moved our sites back a little so no one else could pull the same trick. A couple of blokes came in and drove down to the beach to launch their boat, setting off for a fishing trip. No one else showed much interest so the five of us settled down to enjoy a relaxed day on the Cape Leveque Coast.
We plucked a few whiting out of the sea for tea as the sun set on the Indian Ocean. Tony noticed something was wrong: the fishing blokes were towing back a boat larger than theirs. Darkness fell. We watched what seemed to be a confusion of lights down at the ocean edge, retreated to our campfire and then heard the sounds of the ute and boat trailer trying to get back up the slope from the beach. They bogged, roared around for another go, bogged, roared around …..
Tony sighed, put his beer aside and went to help. Two Kiwi blokes were in the ute with the owner of the lame boat, which was still down in the water. Tony told them they had to dig. And push. A bit at a time.
He helped and as they worked the ute and boat free he learned that *Bill and *Ben the Kiwi men had seen a distress flare, knocked off fishing and done the Samaritan thing.
*Bert and *Ernie were certainly distressed. First the main motor had conked out, then the smaller spare snuffed it. They were floating towards Madagascar.
Bill and Ben the Kiwi men were also distressed because they were late getting home, their womenfolk were agitated and they had to fly out to their jobs that night, presumably to a mine somewhere. Ben’s phone kept going off. “Don’t answer it, bro,” counselled Bill.
They were taking Bert a bit further up the coast to where his boat trailer was parked. He was to return to collect his boat, which was anchored in shallow water on the incoming tide.
The three roared off. Tony eventually recovered from his exertions in getting the Kiwis up from the beach. He relayed the full story to our little clan as we clustered around our campfire. What drama. Suddenly an apparition materialised out of the darkness. We hadn’t realised Bert had left mate Ernie on the boat getting colder and hungrier.
It was indeed cold. Sheree had wrapped herself in a long blue dressing gown and a hat that looked as if it should be on the head of a weatherbeaten horseman on the Mongolian steps.
Ernie threw himself at our fire. I offered drink or food. “Just coffee with two sugar,” he gasped gratefully. I popped into Isabel and was mixing a cappuccino of substance when I heard another vehicle arrive. I wondered if Ernie would still be around for coffee.
When I arrived at the campfire clutching the coffee Erne was nowhere to be seen. The clan was earnestly discussing the latest developments against the backdrop of a police vehicle. Seems Bert and Ernie had also sent out a mayday (or did they set off their EPIRB?). The alarm was relayed to Canberra and the Broome police despatched.
Before the officers arrived, Tony had strongly advised Ernie to walk the boat in with the tide and peg high and dry when the water ebbed. In the daylight they could winch it on to the trailer safely.
Ernie had buggered off to the lame boat with the police officers. Amy drank the coffee. As we mused over events Bert came roaring back from the road in the darkness with his boat trailer in tow. We filled him in, he was advised to leave the boat on the high water mark and off he went to the beach.
We waited for more news. The cops returned, had a friendly chat and said they thought Bert and Ernie would be OK now. They had also advised the hapless pair to wait to pull the boat in with the top of the tide and winch it up in daylight. Could we keep an eye on them? Sure, we said.
Off they went. With growing alarm we heard more engine-revving down on the beach. We took torches and binoculars to our vantage point and in disbelief saw that Bert and Ernie had decided not to wait for high tide.
They had reversed the ute and boat trailer into the water and were trying to line up the boat in the dark. The tide was coming in, the ute was sinking in the sloppy sand and Bert and Ernie’s troubles were far from over. Waves were washing over the trapped ute’s wheels and into the back. Sand was being eroded from under the vehicle.
Tony and Sam went to help while the clan women huddled over the fire. They returned. Sam was indignant because Bert and Ernie thought we should take our vehicles to pull them out. He had pointed out his vehicle was all he had and he needed to it to pay for his trip back to Manchester. Tony said he was not taking Isabel – our home at present – out into soft sand in the dark on an incoming tide.
Surely they knew someone with proper rescue equipment in Broome? Bert said he was actually a member of the volunteer rescue team and would give them a call. Both were seriously cold and hungry but they declined an invitation to join us, hauling damp blankets and gear up on to the beach to form a miserable camp.
We sighed over the news and decided to go to bed. No one was in danger, the tide had started to turn and little could be done. Amy heard nothing more until the morning, presumably dreaming of more cultured water activities in her home town of Cambridge, rowing and pushing punts around gentle rivers in a manicured landscape.
The rest of the clan offered help as two rescue vehicles arrived, followed by another. One bogged in the sand on the way down to Bert and Ernie. We wearily monitored the action down on the beach. Sam disappeared to dream of Manchester United regaining glory with their new coach. Sheree took her dressing gown and Mongolian cap off to bed and Tony and I dozed until a roaring of engines and voices beside Isabel about 2am announced the rescue had been completed.
We didn’t think the time was right to wander out and ask “So apart from all this, how was the fishing?”
When we emerged from our camps the next morning the clan was inextricably interwoven. In pre-AIDs days we might have considered a blood bonding. Why did Bert and Ernie back into the incoming tide, in loose sand, in the dark, without the boat ready to be winched ….. we asked the question over and over. Tony said it was probably the fault of their womenfolk.
“They were getting some pretty irate calls about not being home. I reckon they decided to rip in and give it ago so they could get home before copping more flak.”
Then Amy and Sam headed off, we stayed another night and Sheree settled in for a little longer. Amid hugs, farewells and on-line contact exchanges, the clan unravelled as quickly as it formed.
* Not sure if these names are correct. Apologies to the Flowerpot Men and Sesame Street.